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About the study

The study began as usual with the building of my own family tree which led to an interest in discovering more about the history and distribution of the surname. I am still in the phase of collecting larger amounts of data, but this is leading towards a study of what I believe is the gradual spread of the name during the medieval and later periods from its primary roots in Derbyshire, England, and possibly also from Kent, England. I have now in February 2018 published a website, , which  initially covers the history of the surname and its holders in Britain from 1250 to 1600 and includes a database of all the 3500 British holders of the name from 1250 to 1850 whom I have so far uncovered. This will be expanded to other countries in due course.
From November 2017, James Bradburn has taken on responsibility for recording and publishing the Bradburns of Canada, which is where his ancestors lived. He is also interested in the Bradburns of Ireland, which is where his Canadian Bradburn ancestors came from. If you have any information which could help him with Canada or Ireland, please contact him via his website .

Variant names

The main variants being studied alongside Bradburn are Bradbourne and Bradburne, but there are also many spelling deviants such as Bradbourn, Bradborn and Bradborne which can be found in English parish registers. Even those such as Bredborn and Blageburn may well be family members! When searching online databases, I tend to use the search term Br*d*b*rn* to ensure that I pick up all variant spellings.

Name origin

The surname Bradburn appears to be a locative/toponymic one (ie based on the name of a particular place) and is derived from the Old English words 'brad' (=broad) and 'burna' (=stream); the place by the broad stream. I believe that it has its main origin in the village and parish of Bradbourne in Derbyshire, England, where a broad stream can still be seen today. It probably also began separately in Bradbourne, Kent, England, although it is more difficult to trace a Bradburn family from here.
Until now the accepted version of the origin of the family name has been the one given by Sir Humphrey Bradburne to the visiting Heralds in July 1569. Sir Humphrey said that the first person to hold the family name was a man called Gerard or Godard who lived in the thirteenth century and was the grandfather of the well-documented Roger. I have not yet found any trace  in contemporary documents of this Gerard or Godard, but by studying over 400 documents from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries I believe that I have been able to uncover the real origin of the family.
The person who began it was Sir Robert de Esseburne (c. 1200 - 1253) who lived in Esseburne (now called Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England) and was steward to the Earl of Derby, a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas and King's Constable of the High Peak.In 1238 Sir Robert was granted the Manor of Bradeburn (now Bradbourne, Derbyshire, England and only a few miles from Ashbourne) and in 1250 he purchased the land at Hulland nearby on which the family later built its second house, the Hough. I believe that Sir Robert is the Robert de Bradeburn mentioned in several undated documents of this period. Sir Robert died in 1253 without children and his heir was his brother's son, Henry de Esseburne. In 1258 Henry bought three parts of a knight's fee in Bradeburne and around 1260 is mentioned as Henry de Esseburne, Lord of Bradeburne. He is also probably the Henry de Bradeburne who witnessed a document in around 1265. Henry died before 1269. His son was Roger who is probably the person mentioned as Roger de Esseburne in the 1270's but from 1284 he becomes Roger de Bradeburne. Over the next 34 years there are more than 80 documents mentioning Roger (later Sir Roger) de Bradeburne until his death in around 1318. In the thirteenth century inherited surnames were only just beginning and this gradual transition from the use of the village where they originally lived (Esseburne) to the village in which they became Lords of the Manor (Bradeburne) would not have been unusual.
The Derbyshire land-owning family which descended from Sir Roger, known first as de Bradeburnes, then de Bradbournes then as Bradburnes and finally as Bradburns, can be traced through to around 1600, and I believe that most of the British Bradburns alive today are descendants of this Derbyshire family. The ornate tombs of two of the last landed members of the Derbyshire family can still be seen in the church of St Oswald in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
The greatest concentrations of the surname in recent times are in Lancashire and Cheshire, England and in the area around Birmingham, England and I believe that the ancestors of these present-day Bradburns migrated out of Derbyshire from the middle ages onwards. I am trying to trace this migration.
There was another manor with the name of Bradbourne in Kent, England and documents from the thirteenth century list a number of people from this manor who were called de Bradeburne or de Bradbourne. The early (c.1600) parish registers for the nearby parish of East Malling contain several Bradbourne baptisms, so I believe that an inherited surname may have developed from there also. This may be the source of several Bradburn families in nearby London. . A 'de' plus a placename was often used in legal documents just to distinguish people from those of the same first name who lived in another village.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are no world-famous Bradburns, but here are a few noteworthy ones I have found:
* Sir Roger de Bradbourne (c.1260-1318) was appointed by King Edward I as a Commissioner of Oyer & Terminer for the County of Derbyshire
* Henry de Bradbourne, son of Roger, was one of thirty followers of Thomas Plantagenet, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who were executed at Pontefract in 1322 after the battle of Boroughbridge for supporting the Earl's rebellion against his cousin, King Edward II
* A later Roger Bradbourne (c.1350 - 1404) was Member of Parliamenr for Derbyshire in 1397 and 1404.
* When a head of the family, Humphrey Bradburne (c. 1450 - 1520) , married Margaret Longford in around 1480, he brought to the family a descent from Norman aristocrats the de Beauchamps and the de Braoses and from John de Botetourt, Lord Mendlesham, a possible illegitimate son of King Edward I Plantagenet 'Longshanks'.
* John Bradburne, another head of the family, helped King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to drive the Moors out of Spain in 1492 and was awarded the Order of Granada.
* Sir Humphrey Bradburne (c.1510-1580) was the last landowning head of the family based in Bradbourne, and his ornate tomb can be seen in St Oswald's church, Ashbourne, Derbyshire where the family had endowed a Bradburne Chantry. His long will can be seen online at the National Archives in London. Sir Humphrey was Member of Parliament for Derbyshire in 1553 and 1555.
* John Bradburn was cabinet maker to the British royal family (King George III and Queen Sophia) from 1760 to 1780.
* Samuel Bradburn (1751-1816) Methodist preacher and orator, friend and confidant of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was described in his biography as the Methodist Demosthenes.
* John Bradburn fought on-board HMS Swiftsure at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805
* Richard Bradburn was a member of the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1830 which plotted to murder the entire British Cabinet, but the members were caught before they could carry out the plot. Richard escaped the execution which was the fate of the ringleaders but was transported to Australia.
* Juan Davis Bradburn (1787-1842) was a controversial American who fought for Mexican independence from Spain. When Mexico eventually became independent in 1821, he was appointed by its first Emperor, Augustin de Iturbide, as Mexican envoy to the United States. He later became a brigadier-general in the Mexican army.

Name frequency

The surname is of lower-middle frequency when compared to all other English surnames.
In the England and Wales 1881 census there were around 1300 Bradburns and variants.
The 2002 Taliesin study suggests that about 2000 Bradburns are currently alive in England and Wales
The 2000 US census lists about 2400 Bradburns, so there are now more US Bradburns than British ones!

Distribution of the name

Some early Bradburns immigrants were recorded in Virginia, USA around 1630. Currently Bradburns are distributed around the USA but appear to be mainly concentrated in Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and California.
Bradburns can also be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.


 The Bradburns have been extracted, in families, from the 1851 Census of England and Wales as this is the earliest English Census which gives place of birth and a thus path backwards to earlier family members.
Much time-consuming work is ongoing to analyse English Parish Registers from 1538 to 1840 in order to map the occurrences over this period. All christenings, marriages and burials from the Cheshire and Shropshire parish registers for Bradburn and conceivable spelling variants have been extracted to a database and wherever possible these entries have been assembled into families.
All Bradburns etc listed in the official birth, marriage and death indexes for England and Wales from 1837 onwards have been extracted to spreadsheets.
Many medieval and later archival records have been analysed to record Bradburn name occurrences from 1250 to 1600 in Britain and Ireland.
All Bradburns etc from the International Genealogical Index have been extracted to a database.
I will attempt to build as much as possible of this information into families, but I will not go beyond what I believe is supportable in making any family connections.
The above or similar processes will be repeated for other countries when I can find the time for it, although, as mentioned above, James Bradburn is already working on Canadian Bradburns, and his contact details are above.
I and James would be very pleased to hear from anyone who has any Bradburn data and would be willing to give us information which could be added to the database.


In November 2014 I began a DNA project for the name Bradburn on FamilyTreeDNA as my research to date suggests that the Bradburns could almost all be related and descended from the one or two families. If any Bradburn (or variant spelling) would like to join in this DNA testing (for which there is a cost to pay) please contact me on the email address below. The test results show only possible genealogical relationship to others of the same name and also to which main ancient genealogical grouping a person belongs. There is no medical information at all. The test is called a Y-DNA test and can only be taken by men as women do not have the Y-DNA. The same Y-DNA is presumed to follow the male line down and therefore also the surname. The very simple test is self administered by the person doing the test and involves swabbing the inside of a cheek to extract some cells and sending the swab to FTDNA in the kit provided by them. The results take about two months.


I have just put up the first version of a website with a database so that anyone who is interested can see what has been uncovered about the Bradburn surname and its holders over time. At present the website focuses on the history of the British Bradburns from 1250 to 1600 and the attached database includes British Bradburns from 1250 to 1850. I hope to include Bradburns from Ireland, North America, Australia and New Zealand in the future. This website is being hosted by the Guild of One-name Studies who have said that they will try to preserve it in perpetuity even when I am no longer around. The URL address of this website is .