Gibson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Gibson 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 early form,
name became popular during the Middle Ages. 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

Gibson Resources on

Gibson Ancestry

Scotland. The Gilbert
name first surfaced in Scotland in the 12th century as Gille Brigte
(Gilbert in French), the son of Fergus who had created the independent
kingdom of Galloway. Gilbert murdered his brother and feuded with
the then King of Scotland. The Gib and Gibson name later moved
and eastward to Midlothian and Fife.

The Gibsons of Durie in Fife date from the 14th
century. Lord
Thomas Gibson of Goldingstones
was the
forebear of this family in the 15th century, followed by seven
Lord George Gibsons.

This Gibson family was on both sides of the religious divide at the
time. Bishop William Gibson had been one of the leading Catholic
clergymen in Scotland prior to the Reformation. A later William
Gibson, son of one of the Georges, took up the cause in England, but
was martyred
for his faith at York in 1596. Other early Gibsons were followers
of John
Knox and played their part in the formation of the Presbyterian church
in Scotland.

Although this family was based in Fife, most Gibsons in Scotland were
to be found further west, in Lanarkshire (around Glasgow) and Ayrshire.

England. Gibsons in the
19th century in
England outnumbered those in Scotland by a factor of more than two to
one. The name was primarily although not solely a name of the
north of England.

Some Gibsons in northern England represented spillovers from
Scotland, such as the Gibsons who came to Yelland in Lancashire in the
1600’s. These Gibsons were later
to be found at Myerscough House in Lancashire and Barfield in
Cumberland. Other Gibsons
had been landowners on the
Cumbrian/Yorkshire border since 1454. This
family established themselves at Whelprigg near Kirkby Lonsdale in 1687
and built the present house
there in 1834.

Robert Gibson, yeoman, was recorded as living at Bampton
Grange near Penrith in Westmoreland in 1469. Local
history tells of a feud with the Baxter family of Bampton Hall
which lasted over a hundred years. Thomas
Gibson, born in this parish, was physician-general to the English army
author of The System of Anatomy,
published in 1682. His nephew Edmund was
made Bishop of London in 1723.

William Gibson
was an early
Quaker convert from Caton in Lancashire:

“William Gibson, who at the time of the Civil War
being a soldier at Carlisle, he and three others having heard that a
meeting was appointed in that city, they agreed to go thither and abuse
preacher. But Gibson, who came to scoff,
remained to pray and became a zealous minister. He resided in
Lancashire till
about 1670 when he removed to London.”

He became a well-known Quaker in London who
incurred both imprisonment and fines. He
was one of the first purchasers of land in Pennsylvania, but apparently
never went there.

East Anglia.
There were Gibsons from East Anglia. These included the Quaker
Gibsons who were to leave their mark on the town of Saffron Walden in
Essex in the 19th century. Francis Gibson, born there in 1763,
started the family brewing business. A later Gibson, George
was a generous benefactor to many local institutions and private
charities. He
the proprietor of the Saffron Walden and North Essex Bank that in 1896,
his death, joined with others to form Barclays Bank.

America. A large number of
Gibsons in America
, it would appear, originate from one manJohn
Gibson, a
descendant of the Scots Goldingstones Gibsons. He had left his family
home in Scotland in 1632 for a new life in America.
He and his family settled in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. However, their early days
were stressful as John’s daughter Rebecca was accused of witchcraft and
banished from the Puritan community. The
unpleasantness persisted and John, the elder Gibson son, eventually
relocated to
William Penn’s
more tolerant Pennsylvania in 1695.

line from Timothy Gibson, a younger son, did remain in Massachusetts. This line included the shipping merchant
Captain Gibson and the Boston merchant Charles Gibson and, in more
times, the Gibson Girl artist Charles Dana Gibson and, apparently, the
and Jeopardy player Hutton Gibson and
his movie star son Mel Gibson.

The Gibson lines in Pennsylvania continued as follows:

  • William Gibson was an early settler in Lancaster county,
    Pennsylvania. Later Gibsons of this line
    may have included Captain
    George Gibson of
    Gibson’s Lambs
    (although some say he was of Scots Irish origin)
    Gibson (although some say he was of mixed race origin), whose
    descendants made Lexington, Kentucky their home and oversaw from
    there large cotton and sugar plantations in the Mississippi valley.
  • other
    went on to become founding members
    of York, Pennsylvania,
    west of Lancaster, with two serving terms as the Mayor of York.
  • while
    William and Sally Gibson moved to
    Baltimore and then inherited the family tobacco plantation at Valley View in Loudoun county, Virginia on
    the death of his father Moses in 1798.
    this branch of
    the family descended many of the Gibsons in Virginia and the
    Carolinas. The
    plantation itself was burnt to the ground by Union troops in 1863.

Scots Irish.
Gibsons in America could
also be Scots Irish. George
Gibson, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1730 from Antrim, was a trader
tavern-owner in Lancaster. His son John,
also a trader, was a veteran of all the wars – from the French and
Indian War in the
1760’s to the War of 1812 against the British.
He earned a reputation as a frontier leader and, at the age of
was appointed the Secretary of the Indiana territory.
His grandson William was a General during the
Civil War and later a Republican politician in Ohio.

was a mid-19th century Scots Irish arrival, starting a whiskey
in 1856 on the Monongahela river
in western Pennsylvania. Son Henry grew
wealthy on the whiskey sales and built a European-style castle,
Maybrook, for
his family outside Philadelphia. Neither
Henry nor his wife was to live long there.
But their daughter May, after whom the castle was named, was its
mistress from 1897 until 1959 when she died.

origin for Gibsons from South
in Mississippi
in the early 1800’s was mooted at one time, that
they were
descendants of Huguenot refugees into the colony. Others
today see a mixed race origin.

Canada. The
Gibsons in Canada have been mainly of Scottish
or Irish origin.

There is a large white granite monument on Canada
Street in Fredericton, New Brunswick commemorating Alexander “Boss”
Gibson, the
son of Irish immigrants who had arrived in the province in 1818. The “Boss” grew into an exceptionally
tall and powerful man, a red-bearded giant of “very striking”
appearance and
“fine bearing,” an obituarist noted. He
started out poor in the lumber trade but through his industry was
largely responsible for turning nearby Marysville (named after his
wife) into a prosperous mill town.

of monument is Gibson House, built in 1851, the home of Scottish
David Gibson and his family. David, who
had arrived from Scotland in 1825, was the land surveyor who helped
early Toronto. Wanted by the
for participating in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, he was forced
to flee
to the United States where he and his family remained for eleven
He did
eventually receive a pardon and, on his return to York county, built
House which is now a public museum.

John Arthur Gibson was a native Canadian, the son of an Onondaga father and a
Seneca mother. In his youth he had been a
mighty lacrosse
player. But in 1881, at the age of
thirty one while playing the game, he lost his eyesight in an accident. He later became a spokesman and a preacher
for the Iroquois way of life. Son Simeon
continued his legacy, but drowned in 1943 while crossing the Grand
river in a
leaky rowboat. Chief John’s memoir The Iroquois Tradition finally appeared
in English in 1992.


Gibson 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 following was
the divide in the 1891 census.

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

Gibsons had moved south.  But Gibbs was rarely to be found in the

Gille Brigte of Galloway.  Fergus, the builder of an independent Galloway in the 12th century, left two sons to inherit his kingdom, Uchtred and Gille Brigte.

For a time Uchtred and Gille Brigte shared
the kingship, with Uchtred ruling in the east and Gille Brigte in the
west.  Gille Brigte, however, ensured
that Uchtred would not remain a rival to him.  He
tore his eyes out and brutally mutilated
him (blinding and castration being used in Celtic times to make a man
ineligible for kingship), and then had him put to death.

Gille Brigte ruled alone for nine years until
his death in 1185.  He tried during that
time to keep both the Scottish and English kings at bay.
William, the king of Scotland, succeeded in cultivating
the friendship of Lochlann, Uchtred’s son.  So
when Gille Brigte died Lochlann became king
under Scottish suzerainty.

Gille Brigte’s name in French accounts was Gilbert and it
is thought that from him the early Gibsons
in Scotland originated.

Lord Thomas Gibson the Patriarch.  The patriarch of the Gibsons in Scotland is generally considered to be Lord Thomas Gibson, the second son of Andrew Gibson
of Dumfries.  Andrew had married the
daughter of Lord George Stirling of Goldingstones in Fife and moved

himself was born in Goldingstones in
1469 and made the Free Baron of Goldingstones by King James IV.  He married Lady Elizabeth Erskine around 1490
and they raised four sons and two daughters.
The eldest son George succeeded as Second Baron after Thomas’s
death in
1515.  The second son Lord William was
Dean of Restalrig and became the Scottish Ambassador to the Pope in

Richard Gibson the 17th Century Dwarf.  Richard Gibson
was one of a small coterie of dwarves collected by Queen Henrietta
Maria in the
years prior to the Civil War in England.
He started as a page to the king and queen, but was also a talented
painter.  His small stature made him
perfectly suited to a fashion of the time, portrait miniatures.

His skill
enabled him to survive the fall of the monarchy, setting up his own
studio in
London and painting the likes of Cromwell himself.  He married
another of the Queen’s dwarfs,
Anne Shepherd.  The event was made into a
court spectacle.  The Gibsons then surprised everyone by producing
a family of perfectly normal-sized children.

Reader Feedback – William Gibson the Quaker Convert.  The following ancestor – the fourth generation from Thomas Gibson of Lancashire – from my
family tree might very well be the William Gibson who was that Quaker

Gibson Sr. born in 1629 in Caton, Lancashire and died in 1681 in
Married to Elizabeth Thompson who was born in 1630.”

William Gibson II, William Sr’s son,
was born in London, but his son John was born in Virginia.  Since
Frederick county, Virginia is one state where Quakers resided and John
(generation six) was born there in 1725.
There might also be a connection here too.

entry I found on another Gibson family
tree shows William as dying in Lancashire, not London.  This date
and data
corresponds to a Wiki dictionary entry for this famous Quaker.

Gerald Gibson (

Gibsons in America.  Thomas Knowlton Gibson, a Gibson genealogist in America, has claimed, in a rather
exaggerated way, the importance of the Gibsons of Goldingstones to the
Gibsons in America and around the world:

living Gibson in the world is descended from Lord Thomas Gibson of
Goldingstones, obviously excepting those who were adopted or changed
surname.   Many Gibsons in the United States, especially the
New England area,
are descended from immigrant John Gibson of Cambridge,
Massachusetts.  Others
descend from one of the seven George Gibsons, with many immigrating to
south and then westward, especially to Kentucky, Indiana and Texas.” 

Captain George Gibson and His Gibson’s Lambs.  In colonial America, few people were bilingual, much less trilingual.  Captain George Gibson,
a Pennsylvanian who spoke English, French, and Spanish, fit the bill.  His grandmother, a French countess who had
married a Pennsylvania miller, insisted that her children and
learn French and Spanish.  This made
George Gibson the ideal man to tap for the supply mission to New

was a huge man by 18th century standards, well over 6’5″ tall.
His grandson
remarked in his biography that Gibson never met a vice he didn’t like.  Everyone liked George.  With
his brother, John, he ran a frontier
trading post.

the start of the war, George Gibson formed his own militia
company.  His men were wild frontiersmen who proved difficult to
control.  Their idea of fun was to go to
the local
tavern, get drunk, and cause trouble.  Once, after Gibson’s men
had been
particularly rowdy, his commander yelled in complete frustration:
“Gibson!  Can’t you control your little
lambs?”  From then on, Gibson’s
company was known as “Gibson’s Lambs.”

1776 General George
Washington sent Gibson on a secret mission to New Orleans to get
supplies from
the Spanish.  He set off from Fort Pitt
(now Pittsburgh) with his men down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and
in New Orleans a few weeks later.

got the supplies.  But there were a few
alarms along the
way.  Gibson was put in a Spanish jail
while his men were allowed to return by the overland route.  Gibson was eventually
released.  He took the more dangerous sea
route through the Gulf of Mexico and around East Florida and arrived in
Philadelphia before his men had made back it to Fort Pitt.

Gibson was Colonel of the
Ninth Virginia Regiment during the Revolutionary War, but
died fighting
Indians at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.
One of his sons was Major General George
Gibson, Commissary General of the US Army for thirty years, another
Bannister Gibson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of

Gibsons from South Carolina to Mississippi.  The following is an extract from a letter written in
1878 by the Rev. J. G. Jones from Port Gibson, Mississippi to McKinley

were three branches
of the Gibson connection which settled in Mississippi at an early day –
parents of Rev. Randall Gibson near Natchez; the family of Samuel
Gibson, the
founder of the town of Port Gibson; and that of Rev. Tobias Gibson in
what is
now Warren county.  I will now write, from
memory and a few scraps of memoranda, what little I know of these three
Gibson families.

far as I know these families all came from the valley of the
Great Pee Dee river in South Carolina. Sometime in the 16th century
shiploads of Portuguese Huguenots voluntarily exiled themselves from
rather than renounce their Protestant faith, and settled in South
Carolina in
the very region of county where our Gibsons were first found, and, from
elevated intellectuality, morality, religion and enterprise, I have
believed that they were the descendants of those refugee Huguenots,
though I do
not remember ever to have heard but one of the connection refer to this
as a
tradition of the family.

the parents of Rev. Randall Gibson came to the
Natchez county (as it was then called), about 1781.  In order to
avoid the
hostile Indians, immigrants from the Carolinas would travel over land
to the
Holston river in East Tennessee.  There
they built family boats and descended the Holston and Tennessee rivers.   Randall Gibson was then about fifteen
old and I have heard him relate this fact in connection with an attack
made on
their boat by hostile Cherokee Indians.

the family Bible of Randall Gibson,
he was born in September 1766, married Harriet McKinley in 1792 and
died on
April 3, 1836.  Randall may have had (and
I think had) other brothers, but I only knew one, the venerable David
late of Jefferson county who was near one hundred years old at the time
of his
death.  Unless they have died lately, he
has two sons still living – Randall Gibson, Jr. somewhere in Texas and
Gibson somewhere in California.

Samuel Gibson and his branch of the
connection were here in the beginning (if not before) of the present
century.  In 1803 he sold the land on which
courthouse and jail of Port Gibson stands today.  He
was a resident of the town for forty five
years and he and his wife Rebecca were buried in the cemetery with
headstones at their graves.

first we know of the Rev. Tobias Gibson’s family they were on Great Pee
river in South Carolina.  The family
consisted of John, Tobias, Nathaniel, Malachiah, Stephen and Rhoda.  John remained in South Carolina and lived
there to be upwards of ninety years old.
Malachiah and Nathaniel married in South Carolina and died there
middle life, but their widows and children came to this county with
Stephen and
Rhoda in 1802 and the following year settled in what is now Warren

memoir of Rev. Tobias Gibson in the General Minutes of the Methodist
Church states that he was born on November 10, 1771.
He entered the ministry in 1792 at the age of
twenty-one and died a little south of Vicksburg in the family of
Gibson on April 5, 1804.”

Gibson – Black or White?  Gideon Gibson, who lived from 1720 to 1792, ruled land and
men in what was then the wild frontier of South Carolina.
His family first
appeared in records when they applied for
land in the Santee river area in South Carolina around 1730.  Although some objected to their being
“free colored men with their white wives,” in the end they were given
permission by Governor Robert Johnson.  Gibson was said to have been a man of color who had
married a white woman at a time when survival was far more important

His progeny drifted south and west
to Mississippi and Louisiana where in the 1820’s and 1830’s Tobias
passed fully as white and became a successful sugar planter, owning
plantations and hundreds of slaves.  South
Carolina, as well as
most other Southern states, usually ruled in questions of racial
identity that
if an individual looked white and acted white then he or she was
legally white.

Tobias Gibson bought a
house in the middle of Lexington, Kentucky and soon made it a second
home for
his eight children, living a life of white antebellum privilege.  Two of his sons, Randall Lee and Hart,
attended Yale, often debating against abolitionists in the run-up to
the Civil
War. In the war, Randall Lee became a Confederate hero and in the
began his political career which culminated in a stint as a U.S.
Senator from
Louisiana.  Hart tried to salvage the
family plantations in Kentucky.

During one point in Randall Lee’s congressional
career, a political opponent accused him of being partly black, getting
publicity in such places as The
Washington Post
and the Times-Picayune
of New Orleans.  In the 1890’s Hart
Gibson was living in a mansion off South Broadway writing a treatise
called The
Race Problem.
Typical of his time,
he argued that while slavery was evil, blacks were inherently inferior
to whites.


Gibson Names

  • Lord Thomas Gibson was the 15th century forebear of the Gibsons of Goldingstones in Fife.
  • Charles Dana Gibson was an American
    graphic artist, creator of the Gibson Girl.
  • Guy Gibson was leader of the legendary RAF Dam Buster raid during World War Two.
  • Althea Gibson was an accomplished African American tennis player of the 1950’s.
  • Bob Gibson was a great African
    American baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
  • Mel Gibson is a Hollywood
    actor, best known perhaps for his portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart.

Select Gibson Numbers Today

  • 66,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 65,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 44,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Gibson and Like Surnames  

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




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