Corbett

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Corbett Surname Genealogy

Corbett
comes from the Old French corbet, meaning raven. It might at one time have been a nickname for
someone with dark hair. But the raven is
also a symbol in heraldry signifying ferocity.
Hugh Corbet arrived with William the Conqueror from Normandy and
bore this
symbol on his crest. He was granted
lands in Shropshire and Corbet became a Shropshire name.
The surname Corbet began to give way to
Corbett from the 16th century.
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England. Corbetts
were first found in Shropshire.



Shropshire
The Corbet line
there started
with Hugh Corbet, the Norman lord, and his son Roger. Their
first base was Caius castle. Later the ancestral home was
Moreton Corbet near
Shrewsbury. They controlled most of what went on within the
county and their name was law.

One branch of this family, based in Longnor Hall, dates from the
1500’s. The last in this line was Jane Corbett who married the
archdeacon Joseph Plymley. He assumed the name of Corbett and
was, as his preserved diaries have revealed, a strenuous campaigner
against
the slave trade. The
Corbetts of Merrington were another Shropshire line and Corbetts were
also to be
found at Wigmore in Herefordshire and in Montgomery by the Welsh
border.


By the 19th
century, many
Corbetts had moved away from Shropshire into neighboring counties.
Joseph Corbett, for instance, had gone to Brierley Hill in
Staffordshire where he ran a canal transport business. His son
John became known as the salt king. He made a fortune
in the
late 19th century
from
his salt
works at Droitwich.

Elsewhere There
were two Corbett outposts from the 18th century, one in
Northumberland on the Scottish border and the other in the Channel
Islands between England and France:

  • The Corbet name at Kirknewton in
    Northumbria dates back to the 13th century and connects with the Norman
    Corbets who had been landowners across the border in Roxburgh.
    One family history traces back to a John Corbett who was a yeoman
    farmer at Allerwash in the late 1600’s.

Scotland. In
the early twelfth century, a Corbet branch had secured lands in
Roxburgh on the
Scottish borders. They held sway there
for many generations. Corbet Tower in
Teviotdale is a relic of those times. Robert Corbet was the provost of
Dumfries at the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Corbets
also owned lands in Clydesdale and their name in Scotland became
more
concentrated later on in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Ireland. With the border
region depressed, many Corbets moved away to
Ireland. They settled in Ulster counties
such as County
Down and Tyrone, and their name was also to be found further south in
Tipperary and Cork. However, these
Corbetts may not have
been Scots, or even English. The Irish
surname
Corban, from the Gaelic O’Corbiun,
was often in those days anglicized to Corbett.

Again, economic
hardship, this time in Ireland, caused an exodus. Most
left in the hopes
of a better life; while some, like James Corbett from Tipperary, were
forcibly
removed as convicts. John Corbett, a
Scots-Irish Ulsterman, was an early trans-Atlantic crosser, settling in
Bucks
County, Pennsylvania in the 1690’s. Later emigration took place
to New York,
Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

America. Robert Corbett
was an early arrival in New England, settling in Mendon,
Massachusetts. A descendant was the Daniel Corbett who married
Mary Holbrook in 1741. They were the first names that were
entered into the Corbett family Bible that was presented by Eldad
Corbett to his daughter on December 27, 1825. These Corbetts were
later to be found in Pennsylvania and New York.

There were a number of variants of the Corbett name in
early America – Corbett, Corbet, Corbit, Corbitt, and Corbitts:

  • Jesse Corbit
    came to Maryland from Ireland in the late-1700’s and fought in the
    Revolutionary War.
  • a
    Corbitt branch still flourishes in SW
    Virginia.
    John
    Corbitt was one of the first settlers in the Wiregrass region of SE
    Georgia. His family later moved onto Florida.
  • some
    Corbets are to be found in Guernsey county, Ohio where a number of
    Guernseymen, including Peter and Elizabeth Corbet, had gone in the
    early 1800’s.
  • while
    most Corbetts entered
    via
    Virginia
    and either settled there or in North Carolina or in other states of the
    south.

Two
doughty men were the products of Corbett Irish stock.
The first, Gentleman Jim Corbett, born in San Francisco, was
crowned heavyweight champion of the world in 1892; the
second Jack Corbett,
somewhat
less known,
was a grizzled sea veteran who became the guide and mentor to the great
Wall
Street financier, Alfred Hatch. A book Jack
Corbett: Mariner,
recently published, celebrated his life.

Caribbean. William
Corbett had arrived in the Caribbean on
the sloop Catherine in 1679. His
family were, for generations, sugar planters
near Johnson’s Point in Antigua. However,
their way of life came to an abrupt end in 1833 with emancipation.
Edward Corbett, the planter then, was
imprisoned
for his mistreatment of slaves on a boundary dispute and died in jail,
reportedly “from
rage.”



Canada. The early Corbett
immigrants came mainly from Ireland. There was
a
cluster of Irish Corbetts at Chapel’s Grove in
Newfoundland from the 1790’s. Around the same time
Alexander Corbet sailed from Scotland on the Lucy to Prince Edward Island.
Later in the 1850’s, from Ireland, came James Corbett and Patrick
Corbett to New Brunswick. The latter, from county Clare, was said
to have crossed the Atlantic with a priest and seven brothers.

Scots born but of Irish roots, Joseph Corbett arrived with his brother
John in 1856. Five years later, he received a land grant in
Bentinck township, Ontario and settled there. Joseph was an
expert in the growing and grafting of apples and his orchard survived
there until the 1930’s.

Australia. The early
Corbett arrivals were mainly Irish, either as convicts or as free
settlers. Two
sides of Ireland were to appear later – the Catholic priest (James
Corbett from Limerick) and the sporting journalist (William Corbett and
his son Claude who were born in Sydney).

Alexander Corbet sailed from Scotland on the Eagle in 1859. He first headed for the Victoria goldfields.
Later his
family moved to Gympie in Queensland where they became engaged in the
timber trade. This business has now passed through five
generations. .

Select Corbett Miscellany

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

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Hugh Corbet, who came over with
William
the Conqueror and settled in Shropshire, is the acknowledged forebear
of the
Corbetts.
Denys Corbet was a Guernsey
poet and painter.
John Corbett from Staffordshire
was the salt
king of England in late Victorian times, through his salt works at
Droitwich.
Gentleman Jim Corbett won the
heavyweight boxing championship in 1892.
He is sometimes called the “father of modern boxing” for his
scientific
approach to boxing.
Jim Corbett,
from an Irish family, was a celebrated big-game hunter in India.
Harry
Corbett
was the puppeteer known for his Sooty glove puppet
character in the 1950’s.
Ronnie Corbett was a
popular British TV comic actor, best known for his appearances on The Two Ronnies
.



Select Corbetts Today

  • 18,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 8,500 in America (most numerous
    in North Carolina).
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

 

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