The Bonner Family History

The Bonner Family History


The family name of Bonner is of Norman-French origin with the original Bonners arriving in Britain during the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. There have been numerous spellings of the name: in France as Bonheur (meaning good hour) and Bonnaire (meaning good manners) all of which have the key "good". Other spellings of the surname include Bona, Bonar, Booner, Bonney, Bonher and Boner. Many of these latter spellings probably have resulted from the inability to write and hence spelled by the recorder from the way it sounded with the additional difficulties in interpretation of handwriting. Today the name Bonner is common in France, Germany, England and Northern Ireland as well as in America and the British Dominions.

The Bonners were a prominent family in England with Quentin de Riddell an ancestor of the noble house of Buchanan-Riddell. Quentin first bore the ensign of Bonner from whom descended the noted Bishop Edmund Bonner. There are numerous documents in England during the reign of Henry VIII where Riddell is written in the body and Bonnaire (Bonner) in the margin. Riddell and Bonner families bear the same coat-of-arms usually meaning that the younger family (Bonner) descended from the older.

Coat of ArmsThe Bonners arrived early in America with immigrants appearing in Boston in 1678. Captain John Bonner, the son of John Bonner of London, settled in Cambridge and later moved back to Boston where he died. His tombstone in the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston bears the description of the Bonner coat-of-arms:

"Quarterly gules and sable, a cross pattee quarterly ermine and ox. On a chief of the last a demirose streaming rays between two pelicans vulning themselves of the first. Crest - a talbot's head argent, collared azure. Studded edged and ringed or. Motto: Semper Fidelis" <Ever Faithful>

John had several children to include Jane (d. 1686), Johan (d. 1687), Mary (1668-1699), Jane (b 1691, named after her sister that had died, returned to London), John (b. 1693 returned to London), Sarah (d. 1721) and Thomas born in Cambridge 1695 and buried in South Carolina where he died in 1719.

There are several other Bonners appearing in America in the 1600's to include Thomas (1638), Henry, and Richard. Very few Bonners appear on the ship list after the Revolutionary War most of whom are emigrants from countries other than England. All of the families in the United States by this name are perhaps distantly related with the possible exception of the Pennsylvania branch who appear to be of German origin. Before the Revolution, the Bonner name was found in all of the American colonies except New York (NY was devoid of Bonners even as late as 1790).

Bonner Migration Map

Most of the Bonners living in the Carolinas and Georgia in 1790 seem to have migrated from the older colonies of Virginia and Maryland. Thomas, James and William Bonner came from Chesapeake to North Carolina with Thomas settled on Bonner Hill, William probably Chowan, and James founded the town of Washington. Several migrations of Bonners to California are known. Among the shady Bonners, William Bonney, the outlaw known as "Billy the Kid", may be a Bonner.

It is not known at this time which of the early Bonners our Thomas who was born in about 1744 from South Carolina descended from. He is sure to have brothers possibly John Bonner who also served in the Revolutionary War from the Carolinas who mentions his brother Thomas in his pension application.

england bonnerTony Bonner of the UK provided us with a variant of the Coat of Arms from Bonners in England that we are happy to share with you. Some years ago Tony had the surname Bonner armorially searched by a legitimate Company called " Heraldic Families ", of 70a, Hoddern Avenue, Newhaven, East Sussex, BN9 7QY, and this is their finding.
The Blazon of Arms : Paly of six or and gules, on a chief azure, three lions rampant or.
Crest : A talbot's head argent, collared azure, studded, ringed and edged or.
The following was in the description :
This name came from the Old French Word ' bonnaire ' meaning gentle, courteous, shortened from ' debonnaire '.
An early recorded instance of the name appears in 1332 in the Subsidy Rolls for Sussex as Robert Boner.


"The Migration Pattern of the descendents of Thomas Bonner, a Family History", James C. Bonner, Georgia College, 1967.

Last Updated: 28 August 1996
Copyright © 1996 Vince and Becky Bonner. All rights reserved.
Becky Bonner E-Mail Address: [email protected]