The Norcross Family Tree

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The Origins of the Surname

In the beginning there were no surnames and by 1066 CE surnames were still of little consequence.  With the conquest of England by William of Normandy, he decided that the cost of their subjugation and for the transplantation of thousands of Norman and Flemish peoples to pacify the rebellious parts of England, most notably the Scottish Lowlands and the northern reaches of England, that a tax would be levied on all landowners throughout the Kingdom.  This required the first census, the Doomsday Book, and that required surnames.  There is a section in that Book for Ribchester in Lancashire, but it does not list the Norcross name or any early version.

Norcross has a number of antecedents, most notably its early spelling as Norcrosse, and possibly earlier versions as Northcrosse and Northcroft.  In the Lancashire Calendar of Assize Rolls for 1202-1281 can be found the following entry:-

"The Jury of the Wapentake of Derebyschyre present that William son of Ralph de Bedeford, Roger son of Orm, Simon Uttinge, Richard brother of Matthew le Bolde, Colbus de Melling, Bimme de Mulinaus, Henry del Pek, Henry de Northcroft, Vivian de Welwemore, Roger de Welwemore, Sauasin de Par, Grifin del Ruding, Thomas Bule, Roger le Pilur, Dobbe de Merklokhurst, Dike le Pilur, Dobbe son of Cecily, John de Merklok, Richard son of Robert de Wllemore, Robert de Brockolhurst, Robert son of Cecily, Hobekin son of Nicholas, Richard son of Adam son of Ingelard, Dike le fiz Ulf and Adecok Kay, indicted before the Justices last in Eyre found sureties etc., but come not."

And later we find in Lancashire: Inquests, Extents and Feudal Aids, 1310 - 1335, Abstracts of Lancashire Inquests Post Mortem and Ad Quod Damnum, Feudal Aids, Rentals and Extents (Duchy of Lancaster, accounts (various) bundle 32, No. 17) the following:-

"The Wapentake of Amondernesse.--The bailiff there answers of 40s. of the rent of William de Shirborn for 3 carucates of land in Hamelton, t. Christmas, Lady Day, Midsummer and Mich.; and of 15s. 4d. of the rent of Alan del Mor of Fyshwyk 7s., Geoffrey de Aykeneshow 7 1/2d., Adam son of Simon 2s., Beatrice del Rudyng 7 1/2d., Thomas del Rudyng 15d., Adam Bury 9d. and Matilda Travers 2s. 5d. for their tenements in Fyswyk, t. Lady Day and Mich.; and of 20s. of the rent of the abbot of Cokersand for 2 carucates of land in Neubygging, 4 terms; and of 10s. of the rent of the earl of Ormund for the fishery called Marton Mere or a sor goshawk, t. Mich.; and of 40s. of the rent of William de Clifton for 2 carucates of land in Westby, 2 car. of land in Felte-plompton, 3 car. of land in Salwyk and Clifton and 2 car. of land in Barton, 4 t.; and of 17s. 6d. of the rent of John de Damport for 4 carucates of land in Wode-plompton, an 8th part of a carucate of land in Bryning and Kylgrymeshargh and a carucate of land in Fornby, same t.; and of 16s. of the rent of Thomas Banastre 8s., John son of Lawrence de Thornton for their lands in Thornton, same t.; and of 9s. of the rent of John de Staynolf 2s. 6d., Roger del Northcros 8d., Adam le Knyght 4d., Thomas son of Richard de Staynolf 7 1/2d., William Laurenz 16d., Thomas Travers 16d., John Botill[er] [20 1/2d. ?], and Richard Doggesson 6d., for their tenements in Thornton."

It is fair to say then that the name comes from Lancashire since the earliest days of William's reign.  Given the history of that area of England, most specifically the facts that William ethnically "cleansed" the area  in his second conquest of 1068 before resettling his choice of second and third sons of his Norman and Flemish nobility, those who would never inherit back home, to pacify the region, it is possible that the Norcross roots come from the ancient Kingdom of Francia. 

Another possible source for the name related to the Roman custom to mark their highways with markers, stone cairns and later in Christian times, stone crosses along the route.  Ribchester is the site of the ancient fort Bremetennacum, the supply centre at the western end of Hadrian's Wall, a port with navigable waters from the Irish Sea.  On the road from the fort going north to the Wall there was undoubtedly many markers and it is possible that when the Doomsday records were being constructed, the family living in the northernmost part of the parish of Ribchester was given the surname Northcrosse to denote they lived by the northernmost cross in the parish marking the road, which has since evolved into Norcross. 

A third, and the most logical source is that the landowner-farmer (at the time called a crofter, an old English word for a farmer) who was the northernmost resident in the parish received the name Northcroft which evolved into Norcross.  The records above from 1212 CE substantiate this source.  Northcroft into Northcros into Northcrosse, to Norcrosse and finally Norcross.

There is a family of Northcross that traces its roots to the Isle of Man located some 100 miles to the Northwest of Ribchester in the Irish Sea.  There is no known connection to that family, but.......

In any case, by 1574 the name had become Norcrosse and is recorded as such by the listing of Henry Norcrosse in the list of Vicars of St. Wilfrid's Church in Ribchester, Lancashire, England.  That is where this genealogy begins it's story. 

In my work, I have established the custom that all names of English-born family members prior to 1800 are spelled as "Norcrosse" and that all  English-born after 1800 and all American-born  are spelled as "Norcross".


Continue to Henry Norcrosse, "Viccar de Ribchester", 1573 to 1616



Copyright 2004, Philip Norcross Gross

For more information please contact me at  All this information is based on family stories, or documents listed in the References.  Official documentation is not common except for recent generations (1850 or later) and may not necessarily be referenced herein.