Robson


Select Robson Surname Genealogy

The name Robert gave rise to the northern surnames Robertson and Robson, Robertson in Scotland originally and Robson in the northeast of England.  Robert became popular in Scotland through Robert the Bruce. 

However, Robson in the northeast may have had an older Anglo-Saxon origin - from Hroethbert, the name found on a stone cross in the Robson heartland at Falstone.  Meanwhile the Highland origin of the name Robson could have been Robb Gunn of the Gunn clan.

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England.  Robson is very much a name of the northeast, with a concentration in the old counties of Northumberland and Durham.  The earliest Robson record was in 1371 when three Robsons were reported as murdered at Falstone in Tynedale.  By the 16th century, these Robsons - together with the Charltons, Dodds, and Milburns - formed one of the principal clans of North Tyne.  They were described in a London play in 1654 as:

"A wight good riding surname, good honest men and true, saving a little shifting for their living."

The leading Robson of Falstone was the acknowledged figurehead, a kind of chieftain labelled as the "heidsman" or "laird."  The border was a lawless area in those times.  Border families like the Robsons were raiders or "reivers" or, less complimentarily, "the Tynedale thieves."  The Robsons had ongoing feuds with families across the border lsuch as the Armstrongs and, most notably, the Grahams of Liddesdale.  

By the early 17th century the area became more lawful and many in the clan disbanded.  The Robson name is still common in nearby villages such as Bellingham and Birtley (a Robson family has been living in Pitt House in Birtley for nigh on two hundred years).  But there was a drift southward to Durham and Yorkshire in order to find work.

Robsons were linen manufacturers and grocers in Darlington in the early 1700's and, from a slightly later date, fishermen and herring curers at Flamborough on the Yorkshire coastline (their history is described in Peter Robson's 1991 book, The Fishing Robsons). 

But the main jobs were to be found in Durham coal mining.  The Robson name crops up frequently amongst the miners of Durham coal towns such as Bishop Auckland, Hetton-le-Hole and Houghton-le-Spring; and also amongst the fatalities in various Durham mining disasters - from Murton in 1848 to Easington in 1951. 

The coal mining era has now ended and Robsons are better known for their football.  Bobby Robson, the former England football manager, and Pop and Bryan Robson, both England footballers, are all from this area.

Scotland.  The border was practically non-existent during reiver times and there was some spillover of Robsons into Roxburghshire and Robesons into Berwickshire.   The earliest mention was a Richard Robson as abbot of Kelso in 1464 and the Robson name is to be found in Border towns such as Jedburgh and Hawick.

Many Robsons left the Borders in the early 19th century, such as:
  • John Robson - from Roxburgh to Canada in 1821.  His son John, born three years later, headed west and became Premier of British Columbia province.
  • Hugh Robson, a Barthill ploughman and his family - from Dumfries to Argentina in 1825.
  • William and Christina Robson - from Roxburgh to Australia in the 1830's.  They became one of the early settlers in Hunter Valley, NSW.
Ireland.  The Robson name, of English or of Scottish origin, could be found in counties Armagh and Antrim from the 17th century.  English Robsons were part of the Quaker community in Sego, Armagh in the 1680's.

America.  There are both Robsons and Robesons in America, but not that many.

Robeson  One early Robeson was Andrew Robeson who emigrated with his uncle from Scotland to America in 1676 and settled first in New Jersey and later in Philadelphia.  A historical and genealogical account of him and his descendants was written by Susan Stroud Robeson in 1916.  

Thomas Robeson came to North Carolina and started his Walnut Grove plantation along the Cape Fear river. His son, Colonel Thomas, was a hero of the Revolutionary War, defeating a larger Loyalist army at the batle of Elizabethtown. 

However, these Robesons are not the Robesons who are remembered today but a slave on the Robeson plantation in Martin county who escaped on the Underground railroad to Philadelphia in 1860.  William Robeson went on to study at Lincoln University and become a church minister.  His son was the acclaimed African American singer, writer and early campaigner for civil rights, Paul Robeson.

Robson  They came later.   A number brought their mining skills with them, such as William Robson who had arrived in 1849 and followed various mining opportunities across the Midwest before settling in Pittsburg, Kansas. There his sons started the Robson Brothers Coal Company. 

A later arrival, in 1866, was John Robson and his family.  John worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines for a number of years before he had saved up enough money to buy his own farm in nearby West Virginia.    

Australia and New Zealand.  Many Robsons were miners and the mining opportuniries in Australia drew them there:
  • William Robson, a mining engineer, left Newcastle, England for Newcastle NSW in 1841 and there he helped develop the Mount Keira coal mine.  
  • while Joseph and Jane Robson and their family had come to Victoria in 1853 by way of Brazil.  Joseph was also of a mining background and had first tried gold mining in Brazil.  At Ballarat he became manager of one of Australia's largest gold mines.
In 1858, Friend Lamb and Isabella Robson, recently married, came with other Robsons from Sunderland on the Indiana to New Zealand.  These Robsons, from a shipbuilding family, were carpenters and they plied their trade in Christchurch.

Select Robson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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Edward Robson
, born in Durham, was a Victorian arhitect who achieved renown for his school-building projects in London in the 1870's and 1880's.
John Robson was British Columbia's premier in the 1890's and a major figure in its entry into the Canadian Confederation.
May Robson, born Mary Robison in Australia, was a Victorian stage actress who lived to star in films of the 1930's.
Paul Robeson was the acclaimed African American singer, writer, and early campaigner for civil rights.
Dame Flora Robson was a popular English character actress.
Bobby Robson played football for England and was the England football manager in the 1980's.

Select Robsons Today
  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in Tyne & Wear)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Florida).
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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