The Nortons and Their Name

    The name Norton is said to have been of Anglo-Normon origin and to have been the anglicized form of the Norman name Norville, meaning "North Town." It was probably taken by its original bearer from the name of his place of residence and used with the prefix de, meaning "of". It is found on ancient records in the various forms of Norville, Nortown, Nortone, Nortun, and Norton, of which the last is the most generally accepted form of today.
    The family of Norton is believed to have been descended from Seigneur de Norville, who went into England as Constable to William the Conqueror in the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. In the sixth generation in descent from Seigneur de Norville, the direct male line assumed the English form of Nortown or Norton, the translation of the name which was brought from Normandy.
    Seigneur de Norville or Norton of the sixth generation of the family in England married a daughter of Sir John Hadscoke and had issue by her of a son who married the daughter of Monseigner Bassingbourne and had, among others Sir John Norton, who married a daughter of Lord Grey and was the father by her of several children, of whom the eldest son John made his home in Bedfordshire and was succeeded by his eldest son John, who had issue by his first wife, a Miss Danie, of an only son William, who died young, and by his second wife, Jane Cowper, of Thomas, Richard, Robert, Alice, John, and William, of whom the first son, Thomas, had a large family and was the ancestor of the English lines of the Nortons.
    Richard, second son of John Norton and Jane Cowper, married Margery Winger (or Wingate), and had Thomas and William, of whom the latter had issue by his first wife the widow Margerie (Nee Hawes) Hamon of a son William who was early settlers of the name in America. William son of Richard and Margerie Wingate, had issue by his second wife, Dennis(sp?) Cholmley, of eight children, of whom the eldest was named Thomas and emigrated to America at an early date. He and nephews will be mentioned later.
    Probably the first of the name in New England was George Norton of Salem, Mass., in 1629. He is said to have come from London but his ancestry is not known. By his wife Mary, he was the father of Freegrac(sp?), John, Nathaniel, George, Mary, Mehitable, Henry, Sarah, Hannah, Abagail, and Elizabeth. He removed about 1642 to Gloucester, thence to Ipswich, and finally to Wenham where he died in 1659.
    Frances Norton came to Portsmouth, Mass., from an unknown part of England in 1631 and later removed to Charlestown in the same colony. His wife Mary, gave him at least five children, Abagail, Mary, Elizabeth, Deborah, and Sarah, and possibly others.
    The before mentioned brothers, John and William, emigrated from Bedfordshire to Ipswich, Mass., about 1632, or shortly thereafter. The Reverand John had a wife named Mary but no children and William married Lucy Downing, by whom he had John, Bonus, Elizabeth, William, and Lucy, as well as possibly others.
    Thomas, uncle of the last mentioned emigrant brothers, came with his wife Grace to Boston sometime before 1639 and in that year removed to Guilford, Connecticut. His children were Thomas, John, Ann, Grace, Mary, and Abagail.
    About 1641 one Nicholas Norton was resident at Weymouth and was the father of, among others, two sons, Isaac and Jacob.
    Two cousins, John and Francis Norton came at early dates to New England and are said to have been the sons of younger brothers of the emigrant Thomas from Bedfordshire. John was living at Branford Conn., before 1645, and is said to have had issue by his wife Hannah Clark, of Samuel, Elizabeth, Felix and possibly others, In the latter part of his life John resided at Farmington, having been for a time at Hartford.
    Francis, Cousin of John, above mentioned, is said to have been one of the first settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut, and was living at Milford in 1660, whence he removed to New Haven. He had at least two sons, Joseph and Jeremiah, and probably others.
    One Richard Norton was living at Boston, Mass., prior to the year 1648, and died in 1657, leaving at least one son named Richard and a widow named Dorothy.
    Henry Norton of York in 1656 had among others, a son named George, who married Mary Foxwell.
    William Norton of Boston in 1658 was married in the following year to Susannah Mason, by whom he had issue of John, William (died young), David, Mary (died young), William, Mary, and Susanna.
    Another John Norton emigrated to Salem sometime before 1660, in which year he was married to Mary Sharp. They were the parents of seven children, Mary (died in infancy) Mary Hannah, George, Abagail, Elizabeth, and John.
    In 1662 one Joseph Norton of Salisbury married Susannah Getchell, and their children were Samuel, Joseph, Friscilla, Solomon, Benjamin, Caleb, Flower, Joshua, and one other who died young.
    One Nathaniel Norton was living prior to the year 1684 at Brookhaven Long Island, and in that year he died leaving a widow, Mary and seven children, Isaac, Nathaniel, George, Jonathan, Hannah, Mary, and Sarah.
    Many others of the name emigrated to America at early dates but left few records of themselves and their families. Among those were John, of Charlestown, Mass., in 1629, who is said to have moved to Virginia. Walter of Charlestown in 1630; James of New Haven in 1640; Thomas of Salem in 1654; Samuel, who died at Boston in 1654; Humphrey, a Quaker of Plymouth in 1657 and later of Rhode Island, who may have returned to England; and John of Springfield, who was married in 1678 to Lydia (nee Wright Bliss) a widow, by whom he is thought to have had no issue.
    The descendants of the various branches of the family in America have spread to practically every state in the Union and have aided as much in the growth of the country, as their ancestors aided in the founding of the Nation. They have been noted for their energy, ambition, industry, integrity, moral and physical strength, piety, perserverance, resourcefulness, courage, and leadership.
    Among those of the Nortons who fought as officers in the War of the Revolution were Colonel Berich of Mass., Major John of Vermont, Captain Charles of Conn., Captain Ichabod of Conn., and Captain Nathaniel of New York.
    Francis, George, John, Thomas, William, Henry, and Issac are some of the Christian names most highly favored by the family for its male members. A few of the many members of the family who have distinguished themselves in America in most recent times are:
Charles Eliot Norton of Mass., author and scholar, 1835-1908
Sidney Augustus Norton of Ohio, chemist, 1835-1918
Richard Norton, son of Charles Eliot, above mentioned, archaeologist, and educator, 1872-1918
Frank Henry Norton of Mass., journalist, 1836-1921.
    One of the most ancient of the coats of arms belonging to the Nortons is described as following:
ARMS"Argent, on a bend between two lions rampant sable, three escallops of the first."
CREST"A greyhound's head or, gorged with a fess engrailed between tow bar gules, the first ringed behind of the first."
Arms taken from Burle's "General Armory." 1884.
SourcesThe above data have been compiled chiefly from the following sources:
Whitmore - "Genealogy of the Norton family." 1859
A. B. Norton - "Norton Family" 1856
J. N. Ireland - "Ireland and Norton Families." 1880
Savage - "GENEALOGICAL Dictionary of New England" 1860
Baldwin - "Norton" 1882
W. W. Norton - "Some descendents of John Norton." 1901
Heitman - "Officers of the Continental Army." 1914
Burke - "General Armory." 1884
"The Americans." 1884

(The article above entitled "The Nortons and Their Names" came from one of four folders of information on the Norton family at The South Carolina Historical Society. The author of the article was not included with it.)


    The English surname Norton takes its origin from any number of places in that country of the same name. The actual meaning of the surname is "one who comes from Norton (or, "north town")." In some instances it may have first been used to indicate one who lived "north of the town", but in most instances it referred to a specific town called Norton.
     There are many places bearing this name in England, to mention but a few: Norton Farms; Norton in Hales, and Norton. Since place names existed in Englan well before hereditary surnames evolved, it is most likely that the surname came from one or other of these communities.
     The ending "ton" is a popular name ending, and originally indicated a "homestead or enclosure" and eventually developed into our current wording "town". The suffix "nor" stems from the Old English "noro" meaning north.
     Norton is among the earliest surnames found in England and as early as 1066 the name is found in the record books. In that year an Osuuardus de Nordtone is listed in Kent in the Domesday Book. this book was the result of a survey of English property and owners taken at the command of William after his conquest of the Saxons under King Harold at Hastings.
     In 1177 a record of the spelling "de Norton" is found. Up until the 15th century it was customary to record a surname along with a preposition such as "de" or "atte." After this date the preposition was usually absorbed into the name itself, or dropped.
     The name Norton has been in America since the early 17th century when John Norton, a learned Puritan writer and divine arrived in Boston in 1635 where he served as a minister. Armorial records indicate that the Norton arms were registered by a John Norton in Branford, Connecticut in 1646.
     According to a 1957 survey of official government records, the name Norton ranked approximately 383rd in a list of the most common surnames in the United States.

(from Savannah Morning News-Evening Press)