Lancashire RoseYorkshire Rose

1. Introduction

The parishes with most Thornber records are Slaidburn, Waddington and Gisburn. The parish records for Slaidburn survive from 1600 but after one year there is a gap until 1631. The record for Waddington date from 1599. Waddington was originally a chapelry in the Parish Mitton, whose records survive only from 1610. Gisburn records go back to 1561 for baptisms and 1555 for marriages. The records at Bolton by Bowland go back to 1558 but there is no entry Thornber until the 18th century. As a result the main information on Thornber families prior to 1600 comes from other sources.

2. Muster Rolls and Subsidy Rolls

Henry VIII's muster roll for the Craven Area in 1539 shows just four entries in the name of Thornber and it was given this spelling. In West Bradford, the village adjacent to Waddington there were listed Robert and Nicholas Thornber and Robert had a horse. It may be that they were brothers or father and son. No Thornber records occur in Slaidburn, Mitton or Waddington but in Bashall there were listed together John and Giles Thornber. Again it is possible they were related as brothers or father and son.

There are Lay Subsidy Rolls transcribed by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society (YASRS/145) which mention Giles Thornber in Craven in 1545 and Robert Thornber, also in Craven in 1543. Given the proximity of these dates to that of the muster roll of 1539 it is likely these are the same individuals.

3. Wills

I am grateful to Chris Spencer, who has transcribed a number of wills prior to 1700 in the Bowland area. These have been privately published in two volumes as "Slaidburn and Bowland Wills and Administrations, Transcribed and Indexed by Chris Spencer. The following paragraphs give only the genealogical details from the wills in date order. There are several spelling variation.

1574: Rauf Thorneber (indexed under Horneber)

Will made on 24 February 1573/4 and proved 28 April 1574. Rauf wished to be buried at Waddington. He mentions Alice as his wife, and Edward Crosdale his "brother-in-leye". This probably indicates that his wife was formerly Alice Crosdale. Rauf also mentions his father, Giles Thornber; this probably indicates that Rauf was not very old when the will was made. The main beneficiaries were Rauf's sister Isabel and his brothers. Each brother was to receive 40 shillings but the only ones named are Richard, Robert and Thomas. From the material left it looks as if Rauf worked in a smithy. At the time this will was made the Robert Thornber mentioned below was still alive so it is possible that he was the Robert mentioned as Rauf's brother. There is no indication from the will that Rauf had any surviving children. Money was left to the children of Anthony Witter who may have been the husband of Rauf's sister Isabel.

1575: Robert Thormber of Mitton

Will made 4 July 1574 and proved 1 October 1575. To be buried at Waddington near where his father lay. Mentioned in the will are Anthony Thornber described as a servant. He was probably a relative such as a nephew. In addition Robert mentions Elizabeth his wife and Ann his daughter. From the point of view of family reconstruction this will seems a dead end as no son is mentioned.

1612: Giles Thornebarre of Bashall, Husbandman

Will made 16 November 1611 and proved 24 March 1612. Note that at this time the New Year began on 25 March so it may be that the will was proved on the last day of 1611. In the course of my work on Mitton registers a partially legible burial entry was discovered for a Giles Thornber in November 1611. It is interesting that Bashall is mentioned as the abode given that a Giles lived there at the time of the Henry VIII muster.

Giles wished to be buried at Mitton where his father was buried. He mentions his wife Alice, and talks about whether she may miscarry. This must mean that she was pregnant at the time. A child of Gyles Thornber was buried at Mitton on 17 January 1611, which on the Julian Calendar was after November 1611 and therefore after the will was made. Giles' mother was still alive but married to James Cliffe. Giles mentioned as his children Richard, Thomas, Isabel and John. A Richard Thornebarre was a witness to the will but it may not have been Giles's son; it could have been a brother or cousin. If Alice was Giles' first wife, then given the life expectancy at the time it would be surprising if she had a son over 21 at a time when she was pregnant, but it is not impossible. On the other hand Alice might have been Giles's second or third wife.

4. Early Parish Registers

4a Gisburn Records before 1600

Gisburn is the only parish with numerous Thornber records in the area on the Yorkshire side of the boundary with records surviving before 1600.

The earliest Thornber records are children of John. There must have been at least three John Thornbers in the locality as one was buried 2 September 1584, John Thornber de Horton was buried 28 January 1591 and a third was buried on 13 July 1605 and a fourth on 12 February 1625. There are also two records for the death of wives of John Thornber, one on 22 October 1623 and one for the wife of John Thornber de Horton on 12 June 1632. This must relate to a further John Thornber still alive in 1632. The following children were baptised at Gisburn in the late 16th century with the father named as John, usually in the Latin form of Johis (of John)

Anthony son of John bapt 1576. Antho filius Johis Thornber was buried 20 January 1576.
Richard son of John bapt 1580
Barnardus son of John bapt. 23 August 1584
Nicholas son of John bapt. 23 August 1584. Nicholas son of John buried 2 Sept 1584.
Anna, 1586
Reginaldus, 1592.

A Nicholas Thornber de Height was buried at Gisburn on 24 January 1586 and a Richard on 10 July 1603.

Alexander Thornber married Jane Brigg on 6 May 1581 at Gisburn. Jana or Jane the wife of Alexander was buried on 20 June 1605 and Alexander on 25 July 1617. This is the only known occurence of Alexander among the Thornbers in the 17th and 18th centuries.Alexander was named as the father of the following children:

Isabel, 1582
Johes, 1584
John, 1585
Ann, 1598

Richard Thornber and Brigitta Wilkinson baptised a daugther Ann at Gisburn in 1602. A Richard is also recorded as having a daugther Margareta in Waddington in 1599. Two children called Christopher (Xpofer) were baptised as sons of Richard in Ripon in 1604 and 1605

One other fragment is that Rosamund Thornber married John Wilkynson at Gargrave on 6 May 1584.

Note that in these Gisburn records there are examples of Anthony, Nicholas, Richard and John but no examples of Giles and Ralph.

4b. Early Lancashire Parish Records

There is a single entry for Clitheroe prior to 1600 and one for Padiham.

Robertus filius Anthonij de Mitton baptised on 27 Feb 1580 at Clitheroe
Isabella Thornebar m Robertus Whipp, 19 July 1574, Padiham.

At Burnley we have a small cluster of entries in the late 16th and early 17th centuries which may all relate to the same Robert who married three times.

Robert Thornburre m. Ann Horrabyne, 24 Feb 1587 or 1589, Burnley.
Wife of Robert Thornebarre buried 30 Nov 1589, Burnley
Wife of Robert Thorneburre buried 28 Nov. 1600 Burnley.
Robert Thornburre m. Jenet Armistead, 11 Oct 1602, Burnley.
Wife of Robert Thornebarre buried 27 June 1610, Burnley.
Roberte Thornebure of Brunley, buried 13 June 1614, Burnley.

At Colne and Burnley there is an Anthony in the early 17th century who had children as shown below. An Anthony was buried at Colne on 7 May 1634. There appear to be no more Thornber entries at Colne or Burnley as judged by the published transcripts for Colne (1599-1812) and those for Burnley. The latter go only from 1562 to 1653 and I am reliant on the IGI for the period from 1653 onwards.

John, 12 Oct 1624, Colne
Michael, 28 Feb 1626, Colne
Laurence, 27 Jan,1630, Colne
Alice, 17 Aug 1634, Burnley

The IGI mentions that John Thornber was father of Anthony baptised 1578 and Richard baptised 1581 at Barnardus in Yorkshire but I have not seen documentary evidence.

At St. Mary and All Saints Whalley there are a few Thornber records in the first two registers then a long gap in the late 17th and early 18th century.

Xpoferus (Christopher) Thornber married Agnes Farrand on 18 January 1540.

There are also the following early baptisms, with no father named, who might be children of Christopher given the dates.

Issabella Thornebar, 7 April 1541
Nicholas Thornebar, 3 August 1542
Johannes Thornebarr, 26 November 1543
Anna Thornebar, 2 May 1548

There are three references in the 1640s

Ricardus Thorneborrowe, buried 9 July 1642.
Brigeta d. Ric'i Thornborrow baptised 26 Marche 1643
Joh'es s. Ricardi Thornborrowe, baptised 25 October 1640

Following the burial of Nic: Thorneburgh of Wiswall on 28 April 1680, there no entries Thornber entries until the middle of the 18th century.

5. Whalley Acts Book

The records of the Ecclesiastical Court at Whalley Abbey mentions a Jo. Thornber as one of the jurors of Bowland and Clitheroe in 1531.

6. Christian Name Patterns

The Slaidburn Thornber families shown on this web site have a very particular Christian name pattern among the men. Anthony, Giles and Ralph are found in almost all generations and persist from the earliest records through to the 19th century. Nicholas and Anthony are used for several generations in a family in Waddington with one or two examples of both names being found in Gisburn, Gargrave and Giggleswick. None of these Christian names are common in the records at the time.

By way of contrast we find that the Gisburn branches of the family do not use Giles or Ralph but they do use Robert. My own branch of the family, which appears to have origins in Waddington is similar in having no use of these four names. These two branches use John, William, Thomas, Henry and Richard which are very commonplace and which are less valuable in suggesting relationships. In my own branch there is a particularly heavy use of the name John.

In the earliers Lancashire records Robert and Anthony are seen but not Giles, Ralph or Nicholas.

From the fragmentary evidence cited above it is apparent that even in the 16th century the names Anthony, Giles and Ralph were in use. It appears that two or perhaps three branches of the family developed leading to:

1. The very prominent and long lasting Anthony, Giles and Ralph group in Slaidburn and Waddington
2. The smaller, more diffuse and shorter lived group which uses the names Anthony/Nicholas.
3. At least one other group, which does not use Anthony, Giles, Ralph or Nicholas but which uses which common names of the time and is found in both the Waddington area and in Gisburn.

The table below shows the distribution of male names in three groups of families. The branches containing the name Nicholas are still being investigated. The one example of Anthony comes from a family living in Paythorn whose origin is unknown. Otherwise it can be seen that Anthony, Ralph and Giles belong to the Slaidburn group. Richard, and Henry were not used in Slaidburn. Richard was common in both the Waddington and Gisburn. Henry was used most in Gisburn and Robert was use mainly in Gisburn.


Distribution of Male Christian Names in Three Thornber Families up to the Mid 19th Century

Christian Names Waddington & Bolton by Bowland Family Slaidburn Families Gisburn Families
Anthony 0 8 1
Giles 0 8 0
Henry 3 0 14
James 6 5 14
John 11 9 23
Ralph 0 7 0
Richard 6 0 5
Robert 0 1 5
Thomas 4 6 12
William 5 15 9
Total of these names 35 59 83


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