This Darnton Index website was born from an initiative to conduct a single name study of the name 'Darnton'. This involved collecting information about individuals and families. Good progress has been made for individuals, and many records of family groups are available but need to be converted into a useful form for this website. Many people around the world have now made enquiries about where they fit into the Darnton world, and almost all have received useful information. If you are a Darnton, or have ever had the name Darnton (many people change from or to the name Darnton, particularly on marriage - but there may be other reasons), we would love to hear from you.
Welcome to the Darnton Single-Name Study It is an ongoing project to identify information about the name, its origins, and brief details of anyone who has had that name at any point in time.
The policy followed in publishing information here is that we will only give information that is already a matter of public record and could therefore be found in any case by any person seeking such information. Other information that is not publicly available will only be published if it is submitted willingly and with consent to publish on this website.
John Darnton, 30th Abbot of Fountains Abbey, was responsible for much work including the West Window. Over that window is a stone corbel carved as a rebus (a representation of a name by pictures or figures) for John Darnton. This Darnton Rebus is now very badly corroded, probably through pollution, but it was distinct early this century. The principal features of the rebus related to the name, is the the bird is a 'Dern' and the barrel a 'ton'. Thus, the symbol of bird and barrel work reasonably well as a rebus for 'Darn-ton'.
Here is an image of the west window to show the location of the rebus, although it is very difficult to see it on this picture at the apex of the window.
Fountains Abbey West Window © 2002 Geoffrey Darnton
Here is a close-up of the Rebus:
Darnton Rebus above Fountains Abbey West Window © 2002 Geoffrey Darnton
Darnton Index Logo
Now, the inspiration for the Darnton Index logo shown on this website should be clear. The tree in an inverted family tree. The letter 'o' is represented by a modern stylized Darnton Rebus.
Darnton - the name
Ideas about the origin of the name.
This section presents ideas about the origin of the name Darnton. Darnton is an English surname. Therefore the most likely origins are either (1) related to some place (2) related to some occupation (3) perhaps indicative of some relationship.
The word, and its components, Darn - ton, indicate that (2) and (3) are unlikely. Therefore our current view is that most ancestors are likely to come from the same place.
The -ton at the end is one of the most common endings in English place names. Its meaning can be such as town, village, hamlet, farmstead, enclosure, fence or hedge. Several writers suggest this has become an enclosed village or farmstead. One writer suggests that where the prefix to -ton is a name, the -ton is more likely to refer to an enclosed farmstead.
Darn- is more difficult, and most sources seem to favour it being an abbreviation of some kind.
An analysis of key life events shows that most have occurred in North England, with South County Durham and North Yorkshire having the highest frequencies. The place with the largest number of life events we can trace since 1450 is Staindrop in South County Durham. Therefore the answer probably lies there.
Darnton may be an abbreviation of Darlington. This is the explicit explanation given in Longstaffe (1909: p3): "In the earliest records, however, the name [Darlington] occurs as Dearnington, Dernington, Derningtune, forms correctly contracted in Darnton and Dernton".
At pp 5-6, Longstaffe gives several references to specific people with the name Darnton.
According to Ekwall (1960) Darlington is 'The Tun of Deornop's people'.
Barber (1894) refers Darnton to Darrington in North Yorkshire (near Pontefract).
Ekwall (1960) has Darrington as 'The Tun of Dægheard's people', with a Doomsday Book reference to the name Darni(n)tone.
Johnson (1915) has Darrington as 'Town, village, of Deorna'.
J. Horsfall Turner (1845-1915), while discussing etymology, has 'Darn' as a Celtic derivative for water or river, Dearne as bright water, swift, and he indicates Darnin and Darni as original owners. (pp254-5)
This article is the basis of the initial entry for 'Darnton' in Wikipedia.
Barber, H. (1894). British Family Names: Their Origin and Meaning, with Lists of Scandinavian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman Names, London: Elliot Stock.
Ekwall, E. (1960). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, (4th ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, J. B. (1915). Place Names of England and Wales, London: John Murray.
Longstaffe, W. H. D. (1909). The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington in the Bishopric, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.
Turner, J. H. (1845-1915). Yorkshire Place Names or Toponomy as Recorded in the Yorkshire Domesday Book, 1086: comprising all the references (nearly five thousand) to places in the three Ridings and North Lancashire (then included in Yorkshire from the River Ribble to Furness and Westmoreland) with their modern names and suggested etymologies, the chief lords and tenants, Idel, Bradford: J. Horsfall Turner, Printed by Harrison & Sons, Bingley. Actual date of printing or publication unknown.