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THOMPSON Family History
Thompson is an English patronymic surname with a variety of spellings, including without the 'p', meaning 'son of Thom or Tom', a medieval abbreviation of the first name Thomas. The first name became very popular in Medieval Europe, primarily due to the popularity of St. Thomas à Becket, whose martyrdom in Canterbury, Kent became a Europe wide news story of impressive dimensions. Originally, of course, the name Thomas is biblical, derived from Aramaic, and possibly meaning 'twin'.
The surname in Ireland may have been introduced by English and Scottish settlers at some time during the 17th century. The numbers were probably augmented by British bearers arriving in Ireland in later times. It is a very numerous surname in Ireland, and occurs in most parts of the country. No doubt, some families of the name became 'hibernicised', particularly those of early inception.
Woulfe, in 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' (1923) has Thom(p)son as a derivative of MacThomas or Mac Tómais, which is a Scottish surname.
From the numbers represented in the north of Ireland in Griffith's 'Primary Valuation' of households in the 1850s, this may not be so far wide of the mark. The highest number of Thompson households in that record are found in counties Antrim (476 + 197 in Belfast), Down (396), Derry (201), Fermanagh (152), Donegal (140) and Armagh (136).
The Registrar General's 'Special Report on Surnames in Ireland' (1894, 1909), based on the births distribution figures of 1890, shows most occurrences of Thompson in counties Antrim, Down, Armagh, Derry, Dublin, Fermanagh and Longford. In the top 50 surnames in Ireland in 1890, it was the most numerous in Co Down, the 5th most numerous in Co Antrim and the 9th most numerous in Co Fermanagh.
A search of the 1659 'Census' for early forms is disappointing, bearing in mind the incomplete state of these records compiled by Sir William Petty. However, Hugh Thomson, is listed as a 'Titulado' i.e. a gentleman landowner in Templemore, Co Derry.
Two Famous Thompsons:
Sheldon Thompson (1785-1851) the first elected mayor of Buffalo, New York. Born in Connecticut, he went to New York to enter the shipbuilding industry. He fathered ten children.
Charles C. Thompson (b. 1961) is the Catholic bishop of Evansville Diocese in Indiana. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky.