Select Turner Surname Genealogy

Turner is in England mainly an occupational name for a maker of objects of wood, metal, or bone by the turning of a lathe.  It comes from the Anglo-Norman French tornier.  The products of the turner's craft were wooden measures and a great variety of small objects used in the home, on the farm, and in industry. 

Turner may in some places have been derived from the name of the official in charge of a tournament (from the Old French tornei); or it may have been a nickname for a fast runner - from the fusion of the Middle English elements turnen, meaning “to turn,” plus hare or hare.

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England.  There was a guild of turners in London, starting around 1310, which still exists today.  The heyday for furniture turners was the maple period of the late 17th century.  There followed a decline until the mid-19th century when there was a revival of interest in the old turning crafts.

The earliest references to Turner as a surname appear to have been in Oxfordshire.  Turners were quite numerous in Norfolk by Elizabethan times. 
An early surname spelling, found in Suffolk and Essex, was Tournour.

A Turner family of Mulbarton and Keningham in Norfolk began in the mid-1500's with William Turner, said to have been a servant of a local landowner.  Some of these Turners later moved to Great Yarmouth.  But Turners were still farming on the land there in 1900.

There were a number of other Turner families at Great Yarmouth:
  • Francis Turner was the minister of St. George’s Chapel for forty eight years in the mid-18th century and was the first of a distinguished Turner family based on Bracondale Hill.
  • while James Turner was head of the Yarmouth Bank in the 1770’s.  His son Dawson was a noted antiquarian, his grandson Frank a poet and man of letters.
Turners from North Elmham near King’s Lynn dated from the mid-1600’s.  They were country lawyers. However, a marriage connection with the influential Walpole family enabled Charles Turner and his descendants at Warham to become baronets.

Some Turners prospered in trade and were able to purchase country mansions: 
  • the Turners of Kirkleatham in north Yorkshire began with John Turner, a wealthy London wool merchant from Herefordshire, who had acquired the estate in 1623.  His son William, Lord Mayor of London in 1669, endowed the local hospital and had the school named after him.
  • while the Turners of Ambroseden in Oxfordshire had their beginnings with Richard Turner of Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire.  He came to London in the mid-16th century to seek his fortune.  His grandson John Turner, basing himself in the Canaries, grew rich from the wine trade; and Sir Edward of the next generation acquired Ambroseden in 1729 and became a baronet.
Other notable Turner families of the 16th century were to be found in Berkshire and Lancashire. 

Later, the Turner name became fairly widespread around the country.  However, the largest numbers in the 1891 census were to be found in the north - with Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire accounting for 40% of all Turners.

.  Thomas Dictas Turner was recorded as holding land in Aberdeenshire in 1382.  William Turner, born there around 1645, seems to have been the forebear of Turners who emigrated to Maryland in the next century.

Turners in Scotland have been associated with the Lamont clan of south Argyll and there were Turners there in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Turner name first appeared in Glasgow in the 1730’s and more Turners are to be found there. 

The best known Scottish Turner is probably Sir John Turner, a soldier born near Edinburgh.  He was first a mercenary, then a Royalist officer during the Civil War, and later the scourge of the Covenanters.

  John Turner was a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620.  However, neither he nor his two sons survived the first winter in America.

Humphrey Turner, a tanner from Essex who arrived with his family in 1628 and settled in Scituate, Massachusetts, did survive.  His descendants became long-term residents of the area.  A branch under the Rev. Charles Turner later moved to Maine.  There is no relationship, according to the Mayflower Society, between Humphrey and John of the Mayflower.

Robert Turner, an indentured servant from Norfolk, arrived in Massachusetts in 1635.  His son was Captain John Turner who prospered as a hat and shoe merchant but died at sea in 1680.  He left to his family his House of Seven Gables home in Salem which remained with the Turner family for three generations.  The house was immortalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name and is now a town museum. 

Early Turners in Virginia included: 
  • Richard Turner who arrived there from England sometime in the 1680’s  
  • and Terisha Turner who was born in Virginia in 1709 and died there 92 years later.   
From Richard Turner came the line of James Turner, Governor and Senator for North Carolina from 1802 to 1815.  James Turner himself was born in 1766 in Southampton county where his family was briefly. Southampton county is better known as the place where Nat Turner raised his slave rebellion in 1831.  Nat Turner had been born on the Virginia farm of Benjamin Turner in 1800.

Robert Turner was a slave on the Port Royal plantation in Virginia in the 1820’s.  His son Alexander escaped and after emancipation moved north to Maine and later to Vermont.

Canada.  Robert Turner from Bracondale in Norfolk came to Canada in the 1830’s.  A wealthy lawyer, he built his Bracondale Hill home in the fashionable outskirts of Toronto.  The house survived until 1937

Select Turner Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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J.M.W. Turner was an early 19th century English Romantic landscape painter.
Nat Turner led the largest slave rebellion in the antebellum South in 1831.
Frederick Turner, an American historian, is best known for his work, The Significance of the Frontier in American History.
Lana Turner was a glamorous American actress.
Ted Turner was the pioneer developer of CNN, the cable news show.
Tina Turner has been called "the queen of rock and roll."

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  • 125,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 125,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 61,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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