Cobb Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Cobb Surname Meaning

Cobb was probably a nickname that then evolved into a surname in England. It has Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon origins, from the word kobbi meaning “lump,” and would likely describe a large, well-built and impressive man.  

Cobbe was an early spelling. Leuric Cobbe, probably a Saxon, was recorded in Suffolk in the 1086 Domesday Book. In some cases the name may represent a shortened version of Jacob.

Cobb Surname Resources on The Internet

Cobb Surname Ancestry

  • from England and Scotland (both East Coast) and from Ireland (Huguenot)
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England. Cobb or Cobbe seems to have started out as a name of East Anglia and SE England. Three notable early families came from Norfolk, Kent, and Hampshire.

Cobbes were recorded at Sandringham in Norfolk possibly as early as 1270. They were to remain there for the next four hundred years.  By the time of the death of Alice Cobb in 1627, Cobbs were to be found at Adderbury near Banbury in Oxfordshire as well. Alice’s son Sir William Cobb fought on the Parliamentarian side during the Civil War. Thomas Cobb departed for Boston in 1685.  

Cobbs at Cobb Court on Romney Marsh in Kent date from about 1300. A branch of the family had settled at Reculver on the north Kent coast some fifty years later. Ambrose Cobbs from this line emigrated with his family to Virginia in 1635.  Cobbe also appeared in Sussex around the year 1300, being found at Icklesham and later appearing in nearby towns such as Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea.  

And a Cobbe line at Swaraton in Hampshire was traceable possibly back to Cobbes in the early/mid 1300’s and definitely back to William Cobbe in 1450. Charles Cobbe, appointed the Archbishop of Dublin in 1736, made his home at Newbridge House and established the Cobbe Irish line.

There were other early Cobbs and Cobbes in Norfolk. John Cobbe was the vicar at Ranworth in the late-1400’s. By the late 1500’s the name had become quite widespread throughout the county.

London was a draw. Steven Cobbe, the son of William Cobb of Peterbridge in Norfolk, was recorded as a haberdasher in London in 1566. John Cobb, apprenticed in Norwich in the 1720’s, became a prominent London cabinet-maker and upholsterer.

The Cobbs of Margate in Kent, beginning with William Cobb who was born there in 1695, were leading businessmen of that town a century later.  Bankers and brewers, they became associated with the anti-slavery movement. 

Scotland.  The Cobb surname surfaced on the east coast of Scotland in the mid-1500’s, primarily in Brechin and Angus. Richard Cobb, born around 1562 in Aberdeen, settled in Holland where he married Sybil Sheetz in 1587.  Their son Joseph, born a year later, was an early arrival in Virginia.

Ireland. There was a prominent Anglo-Irish Cobbe family in Dublin following Charles Cobbe’s arrival as Archbishop of Dublin in 1736. The family established themselves at Newbridge House where they remain to this day. Their numbers included some notable Irish politicians, clergymen, writers and soldiers, such as the writer and social reformer Frances Power Cobbe and General Sir Alexander Cobbe VC.

The Cobbe name was to be found among the 500 or so Huguenots from France who had settled at Portarlington in Laios in the 17th century. Richard Cobbe, a farmer, was recorded at Deerpark there in 1758. Charles Cobbe emigrated with his family to Canada in 1913.

America. There were a number of early Cobbs into New England and Virginia, although none of them – according to recent DNA testing  – seem to have been related.

New England.  There have been three fairly well-recorded Cobb lines here.

The first was from Henry Cobb of Kent who arrived in Boston in 1632 and settled in Barnstable on Cape Cod seven years later. He was a church deacon and later a church elder. His line was covered in Philip Cobb’s 1907 book A History of the Cobb Family.  One branch of the family moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1700’s; another branch to Connecticut and then in 1780 with Gideon Cobb to Pawlet, Vermont and to points west and south. 

The next was from John Cobb, a blacksmith from Dorset, who emigrated to Taunton, Massachusetts in 1651 with his cousins Edward and Augustine. Edward’s line were iron founders and followed this trade to Morris county, New Jersey in the 1740’s. Cisby Cobb moved from there to North Carolina in 1790 and his grandsons to Fannin county, Texas in the 1850’s. 

And the third was from Thomas Cobb of Oxfordshire, also a blacksmith, who came to Boston in 1685. After his wife died he moved to Hingham, Massachusetts where his son Richard resided.  Some Cobbs here settled in Cape Cod. One line of the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the 1840’s.

Virginia and the South. Larger numbers came through Virginia and the South has a much larger Cobb population today.

Joseph Cobb, designated an “ancient planter,” was in fact a very early arrival into Virginia, having come there on the Treasoror in 1613.

“The term “ancient planter” applied to those persons who arrived in Virginia before 1616, remained for a period of three years, and paid their passage. They received the first patents for land in the new world in 1618.”  

Joseph settled on land east of the James river. He returned to England and then back to Virginia to prepare for the arrival of his family in 1625.  They settled in Isle of Wight county. Benjamin Cobb, born there in 1702, was a pioneer settler in what was then western North Carolina. He helped to create the new state of Tennessee.  This story was covered in Cully Cobb’s 1968 book The Cobbs of Tennessee.

Ambrose Cobbs from Kent arrived with his family in 1635. His descendants settled in York county, Virginia. A number from Ambrose’s son Robert migrated to Georgia in the latter part of the 18th century, founding the powerful Cobb dynasty there.

John Cobb came from London in 1642 and settled in Northampton county, Virginia. Cobbs remained in Northampton and neighboring Accomack counties for nigh on two hundred years. Some of these Cobbs migrated to Tennessee in the early/mid 1800’s.

Georgia.  The prominent Georgia branch of the Cobb family was founded by Thomas ‘Old Tom’ and John Addison Cobbs, great-great grandsons of Ambrose Cobbs. These two men would eventually drop the ‘s’ from their surname, as would their descendants by the time of the Civil War.

Luminaries of these Georgia Cobbs were:

  • Howell Cobb, a US Congressman for Georgia from 1806 to 1812.
  • Thomas W. Cobb, Governor of Georgia in the 1820’s, with Cobb county being named in his honor. His son Joseph was a Mississippi planter and the author of Mississippi Scenes.
  • and Howell Cobb, Governor of Georgia and the US Secretary of the Treasury in the 1850’s, as well as his younger brother Thomas R.R. Cobb, a Confederate Major General killed during the Civil War.

From different roots came Ty Cobb, nicknamed “the Georgia Peach” and the best baseball player in America during the early 1900’s. Ty Cobb’s ancestry took in Cobbs from the mountainous area of the state and a forefather from Ireland.  

Elsewhere.  There were prominent Cobbs also in Alabama. David Cobb moved there from Tennessee in 1807. His son W.R.W. Cobb was a US Congressman for Alabama between 1847 and 1861. And John W. Cobb came from Virginia in the 1820’s and was a planter in Ashville. His son Rufus was Governor of Alabama from 1878 to 1882.

Canada. There were early Cobb comings and goings from Nova Scotia:

  • Silvanus Cobb from Plymouth, descended from the Barnstable line, arrived with the British army in Annapolis in 1746. He spent the next sixteen years on maritime duties before his death, reportedly in Havana, in 1762.  His brother Jabez lived on in Halifax until his death in 1805.
  • while Thomas Cobb, born in Halifax in 1762, departed for Boston at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. After the war he married and settled down in Camden, Maine.

A Cobb family has been long established on the island of Fogo off Newfoundland.  Harvey Cobb owned the local passenger and delivery boats and purchased Quintal House on the island in the early 1900’s. Other Cobbs were fishermen.

But poverty and lack of opportunity led many later to abandon the island. Zita Cobb who departed in the 1980’s and became a successful businesswoman returned in 2013 to open a modern hotel perched on the edge of Fogo island.  

Australia.  The best-known Cobb in Australia – Freeman Cobb of the 19th century Cobb and Co. stagecoach company – was in fact an American who had arrived in Australia in 1853 at the time of the Gold Rush. His roots were in Barnstable on Cape Cod where many of his forebears had been sea captains.

Cobb Surname Miscellany

The Grave of Alice Cobb.  Alice Cobb was buried at Adderbury in Oxfordshire in 1627.  Her memorial reads as follows:

“Here lies buried the body of Alice Cobb, widow, sometime wife of William Cobb Esq, descended from the ancient family of the Cobbs of Sandringham in the county of Norfolk, by whom she was the mother of sixteen children, seven sons and nine daughters, all but three which she lived to see buried. The right worshipful Sir William Cobb, Knight was her son.

She lived a maid for nineteen years,a wife for twenty-six years, and after her husband’s deathin October 1598, she lived a widow for thirty years, having performed the part of a constant loving wife and a kind and careful mother.  Resting now with the Almighty, whom her greatest care was ever to serve and fear.  She died the 23rd of October, 1627.”

The Cobbs of Margate.  Between 1787 and 1834 the Cobbs exercised considerable influence over the affairs of Margate.  So much was their dominance that one contemporary dubbed them “King Cobb.” Certainly it was the town’s development as a seaside resort in the late 18th century that allowed Francis Cobb – the quintessential self-made man – to establish his business empire.

Francis had originally traded as “a baker and gingerbread baker” before the brewery, the keynote of the family fortune, was founded in 1761.  There followed a shipping agency which started in 1770 and a bank in 1785.  The shipping agency profited greatly from the slave trade.  However, by the early 1800’s the family had turned evangelical and then supported slavery’s abolition.

Interestingly Francis’s grandsons found it difficult to reconcile their humble origins with their prominent positions in civic life.  They therefore sought to doctor their genealogy by adopting the heraldry of an extinct Cobb family that was also of Kentish descent.

The Cobbe Family and Newbridge House.  Newbridge House was built by Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin, between 1747 and 1752.  The building still contains most of its original furniture, the interiors including the red drawing room, the museum of curiosities, and ornate plasterwork found throughout the house.

The Archbishop was succeeded by his son Thomas who in 1751 married the daughter of the Earl of Tyrone.  She brought a wealth with her, thus enabling major improvements to be made to the house.  In the red drawing room they lavishly entertained and hung many of the superb pictures they had purchased.

Their eldest son Charles died in 1798 and the eldest grandson, also Charles, became heir apparent. He joined the army, served in India and returned to Bath in 1805. Four years later he married Frances Conway and immediately went to live at Newbridge where he carried out much refurbishing with the aid of his wife’s wealth.

Charles Cobbe died in 1857 and was succeeded by his son, another Charles.  He in turn died in 1886 leaving no male issue – his estate passing to his wife for her lifetime.  Prior to her death she persuaded Thomas Maberley Cobbe, a grand-nephew of her late husband, to return to Newbridge from America to take over the property.  He died young in 1914 and his infant son Thomas succeeded him.

Thomas did not marry.  On his death in 1985 he was succeeded by the sons and daughters of his brother Francis.  At that time the Newbridge estate was acquired by Fingal county council, but under a unique arrangement which allowed the Cobbes to continue to maintain it as a family home.

Thomas Cobb in the Revolutionary War.  According to family legend, Thomas Cobb heft his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia at a tender young age to join the Continental Army in Boston.  The earliest form of this story is the application made by his daughter Elizabeth Cobb Avis to the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Here is the story in her words, written by her at the age of ninety-two.

“At the commencement of the war of the American Revolution my father at the age of seventeen joined the army and marched with them to West Point.  They often suffered.  Night would overtake them in a swamp so interminable that they would be obliged to spend it with their feet in the water.

At first he served as drummer boy under the command of General Knox.  He was at Valley Forge when Lafayette visited the army and furnished them with blankets and shoes.  He had been trying to make himself shoes with the legs of his boots.

He was mustered out at Yorktown, went to Gardner in Maine, and married Lucy Smith from Nantucket. I am his tenth child, born in 1807.”

Another account offered a reason for his departure from Halifax.  It stated that his parents were Quakers and that he ran way to join the army against their wishes.

Gideon Cobb and His Descendants.  Gideon Cobb who moved to the new town of Pawlet in Vermont in 1780 had some very enterprising descendants.

His son John was a pioneer settler in Rochester, New York.  Two of his sons made fortunes trading grain in Buffalo and New York. But another son James fathered a daughter by his long-time housekeeper (who was then raised by his family).  This triggered ugly battles over wills when his wife died and then when he died.

Another son was Elkanah whose sons Joshua and Gideon started enterprising families in Indiana and Kentucky.  Gideon was one of the earliest settlers in Eddyville, Kentucky.  Gideon’s son Robert was father of R.L Cobb of Cobb’s Battery fame in the Civil War and grandfather of humorist Irvin S. Cobb; while Gideon’s son Joshua was a prominent public figure in Clarksville, Tennessee before and after the Civil War. 

Ty Cobb’s Ancestry.  There were two notable Cobb lines in Georgia.

One was the political Georgia Cobbs family of English ancestry which produced such luminaries as Howell Cobb, Speaker of the US House of Representatives and Governor of Georgia, and his younger brother Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, a Confederate Major General. The other line had Irish antecedents – Jasper Cobb who arrived from Ireland in 1755 – and traced back to the hills of North Carolina and Georgia.  This was Ty Cobb’s line.

William Alfred Cobb was a Methodist minister who had tested the patience of his parishioners by preaching to Indians and whites alike and then pushed the congregation to the limit by preaching against slavery. In 1848 he and his family were run out of Heywood county for their abolitionist beliefs. They resettled in Union county, a more mountainous part of the region where slavery was not such an issue.  William’s son John – Ty’s beloved Grandpa Johnny –  was an anti-slavery Republican who joined Lee’s army during the Civil War but failed to report for duty.

Ty’s father W.H. Cobb, whom Ty always revered, was a school teacher.  He was shot by his wife Amanda in 1905 while Ty was away pursuing his baseball dreams.  Amanda was tried for voluntary manslaughter, but acquitted by a jury. Rumor had it that it was Amanda’s lover that had shot and killed her husband.

Reader Feedback – Cobb in Missouri and Oklahoma.  I am interested in finding more about my ancestors. I was told they spelled my surname Cobbs originally. I was raised in Oklahoma.

At the end of the Civil war, my grandpa Eli Cobb left Georgia, went to Tennessee, and shortly afterward moved to Jackson county, Missouri where he ran a trading post/general store.  One of Eli’s son’s, my father, Edgar Henry Cobb, was born in Jackson county, Missouri where he ran a general store and trading post.

When my dad Edgar Henry Cobb was still a small boy, my grandpa Eli Cobb participated in a land rush in Oklahoma, where he ran a general store/trading post and operated a ferry across a river near Clairmore. I was born Jessie Dalton Cobb. Later, my maternal grandmother and my mother had my name changed to William Gene Cobb.

Guy Cobb (

Reader Feedback – Cobbs in Alabama.  I’m descended from Bryant Cobb of Jackson county Alabama. He was brother of WRW Cobb; the US Congressman for Jackson/Madison county and the last southern delegate to leave House before the Civil War. He was a Unionist and opposed the Civil War.

Nolen Scott Cobb (nolenscott2388@icloud,com)

Reader Feedback – Cobbs in Canada.  My grandmother Nellie Cobb, married to Richard Stephens, died in 1900, Her father was John Cobb, married to Mary Carmichael. His father was John Cobb, married to Marion Leach. I am interested in when they came to Canada and from where.

Sharon Bedier (

Cobb Names

  • Charles Cobbe, appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1736, was the progenitor of the Anglo-Irish Cobbe family of Dublin. 
  • Howell Cobb served as the Governor of Georgia and the US Secretary of the Treasury during the 1850’s. 
  • Freeman Cobb started with his partners in Australia the famous stagecoach company of Cobb and Co. in 1854. 
  • Ty Cobb was the most famous baseball player of his era in the early 1900’s. He played for the Detroit Tigers for twenty-two years between 1905 and 1927. 
  • Irvin S. Cobb was a well-known Southern humorist and raconteur who hosted the 1935 Academy Awards ceremony.

Cobb Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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Written by Colin Shelley

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