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About the study

The Brenton One-Name study stated over 20 years ago and was finally registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2017.  The research started when trying to prove the belief that the Brenton family had originated in Cornwall, UK.  So far Henry Brenton of St Wenn, Cornwall, born about 1635, is the earliest ancestor and means that the family most likely did originate in Cornwall.

Evidence of migration by Brentons from Cornwall to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA as well as migration within the UK has been found.

Variant names

Brinton is currently registered as a variant, but in some instances it may have its own independent origins as a surname based around Staffordshire, UK.

Name origin

The surname Brenton is believed to be a locational name primarily from Brenton near Exminster, Devon; possibly named in Old English as Br¯ningtun ‘settlement (Old English tun) associated with Br¯ni’ (a personal name from Old English bryne ‘fire’, ‘flame’).

There are similar place names around the UK:  Brinton, a parish south west of Holt in Norfolk, recorded as "Brinton" in the 1197 Pipe Rolls, and as "Bryneton" in 1291; Brington in Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire, recorded respectively as "Brynintune" in the Anglo-Saxon Chartulary, dated 974, and as "Brintone" in the Domesday Book of 1086 for Northamptonshire; Brineton in Staffordshire.

Historical occurrences of the name

William Brenton (c. 1610–1674) was a colonial President, Deputy Governor, and Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and an early settler of Portsmouth and Newport in the Rhode Island colony. I have yet to confirm the belief that he may have been born in Hammersmith, now a part of London.

Sir Jahleel Brenton, 1st Baronet, KCB (22 August 1770 – 21 April 1844) was a British admiral born in Newport, Rhode Island. He was the great grandson of William Brenton. I believe that Brenton-on-Sea, South Africa, is named after him. The area also giving its name to a butterfly - the Brenton Blue.

Captain Edward Pelham Brenton CB (20 July 1774 – 13 April 1839) was an officer of the British Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Brenton became famous in the aftermath of the war, when he published the Naval History of Great Britain from the Year 1783 to 1822 in 1823. He was the great grandson of William Brenton and brother to Sir Jahleel Brenton.

Name frequency

The 1841 census for England, Scotland and Wales records just under 500 Brentons and by the 1911 census just over 1,000.

Distribution of the name

The distribution for Brenton in 1881, UK, is focused on Devon (I suspect mainly around the naval bases), Cornwall and Dorset. There is a token representation around the Mersey estuary, SW London and Sussex. The variant Brinton is more widespread, but focused on Staffordshire and the south coast from Dorset to Sussex.

It is not a particularly common name in the US in 1880 with highest concentration in the North East with Indiana having the highest number of families.  This could reflect that a number of Brentons seem to have migrated to Canada and could then be migrating south. Brinton is a lot more widespread with the highest concentration being in Pennsylvania. Initial research suggests that the Cornish surname did change from Brenton to Brinton on emigration.


Post 1837 records for England and Wales (GRO) include just under 2,300 birth registrations, just over 1,600 marriage registrations and just under 1600 death registrations.