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The following is based on information provided by John Henry Thornber in Australia. Family tradition and information in the family bible showed that he was descended from a John Thornber of Gisburn.  The family bible showed that John married twice and had a son called John with this first wife.  He then married Alice Bank in Gisburn in 1814 and there was a tradition that Alice had a connection with the Peel family.  A birth certificate for John and Alice's youngest child, Ellen, born 15 July 1839 at Paythorn (near Gisburn) was obtained. It showed the mother to be Alice Thornber nee Bank.  The IGI shows that an Alice Bank was baptised at Gisburn, dau. of Jams (James) and Betty, on 10 November 1795.  The record for the marriage of James Bank to Betty Peell (sic) was found in the transcript of the registers of Gisburn, St. Mary on 7 February 1795.  This shows that the family legend was correct in that Alice Bank's mother was from the Peel family.

The late Mr. A. H. Kay of Salisbury, who provided me with information on Thornber families in Gisburn, speculated that John Thornber born in 1774, the son of Henry Thornber of Horton Hall,  married first Ann Parker in 1803 then Alice Bank in 1814.  However there are some problems with this assignment of John son of Henry.  In the census of 1841, when ages were rounded down to the nearest multiple of five, John Thornber of the family below was said to be 55, pointing to birth in the period 1781 to 1786.  There is a burial at Gisburn of a John Thornber in 1846.  I have obtained the death certificate which shows that he was a tea dealer of Barnoldswick, aged 73.  This seems to correspond with John, son of Henry, born around 1773.  This John, also appears in the 1841 census, when he is said to be a tea dealer aged 65 (age rounded down). In that census he is with Betty Thornber, 75 of independent means, born outside Yorkshire. (Source Citation: Class: HO10; piece: 1315; Book: 3)

Another candidate for the John who married Alice Bank is John son of Paul and Elizabeth, baptised 26 September 1781 at Houghton by Settle.  While the birth date is plausible, he can probably be eliminated on the grounds that a John Thornber married Ann Charnley in 1810 and had a son called Paul baptised in Gargrave in 1816.  As there are only two Paul Thornbers in the entire records for the area prior to 1830, I think that this points to the idea that the John Thornber naming a son Paul did so after his own father. 

Another factor to be considered is that the name Anthony among the Thornbers is a feature of the Slaidburn branches of the family where it is found commonly together with Ralph and Giles. It is not seen in the Gisburn branches except in this case. Possible candidates for John among the Slaidburn families are a little early for his estimated age. There is John son of Ralph, baptised in May 1776 and John son of John baptised in 1772. I have not located marriages for either of these two Johns despite extensive searches in connection with my own branch of the family.

There was also John son of Thomas, baptised on 4 March 1786 at Waddington who fits the dates but there are no other clues to connect with this family. There was also a John son of Anthony, baptised at Waddington on 26 August 1787 and he needs to be investigated as a candidate. As a result of these findings, it has not yet been possible to identify the John Thornber who married Alice Bank. In terms of Christian name patterns we have few clues as with the exception of Anthony all the other names are very common. However, it may be significant that John named his eldest son John and this may have been the name of his own father or grandfather.

As a result of the recent information from Carol Fehr, see below, we have John as being 66 in 1851 pointing to birth about 1784 or 1785 according to whether he was just 66 or nearly 67. The place of birth on the census is Bolton, Yorkshire, meaning Bolton by Bowland.

The Children of John Thornber and Alice Bank

The following details of the children of John Thornber are from the family bible. There was a son by John's first wife, called John, baptised 18 November 1805.  I have added the baptisms from Horton in Craven, the details of John and Alice's marriage and found the family in the 1841 census as shown below.

Census of 1841, Paythorn

Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1320; Book: 12; Civil Parish: Gisburn; County: Yorkshire; Enumeration District: 7; Folio: 4; Page: 11; Line: 16; GSU roll: 464272.


John Thornber head, 55 farmer born in Yorkshire
Allis 45   Y
Elzth 20   Y
Margret 20   Y
Thos 15   Y
Henry 7   Y
Mary 4   Y
Ellen 1   Y
Thos Thornber 60 tailor Y
Ann Wilkinson 80   Y


John, was said to be 55 (pointing to birth in the period 1781-1786) and his wife, Alice, 45 but ages were rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 at that census for those over 15.  Of extra interest in this census is the presence of Thos Thornber, a tailor as there are other references to Thornbers who were tailors in the Gisburn area which may give a clue to John's family. Thomas must have been born about 1781 if just 60 or 1780 if nearly 61. There is a reference to Thomas Thornber son of Anthony, baptised at Bolton by Bowland on 15 March 1780. Another child reported for the family is Alice baptised on 6 September 1772 d. of Anthony Thornber in the Forest of Bowland.

It is possible that these are the children of Anthony Thornber who married Alice Clayton on 30 July 1768 at Waddington and who had five children between 1769 and 1797. Although the latter seems late for this couple it specifically states that the mother was Alice formerly Clayton. The final child, Jenny, baptised at Mitton in 1797 was born 15 December 1796 said to be the 7th daughter of Anthony and Alice whose maiden name was Clayton. A son William was also found baptised in Clitheroe. This would seem to eliminate this couple from also producing Thomas and Alice in Bolton by Bowland.

However the situation is complicated by another Anthony who died at Bolton by Bowland in 1786.

Information from John Henry Thornber in Australia

I am grateful to John Henry Thornber for sending me a link to a site giving details of James Henry Thornber, who became Mayor of Mackay. The link is no longer active but the site gave the interesting information that James Henry Thornber had a daughter Ilma who married Sir Arthur Fadden, who was briefly the Prime Minister of Australia from 19 August to 7 October 1941. I quote from the article as below:

"Mackay residents pose for a photograph in front of J.H. Thornber's New Palace Stores. The stores opened early in 1887 replacing the old Palace Stores which were located on the southern side of Victoria Street between Wood and Gregory Streets. John Henry Thornber had previously been in partnership with Samuel Lambert. The new Palace Stores were situated on the northern side of Victoria Street between Brisbane and Carlyle Streets, and twenty years later the Grand Hotel was constructed on the corner (to the left) of what had been a half-acre block. Because of the low-lying nature of the land, the stores were built on nine-foot stumps. Other owners included Pearce and Marryatt, and Brooks & Neill, W.H. Willliams (not in that order) and E de Campo. The last tenant before the stores were demolished in 2005 was Michael Moohin Second Hand store."

In January 2009, John contacted me again with interesting news on James Henry Thornber in generation.  James wrote a letter from the SS. Chyebassa in the Mediterranean on Sunday 9 October 1881 to his Uncle William and his Aunt in England. He finished the letter the following day as the boat neared Port Said.  Later this letter was sent to James Henry's daughter, Alice Howland, in Australia by William's daughter, Elsie.  The letter indicates that William, in generation 2 was still alive in 1881.  (subsequently we have learned that he died in 1887.) James Henry was the son of Henry and Nancy Thornber. Henry died when James was 4 years old and he had a guardian, a Mr Skirrow. To reflect the significance of Mr Skirrow in his life, he named his only son Oscar Skirrow Thornber.  James married Elizabeth Hess, born in Mackay region in 1865 to German immigrants, which would account for the Oscar.

In 2019, John Henry sent me a link to a copy of a newspaper article now shown on a website which covers men who were Mayors of Mackay. The information is taken from the Mackay Mercury dated 29 December 1902 and was supplied to the website by Mrs. Joan Howland, whose husband was a grandson of James Henry Thornber. I reproduced the main features of he article below.

James Henry Thornber died on 28 December 1902 aged 41 and was buried in Mackay Cemetery. His death was caused by the accidental discharge of a firearm in his buggy as he was driving to Mackay from Cattle Creek where he was staying over Christmas. He died before medical help could reach him. Six months earlier James Henry Thornber had been appointed Town Clerk. The news item mentions that Mr. Thornber had arrived in Australia in 1881, aged about 18 making his birth about 1863. He landed in Brisbane and worked in the in the firms Edwards and Chapman and then with Grimes and Petty. Afterwards he entered into a partnership for two years with Mr. T. Pearce in Mackay. This partnership was dissolved and afterwards Mr. Thornber was with a Mr. W. Robertson of the foundry. Later he went into partnership with Mr. S. Lambert. In 1890, he opened New Palace Stores on his own account and remained in business until a few months ago. He was said to be a native of Bolton in Lancashire and had been about 18 when he arrived in Australia. He married the daughter ot Mr. M. G. Hess of Mackay and leaves a wife and numerous family ranging in age from 5 to 15. He had been active in public affairs as a member of the Municipal Council during which time he was also the Mayor for a term and a member of the Harbour Board.

At the foot of the webpage is the following note:

James Henry Thornber's daughter Ilma, married Sir Arthur Fadden who was the Australian Prime Minister from 29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941.

The webpage shows an image of a monumental inscription in Mackay cemetery with the following information:

In Loving Memory of
J.H.Thornber, died 29 December 1902, aged 42 years.
Also an Infant Daughter
Also Elizabeth Thornber, died 7 July 1949, aged 85
Also Una Winifred Thornber, died 5 October 1988, aged 90 years
Alice May Howland, nee Thornber, died 23 2 1987, aged 99 years
William Howland, died 17 June 1973, aged 90 years.

John has obtained a copy of the death certificate for James Henry's father, Henry Thornber, which shows he died 8 September, 1865 at the age of 31 at 9 Fish Lane, Blackburn from phthisis (tuberculosis). The informant was Sarah Crossley of 21 Warwick Street, Blackburn who was present at the death.

Information from Carol Fehr in British Columbia, Canada

Carol Fehr has contacted me with information about William Thornber, born in 1815, the son of John Thornber and Alice Bank. The following is abstracted from her letter with details on the source of the information added from the census records on Ancestry.co.uk

William Thornber who was born in 1815 to John Thornber and Alice Bank, married my great grand aunt Nancy Pomfret in 1862.

John and his family had moved to Mellor in Lancashire after the birth of their youngest son James in 1842 in Paythorn, Yorkshire, where he continued to farm as he was found to be doing in the 1841 census for Paythorn.

Census of 1851 for Mellor, Lancashire, living on Cunliffe Fold. (The original image on Ancestry.co.uk is very faint.)

Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 2257; Folio: 386; Page: 17; GSU roll: 87280.


John Thornber head, 66 farmer of 42 acres born Bolton, Yorks
Alice Thornber wife, 56   Sawley, Yorkshire
William Thornber son, 35 unmarried Colne, Lancashire
Margaret Thornber dau, 31 unmarried Colne, Lancashire
Thomas Thornber son, 29 unmarried Colne
Henry Thornber son, 16   Paythorn, Yorkshire
Ellen Thornber dau, 11   ditto
James Thornber son, 9 scholar ditto


In the 1861 census for Mellor, still at Cunliffe Fold, the records shows that John has died as Alice is listed as a widow age 65, a retired farmer born in Gisburn, Yorkshire. Living with her is son William age 44 born in Colne, Lancashire.

Nancy Pomfret was born in Mellor to John Pomfret and Jennet Barnes in 1824, though she often has herself a few years younger throughout the censuses for her. Her father John was a farmer in Mellor as well as her grandfather and some of her siblings.
1871 Census at Marsh Lane in Preston

Following the marriage of Nancy and William, the next census for 1871, finds them living in Preston at 144 & 145 Marsh Lane.

Source Citation: Class: RG10; Piece: 4207; Folio: 17; Page: 33; GSU roll: 846953.

William Thornber head, 55 grocer Born, Colne, Lancashire
Nancy Thornber wife, 44   Mellor, Lancashire
Mary Thornber dau, 7   Blackburn
John T. Thornber son, 6   ditto
William H. Thornber son, 4   Preston

John Thomas married Margaret Chamberlain in Jul 1888, they had 3 children Edith Alice abt 1889, William abt 1892 and John Edwin abt 1897.

1881 Census at 10 Skeffington Road, Preston

Source Citation: Class: RG10; Piece: 4207; Folio: 17; Page: 33; GSU roll: 846953. Note that John T. Thornber becomes Thomas in this censu but with the same birth year. Perhaps he was John Thomas.

William H. Thornber head, 65 cotton warehouse man born, Colne, Lancashire
Nancy Thornber wife, 54   Mellor Lancashire
Mary Thornber dau, 17 unmarried Blackburn
Thomas son, 16 unmarried Blackburn
William H Thornber son, 14 unmarried Preston

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