Select Thorpe Surname Genealogy

Thorp or Thorpe as a name in England is generally to be found in areas where there was Danish settlement. Places with "-thorp" or "-thorpe" as a suffix crop up in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk.  The word - of Old Norse and Old Danish origin - means a small hamlet or village.

Its first recording as a surname was William de Torp in the Northumberland pipe rolls of 1158.  Thorp and Thorpe are the main spellings, with Thorp more to be found in the north of England.  Thorp could become Tharp in America.

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Select Thorpe Ancestry

England.   The main locations for Thorpes in the 19th century were, following the Danish settlements, in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire, with smaller numbers further south along the coast in East Anglia.
Early Thorpes.  One early recorded Thorpe family started with a Stephen de Thorpe who lived in the late 12th century in Yorkshire and begat a line of Stephens there. 

Another was to be found in East Anglia in the late 13th century.  This Thorpe family held Uphall manor in Norfolk until 1522.  John de Thorpe of Ashwell-Thorpe in Norfolk, born around 1270, did much to establish his familyís fortunes.  But perhaps the best known member was Sir William de Thorpe.  As Chief Justice of the King's Bench in the 1340's he amassed great wealth and estates through bribery and corruption.

"As a clerk of the court he had been assaulted on one occasion in 1318 when his enemies allegedly urinated on him.  In 1350 he was imprisoned and condemned to hanging and confiscation of all his property.  The next year, however, he was pardoned and had his property restored."

Thomas Thorpe from Essex was speaker of the House of Commons in 1453 who, unfortunately, was beheaded by a London mob eight years later (one of five speakers to be beheaded in the fractious 15th century).  A descendant - via churchmen and Conservative MP's - was the Liberal party leader of the 1970's, Jeremy Thorpe.

Thorpe as a place-name was to be found near Chertsey in Surrey (from whence has come Thorpe Park, the amusement center).  John Thorpe was a Surrey MP in the late 14th century and the Thorpe ironmasters in Sussex in the late 16th century may have been related.

Later Thorpes.  There were the Thorps in Northumberland and Durham, starting with the Rev. Thomas Thorp of Chillingham.  His son Robert became Archdeacon of Northumberland in 1792 and his son Charles, also a clergyman, was a founder of Durham University in 1837.

One family history began with the birth of Ezekiel Thorpe in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in 1709.  These Thorpes were to remain there for the next 150 years before beginning to drift to London, with some emigrating to Canada. Another started with Thomas Thorpe who was born in the Staffordshire village of Elford in the 1750's.  And Francis Thorpe of Pateley Bridge in Yorkshire was born in 1776.

.  Thomas Thorpe was in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1631, married Rebecca Milward in Boston in 1656, and later settled in Woodbridge, New Jersey.  His descendants lived in Woodbridge and Perth Amboy for more than 200 years.  Other Thorpes had spread by that time into neighboring Monmouth and Union counties. 

Another early arrival was William Thorp from London on the Hector in 1637.  He was one of the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut.  Joel Thorpe of this family headed west to Ohio in 1799 but was killed in a skirmish with the British during the War of 1812.  His son Lewis became a sailor on Lake Erie and later settled in Missouri.

There were several Tharps that immigrated to Virginia and Maryland in the colonial period.  John Jacob Thorp, related to the Woodbridge Thorpes, migrated west in the early 1800ís.  Interestingly, his name was Thorp in New York and Ohio and Tharp in Indiana.  From a Quaker farming family in Portland, Indiana came the dance choreographer Twyla Tharp.

Hiram Thorpe was born in Kansas in 1852, reportably the son of an Irishman and a Native woman.  A member of the Sac and Fox tribe in Oklahoma, he was the father of Jim Thorpe - whom some have called "the greatest athlete of all time."  Sadly, Jim Thorpe lost his amateur Olympic medals that he won in 1912 because he had been a professional and he lived out the latter part of his life in poverty and poor health.   

Australia and New Zealand
.  Early Thorpe arrivals were convicts.  Charles Thorpe, convicted at York assizes, was one of the 338 convicts transported on the Coromandel and Experiment to Australia in 1803.

Joshua Thorp left his native Yorkshire for Australia in the 1820's.  He married Sarah Garratt of Hobart in 1827 and twelve years later they embarked on a new challenge in New Zealand.  Joshua wrote his memoirs of those early days in 1880 in Journey of a Visit to New Zealand.

Three Thorpe brothers from London went to South Australia with their families in the early years of settlement there.  Robert and Margaret Thorpe travelled on the Navarino in 1837.  Three years later came Charles and Mary Ann Thorpe and their large family of seven on the Fairfield, together with brother Thomas and his wife Amelia.

Select Thorpe Miscellany

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

Select Thorpe Names

Thomas Thorpe was an English publisher, best known for publishing Shakespeare's sonnets in 1609.
Jim Thorpe was an American athlete of mixed ancestry (Caucasian and American Indian) who won Olympic gold medals in 1912 for the pentathlon and decathlon and also played professional football, baseball, and basketball. 
Jeremy Thorpe was leader of the British Liberal party from 1967 to 1976.
Ian Thorpe, nicknamed "Thorpedo," was the Australian swimming sensation in the early 2000's.

Select Thorpes Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in Nottinghamshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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