Gibbs Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Gibbs Meaning
Gilbert – from the
Norman Gislebert or Gillebert (meaning
“bright noble youth”) – came to England with William the
Conqueror. It was recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book in its
form, Gislebertus. The name became popular during the Middle
The pet name was Gib.
The principal surnames from Gib were Gibbs
and Gibson
(both meaning son of Gib). The
Gibson surname was more common in northern England and in Scotland. However, the variant spelling Gibb was also to
be found in Scotland.

Gibbs Resources on

Gibbs Ancestry

England. Gibbs has been a name of
southern England, both SW England and SE England.

SW England. It was said that there
were two Gibbs
brothers in the late 14th century, one living at Honington in
Warwickshire and
the other who moved to Devon:

  • the line from Thomas Gibbes at Honington extended
    to Robert Gibbes who acquired Honington manor at the time of the
    and to Thomas Gibbs who sold this estate in 1670. His
    brother Robert emigrated to the
    Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1658.
  • while the other line began with John Gibbe at Venton manor in Dartington
    parish, Devon. His Gibbe descendants
    settled in Exeter and Clyst St. George.

One line of the Gibbs in Devon was to be
found at Topsham on the Exe, beginning with Abraham Gibbs in the
mid-1600’s. Later came George Abraham
Gibbs, a surgeon in
Exeter, and his sons:

  • Sir Vicary Gibbs who was the Lord Justice of the Common
    Pleas in 1814. He was known for his
    caustic wit which earned him the nickname of Vinegar Gibbs.
  • and a younger son
    Antony Gibbs who had the more distinguished line of descent.

Antony started the
trading company Antony Gibbs &
in 1802. It initially focused
on trading
in cloth and guano but later became involved in banking, shipping and
insurance. After Antony’s death in 1815, the business was run by his
sons Henry
and William and then by William’s nephew Hucks Gibbs.

  • Hucks Gibbs, ennobled as
    Baron Aldenham, was also a Director of the Bank of England and its
    from 1875 to 1877. His son Herbert was
    made Baron Hunsdall in 1923.
  • Herbert’s son Humphrey moved to Rhodesia in 1928
    and served as its Governor in the years preceding independence. Herbert’s grandson Christopher was a
    well-known antiques dealer in London in the 1960’s, often credited with
    inventing the phrase “swinging London.”
  • meanwhile the line from Henry’s brother William,
    who based himself at his Tyntesfeld home in Wraxhall parish, Somerset
    led – two
    generations later – to George Gibbs, made Baron Wraxhall in 1928.

William Gibbs
established himself at South Perrot in Dorset around the year 1580. His grandson John was an early arrival in the
Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1619.

Henry Gibbes was the mayor of Bristol in
1524. From his line came the Gibbes
plantation owners in Barbados in the 1700’s.
Some have John Gibbes who emigrated to Australia in 1834 and was
the NSW
Collector of Customs as a descendant.
But this cannot be proved.

SE England. An early line in Kent
began with Thomas Gibbs
who was born in Folkestone in 1460. He
was reported to be descended from the Devon Gibbs.
Later Gibbs in Kent were to be found at
Elmstone and Preston-next-Wingham.

Gybbes was first recorded as a name in
Buckinghamshire at Claydon in 1495. The
name appeared in nearby Winslow some twenty years later.
In the 18th century a Gibbs family was well-known as bell-ringers in Winslow
and the Gibbs name was still to be found there in the 20th century.

“In January
1904 there was interred at Winslow churchyard the body of William Heley
who passed away at the advanced age of eighty-four years.
Mr. Gibbs who had resided in the town all his
days was the representative of a yeoman family who for at least 500
years have
been known and respected in Winslow.”

The early spelling was
probably Gib. Robert Gib held Carriber
castle near
Linlithgow in west Lothian in the 1500’s.
He was master of the stables to James V of Scotland.

And there were several generations of Gib
maltmen in Bo’ness, West Lothian before the birth of William Gibb there
in 1736. He was one of the first civil
engineers in
Britain and the forebear of six generations of Gibb civil engineers, to
Gibb who unfortunately lost his life in a motor accident in 1970.

More famous were the brothers Barry, Robin, Maurice
and Andy Gibb who formed the Bee Gees band, one of the most successful
groups of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Their
family roots were in Lanarkshire.
Matthew Gibb left poverty there to enlist in the British army in
and fought in the Afghan wars. His son
Hugh moved to Manchester and his son Hugh, the father of the Bee Gee
took them to Australia in the 1950’s.

Ireland. Gibbs
were Englishmen who came to Ireland. It
was said that three Gibbs brothers deserted Cromwell’s army in
Tipperary in
1649 after its defeat at Clonmel. They
made their home at Lisronagh nearby and started a forge there.
forge grew in reputation and the family business expanded, with part of
family moving to Killarney in the middle of the 18th century.

The Gibbs family of Cork city and Derry was
thought to have originated from the Gibbs of Devon.
Daniel Gibbs was admitted as a freeman of
Cork in 1725 and a later Daniel was a Justice of the Peace and served
as deputy
Governor of Cork.

America. There were some notable
early Gibbs arrivals in New England.

New England. Thomas
Gibbs came on the Truelove in 1627 and
is thought to have been the forebear of a long line of seafaring Gibbs
Sandwich on Cape Cod.
Giles Gibbs arrived on the Mary and John from Devon in 1632 and moved to Windsor,
in 1636.

Robert Gibbs meanwhile left his
Gibbs home at Honington in Warwickshire for Massachusetts in 1658. He prospered as a merchant in Boston and
a trail of Henry Gibbs that were to be associated with Harvard
University. By the early 1800’s the Gibbs
affiliation had
switched to Yale. Josiah Gibbs was a
professor of sacred literature at Yale from 1826 to 1861.

“He is chiefly remembered today as the
abolitionist who found an
interpreter for the African passengers of the ship Armistad
in 1839, allowing them to testify during the
trial that followed their rebellion against being sold as slaves

Gibbs from Somerset was the forebear of the
Gibbs of Rhode Island, arriving there around 1720.
His grandson
George, based in Newport,
was a grain merchant who founded the shipping firm of Gibbs and
Channing. At one time the firm owned 
seventy-five vessels
sailing out of Newport.

Born into a rich family, his son George devoted his life
to the collection of minerals; while his son George became known for his expertise in
Native American customs and languages.
The family story was told
in George Gibbs’ 1933 book
The Gibbs family of Rhode Island.

Virginia. There were probably two John Gibbs who arrived
in Jamestown – the first who came on the Supply
in 1619 and the second on the Abigail
in 1621. The latter, but perhaps not the
former, survived the Indian massacre in 1622 and resided at Jordan’s
later Charles City. John’s descendants
were through his son Gregory.

John Nicholas Gibbs came to
Maryland from Germany in 1747. He later
settled in North Carolina where he
fought on the Patriot side in the Revolutionary War.
After the war he settled in Knox county,
Tennessee. Four generations of the Gibbs
family lived at his homestead between 1792 and 1913.

Caribbean. There were several Gibbes
or Gibbs families
in Barbados by the 1630’s. Philip,
William and Henry Gibbes were from Bristol and their descendants became
plantation owners on the island. Robert
Gibbes was from Kent and his son Robert served as the colonial Governor
South Carolina in 1710.

African American Gibbs came to South Carolina from
Barbados as slaves in the early 19th century.
Four brothers – Anthony, Fortune, Moses, and Wetus – grew up as
and were emancipated when they were still young men.

Canada. Zacharias Gibbs was a
Loyalist plantation
owner from South Carolina who, after the British abandoned Charleston
in 1782,
fled to Jamaica before making it to Nova Scotia two years later. However, he disappeared in 1792, apparently
lost at sea while enroute to Ireland. Another
Loyalist, this time from Rhode Island,
was Jeremiah Gibbs. He took the Oath of
Allegiance at Missisquoi Bay in Quebec in 1795.

Thomas and Caroline Gibbs from Devon came to Quebec in 1819 and later
their home at Oshawa on Lake Ontario.
Their sons Thomas and William were prominent businessmen there
became involved in Ontario politics.
Their uncle Philip back in Devon joined them in Oshawa in 1859.

and New Zealand. Thomas and
Elizabeth Gibbs arrived in South Australia from Hampshire around 1840. Thomas farmed at Mount Benson.
Elizabeth died in 1851 and Thomas married
Mary Irving four years later. There may
have been five children under the first marriage and nine under the
second. So the descendants were

Isaac Gibbs, also from Hampshire, came to
New Zealand on the Bolton in 1842 and farmed in the
area. He died in 1903.
A descendant Baden Gibbs was a world champion
axeman in log-chop competitions.


Gibbs Miscellany

Gibbs and Gibson.  The Gibbs name is more to be
found in the south of England, the Gibson name more in the north and in
Scotland.  The Victorian surname genealogist Henry Guppy commented:

“The Gibbs name is confined to the southern
half of England.  In the northern
counties its place is taken by Gibson.
Its principal homes are in Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.”

The following was the divide in the 1891 census.

1891 Census (‘000’s) Gibbs Gibson
Scotland    0.1    11.4
North of England    1.0    14.8
Reast of England   14.5    12.4
Total   15.6    38.6

Gibsons had moved south.
Gibbs was rarely to be found in the north.
But Gibb was in Scotland.  The
Gibb count in the 1891 census in Scotland was 4,470.

The Gibbes at Venton Manor in Devon.  Three generations of the Gibbes family lived at Venton manor, from the 1470’s to the 1530’s.  They were notorious local insurgents who
maintained a small private army in the first half of the 16th century.  On several occasions they attacked their
neighbors, often driving away stock and purloining valuables.  On one occasion they attacked the nearby
village of Rattery, besieging the church and threatening to kill the

this and other misdemeanors they were brought before the Court of Star
in London several times.

The Gibbs Bell-ringers of Winslow in Buckinghamshire.  In the year 1755 there was the following entry of
the celebrated Gibbs family of bell-ringers in the village of Winslow
in Buckinghamshire.

is a remarkable circumstance that six brothers named Gibbs were
ringers on New Year’s Day – from the year 1747 up to the period when
John Gibbs
and five other brothers succeeded them and who have continued to ring
in like
manner on New Years’ Day.  The two
generations completed 70 years in this annual performance.

The following are the
names of the last six brothers, ringers, who annually supped at Mr.
(the squire of the parish) on the first night of the New Year:
Thomas Gibbs,
Robert Gibbs, Maltster
Stephen Gibbs, Butcher
William Gibbs,
Richard Gibbs, Currier
and John Gibbs, Maltster.”

A subsequent entry
relating to the last-named John Gibbs stated that he was remarkable for
hand-writing, having written the “Belief” in the compass of a
sixpence and the Lord’s Prayer in the compass of a silver penny.

The Start of Antony Gibbs & Sons.  Antony Gibbs undertook an apprenticeship as a wool
merchant in Exeter, learnt Spanish, and was in business on his own in
1778 at
the age of 22.  He married into wealth,
his bride being Dorothea Barnetta Hucks.
However, over-sanguine attitudes were his undoing and the
business he had built up in Spain crashed in 1789.

He then left Devon for
Spain to rebuild his life and business there.
He soon built up business and partnerships in
Cadiz, Malaga and Lisbon.  With the help
of his sons, William and Henry, business thrived and in 1805 Antony
chartered a
Spanish ship to take British goods stranded in war-torn Spain to
Lima in
South America, seat of the Spanish Viceroy.
Antony planned to found the London house Anthony Gibbs &
Sons with
the profits of this Lima venture.

Business between London and Cadiz put the firm
on a solid footing and Antony left their Exeter base and took a series
houses in London.  The mainstay of this
business was the guano trade with South America.

“Mr. Gibbs made his dibs
Selling the turds of
foreign birds.”

was the city jingle.

Antony died in 1815 and it was to his sons
Henry and William that the rise of Antony Gibbs & Sons was really

John Nicholas Gibbs aka Johann Nickel Gibbs from Germany.  The family of Johann’s grandfather, Peter Gibbs,
were originally Scottish, going to England with the Stuart Kings.  They were Royalists and left to save their
own heads when Cromwell cut off the head of King Charles I in 1649.  They settled in Germany in the village of
Wallruth in the Duchy of Baden.

In 1747, at the age of fourteen, Johann became
offended with his father and left for America, with 30 guineas in his
which the captain of the ship told him was just half of his fare across
ocean.  So Johann sold his time to pay
for the other half.  After working off
this debt, he joined the English army and served five years in the
French and
Indian War. 

Isaac Gibbs in New Zealand.  The following entry about Isaac Gibbs was to be
found in the 1906 edition of The
Cyclopedia of New Zealand
for the area of Nelson, Marlborough, and

“Isaac Gibbs was one of the early pioneers who came out
to New Zealand
when it was but a waste and who, by dint of energy and perseverance,
in converting it into a fertile land.

He was born in Hampshire in the year 1818,
and came to New Zealand on the Bolton
which arrived in Nelson in 1842.  After a
sojourn of about seven years in the town of Nelson, where many
hardships were
encountered, he went further inland and lived at Brightwater for five
years.  After that he resided at Wakefield
where he
had a freehold farm of 630 acres.

In his later years Mr. Gibbs, though still
hale and hearty, enjoyed a well-earned retirement, the farm being
managed by
his second son Joseph who lived on the property with his wife and

Gibbs never took any part in public affairs, but he helped to put down
Maori rising after the Wairau massacre and was one of those who nightly
the Maori camp at very great risk to their lives.”


Gibbs Names

  • James Gibbs, born in Scotland, was one
    of Britain’s most influential architects in the first half of the 18th century. 
  • Antony Gibbs from Devon founded Antony
    Gibbs & Sons in 1802 and was the forebear of a prominent Gibbs mercantile, banking and political family of the 19th and 20th centuries. 
  • May Gibbs was an Australian
    illustrator, cartoonist and children’s author, best known for her book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie which appeared
    in 1918. 
  • Barry, Robin, Maurice and Andy Gibb formed the Bee Gees band, one of the most successful musical groups of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Select Gibbs Numbers Today

  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 25,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 20,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Gibbs and Like Surnames   

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.





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