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Turner Family History
Recorded in several spellings including Turner, Turnor, Thurner, Tourner and Tournor, this is one of the great British surnames. With over fifty entries in the Dictionary of National Biography, it perhaps surprisingly it has at least three possible origins. Firstly, it may be an occupational name for a maker of small objects of wood, metal, or bone by turning on a lather, deriving from the Anglo-Norman French word "torner". Secondly, it may be a nickname for a fast runner, from the Middle English elements "turnen" to turn, plus the fusing of "hare" a hare. Thirdly, it may be occupational for an official in charge of a tournament, deriving from the Old French word "tornei"...
Turner (Variations: Turnor, Thurner, Tourner, Tournor)
Although primarily someone who fashioned small objects of wood, metal, or bone on a lathe, the occupational surname also had a variety of other relations, including turnspit and translator or interpreter. It was also South German occupational name (T(h)ürner) for a guard in a tower or a topographic name from Middle High German turn ‘tower’. A habitational name for someone from various places like Austria, are similarly named Thurn.
Turner, as Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic) was also derived from a place called Turno or Turna in Poland Belarus, or from the city of Tarnów in Poland. It is anglicised or translated to other similar sounding and meaning Jewish surnames. An early bearer connected to Poland was Benjamin Turner, a lender of money, born in Poland and reported in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1891.
Sixteenth-century, Northumberland born botanist William Turner (1520—68) introduced scientific botany into England. He studied at Cambridge University and named many plants including hawkweed and goatsbeard. He was a naturalist and had connections to other countries, including Italy where he studied medicine, although he also studied plants and birds and had another great naturalist friend, Connor Gessner.
One of the most celebrated artists in British history is JMW Turner (1775-1851). Turner has made a lasting impact on art and culture, with his connections to Margate, Kent inspiring the name for Turner Contemporary gallery is located in the seaside town. Many of Turner's artwork was inspired from the East Kent coast. An early bearer, also with connections to the East Kent coast - Nicholas Turner of Dover, Kent in 1538.
In 1881, the surname had a widespread frequency of 82,645 residing in the UK with 2,938 reported in the historical county of Kent. The most frequent occupation in the UK for Turner was Agricultural Labourer, of which were 4% with Labourer and Farmer, also top reported jobs worked by the surname. Coal Miner was a less common occupation for Turner.
1881, 1891 Census The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1881 Census in Kent
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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