Select Osborne Surname Genealogy

The surname Osborne comes from the Old Norse or Viking personal name Asbjorn, comprised of as neaning "god," and bjorn meaning "bear."   The word "god bear" may have been a reference to the colossal Ursus spelaeus, an ancient bear that once roamed the plains of Europe after the last ice age.

The name had appeared in England before the Norman Conquest.  The wife of Egbert, the king of Wessex, was called Osbern.   But Osbern acheved a greater prominence in England through the Normans, first because of William FitzOsbern and then because of the spread of Norman Osberns in the Domesday Book.  Another William FitzOsbern led a popular uprising in London in 1196.

The first surname recording was a Henry Osbern in Cambridge in 1260.  Over time Osbern became Osborn and Osborne.  The Osbornes predominate today. 

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Select Osborne Ancestry

England.  The Osbern name was widely spread throughout England in the Domesday Book.  And the surname Osborne was also spread in the 19th century:
  • there was one cluster around London and the southeast (Kent and Essex)
  • another in the southwest (in particular in Devon and Cornwall)
  • and then it spread across the Midlands and into Yorkshire.
The manor of Osborne (originally Oustbourn) on the Isle of Wight which dates from about 1320 gave its name to Osborne House, Queen Victoria's favorite residence. 

Kent.  The earliest record of an Osborne family comes from the will of Julian and Harjanna Osborn, recorded in Maidstone in Kent in 1404.  Alexander Osborne was mayor of Maidstone in 1700 and the family remained in this area.  The Osbornes at Hartlip near Sittingbourne dated from 1464.  Thomas Osborne from Ashford was an early settler in New England in 1637.  Later Osbornes in Kent were to be found in the seaside town of Deal.

ElsewhereEdward Osborne, a clothmaker in Elizabethan times, is said to have made his family's fortune by leaping into the Thames to rescue the daughter of his employer.  His descendants became landed gentry at Kiveton in Yorkshire and, as the Duke of Leeds, owned a number of estates around the country, in particular in the county of Buckinghamshire.  There were Osbornes recorded in the village of Castlethorpe in Buckinghamshire from the 1640's onwards.
Another titled Osborne family started with Peter Osborne, also during the reign of Elizabeth.  He acquired the family seat at Chicksands Priory in Bedfordshire in 1576.  His Royalist family was rewarded for loyalty during the reign of Charles II.  One sibling, Dorothy Osborne, created a stir by her affair with a prominent roundhead, William Temple.  A later offspring, Danvers Osborne, was briefly, for five days, the Governor of New York.

Ireland.  The name Osborne was brought to Ireland by the English in the 15th century.  The main settlement point was at Waterford where an Osborne family owned Knockmaun castle and established itself as landed gentry.  Their baronetcy at Ballintaylor in Tipperary dated from 1629:
  • the 17th baronet, Sir Peter Osborne, made his mark in London after he co-founded the Osborne & Little home furnishing store in 1968. 
  • while his son George Osborne, a Conservative MP, became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2009.
The Osborne name spread across Ireland.  One Osborne family was involved in granite mining in Ballyknockan,Wicklow.  Walter Osborne, born in Dublin, was a well-known Irish painter of the late 19th century.

Spain.   The Osborne name came to prominence in Spain in a curious way.  In the 1950's the Osborne sherry company erected large images of bulls, in black with the maker's name, on roadside advertising hoardings around Spain.  This image became so iconic that the Osborne bull (toro de Osborne) is now regarded as the unofficial national symbol of Spain. 

Grupo Osborne got its Osborne name from a young Englishman from Devon named Thomas Osborne Mann who had come to Cadiz in 1772 and founded a winery.  The Osborne sherry brand came some hundred years later. 

America.  Thomas Osborne arrived in Boston from Kent in 1637 and moved on the next year with other colonists to found the town of New Haven in Connecticut.   He and his son Thomas later settled on Long Island.  The old Osborne house was built in East Hampton in 1680.  The Maidstone Arms on this East Hampton site had Osbornes living there until the 1920's and is an international hotel today.

Later in the 1600's, Alexander Osborne had arrived in New England from Ireland as an indentured servant.  He married Sarah Prince in Salem who - as Sarah Osborne - became one of the first persons to be accused of witchcraft in the town.   She never came to trial; she died in 1692 while shackled in prison.

Virginia and the Carolinas.  Other Osbornes came via Virginia.  Captain Enoch Osborne was a pioneer settler in Grayson county, Virginia in the 1750's.  Whilst his antecedents are uncertain, his descendants have been traced in books such as Rita Sutton's 1973 book Early Osbornes and Alleys

Descendants of Ephraim Osborne from North Carolina are to be found in Harlan county, Kentucky.  Another Osborne family account starts in the 1750's, also in North Carolina.  A later generation moved from Charleston, South Carolina through Alabama and Arkansas before heading for Hill county, Texas in 1855.  This Osborne rover was a Presbyterian doctor.

Canada.  Three Osborne brothers were said to have come to Newfoundland in the early 1800's, one settling in Notre Dame Bay, another in Gooseberry Bay, and a third eventually in Port aux Basques.  

Joseph Osborne was the skipper of a schooner which took families from Port aux Basques to colonize the offshore Anticosti islands.  However, when these islands were acquired on the early 1900's by a French magnate as his personal fiefdom, the Osbornes - together with the other fishing folk there - were deported and sent off to the plains of Manitoba.  The farming experiment did not work and they soon drifted back to the East Coast. 

Australia.  The name Osborne figured prominently in the early history of South Australia.  The first instance was tragic.  EE Osborne, a young apprentice printer in London, was brought to the new colony in 1836 to help start a newspaper there.  He and a young doctor named Slater were walking on Kangaroo Island but lost contact with their party from the Africaine and were never seen again.

Henry Osborne provided a more substantive presence.  Born the youngest of ten in Ireland (county Tyrone), he made his way to Australia in 1829.   Ten years later, he set off with one free settler, three convicts, and three Aborigines for new lands in South Australia.  He became a big cattle rancher in the Maitland area and entered local politics.

Joseph Osborn was one of the most successful racehorse owners in South Australia in the early 1900's.  In 1912 he sold his stable to buy a winery in McLaren Vale.  This winery is now run by the fourth generation of Osborns.  

Select Osborne Miscellany

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

Select Osborne Names

William FitzOsbern was William the Conqueror's right hand man during the invasion of England and the man who suppressed revolt around the country after 1066.
Dorothy Osborne
from Bedfordshire is noted for the letters she wrote to her husband Sir William Temple in the late 1600's.
Walter Osborne, born in Dublin, was a well-known Irish painter of the late 19th century.
John Osborne was the English playwright and critic of the Establishment best remembered for his 1956 play Look Back in Anger.
Charlie Osborne
was a renowned fiddler in the Appalachian Mountains who died in 1992 at the age of a hundred and one.
Adam Osborne was a British PC pioneer with his Osborne laptop computer of the early 1980's.

Select Osbornes Today
  • 40,000 in the UK (most numerous in Cornwall)
  • 40,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 16,000 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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