Roberts Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Roberts Meaning
Roberts is a patronymic name from the personal name
Robert that was introduced to England by the Normans.  It appeared
Rodbertus, Rotbert, and Robert in the 1086 Domesday Book.
Roberts emerged as a
surname in the latter part of the 13th century.  An early record
Richard Roberdes in the 1327 Worcestershire subsidy rolls.  The
Roberts name is
to be
found in both
England and Wales.

Roberts Resources on

Select Roberts Ancestry

Wales.  The
name became particularly common in Denbighshire in
NW Wales (now Clwyd) – where the pronunciation tended to be “Robaits”
– and then in Lancashire where there was a strong connection through
trade and
the movement of people.  John Wyn
Roberts, the son of Hywel ap Dafydd and Margaret Verch ap Robert, was 
born in
Denbighshire in 1516.

Gabriel Roberts,
the son of Lewis ap Rhisiart, was a
Welsh trader in Beaumaris in the late 1500’s who bought produce in
Chester for
the local populace in Anglesey.  His son
Lewis and grandson Gabriel expanded their trading activities to the
Orient with
the Levant Company and the East India Company.

John Roberts moved from Llanwrst in Denbighshire to
Liverpool in the 1850’s to build up a timber business there.  He
to Wales to be an MP.  His descendants became Baron Clwyd.  A
Methodist family from Anglesey
produced another John Roberts who prospered in Manchester as a merchant
and was
its Mayor in 1896

England.  There
were Roberts lines
elsewhere in

SE England.  In
the 12th century
William Rookherst alias Roberts appeared at Goodhurst in Kent and he is
to have been the forebear of the Roberts of Glassenbury Manor in
Cranbook.  The Roberts line there began in
the 1430’s
and their manor house was built in 1473.
Sir Walter Roberts rebuilt this manor as a Georgian mansion in
1730 and
it remained with the Roberts family until recently.

SW England.  John
Roberts, a Bristol draper, married well and
purchased Sayes Manor at Westerleigh in Gloucestershire in 1578. But later Roberts of this family ran into
debt and were forced to sell.  John’s
brother Henry was a sea captain with a keenness for dueling.  His descendants were to be found at Kingswood
in Gloucestershire. John Roberts, the
17th century Quaker at Siddington in Gloucestershire, may have been
related to
this family.

line in Cornwall began with Robert Roberts aka Jenken at Gwithian in
mid-1500’s.  A Roberts (sometimes
Robertes) family of Truro became wealthy money-lenders in the early
1600’s and
built their family estate in 1630 at Lanihydrock; while a
Roberts family from Penzance, first recorded with Richard Roberts in
1691, were emigrants to Australia in the mid-1800’s

Ireland.  There was one well-known Roberts family in
Waterford.  Thomas Roberts was “a Welshman of property” who had
settled there in 1680.  His grandson John
was an architect responsible for many of Waterford’s
today, including its Cathedral.  Field Marshal Earl Roberts came
from this

Francis Roberts was granted Britfieldstown in
county Cork in 1667.  The estate remained
in Roberts hands until debts forced its sale in 1851.
These Roberts claimed a descent from the
Roberts of Glassenbury in Kent and, although they secured a baronetage
out of
it, the case may not be proven.

A Roberts family was first recorded in Stradibally
in what is now Laois county in 1740.   Many
of these Roberts emigrated to Canada in the 1840’s


Thomas Roberts from Woolaston in Worcestershire was an early arrival in
England.   He moved to Dover, New
Hampshire where he was made Governor in 1640.
William Roberts from Wiltshire settled in Hartford, Connecticut
in the 1680’s.

In 1683 the Welshman John Roberts acquired land
from William Penn as part of the Welsh tract in Merion township,
Pennsylvania.  He named his stone house there Pencoyd after
his family
home back in Wales.  The property stayed with his descendants
until 1964.

Margaret Roberts left
her home in Montgomeryshire to join her brother George in Ohio in 1801.  On the voyage across her husband died.  But when she arrived in Ohio she met an old
sweetheart Edward Bebb and they married a year later.
Their eldest son William became Governor of
Ohio in 1846.

was a Huguenot name
and Protestant Huguenots by the name of Robert were in South Carolina
as early
as 1700 in an area known as the English Santee.
Their name soon became anglicized to Roberts.
Later migration saw these Roberts in Alabama
and the Wiregrass region of Georgia.

Jewish.  Roberts
in America may be Jewish.  Ralph
Roberts, the co-founder of Comcast
Corporation, grew up in a Jewish family in New Rochelle; while Doris
one of the TV stars of Everyone Loves
, is also Jewish.

Australia.  Cornish
Roberts miners came to Australia after the mining depression in

  • Thomas
    Roberts came from Penzance with his
    family to South Australia in 1839.  He
    went to work at the Burra Burra copper mine.  
  • while
    Abraham Roberts made it with his family to Bendigo in the Victorian
    goldfields in 1853.  He set up an
    iron foundry business there which continued with his son Abraham until


Roberts Miscellany

Gabriel Roberts of Beaumaris.  The
trading town of Beaumaris on the isle of
Anglesey was a Welsh town inhabited by English traders.
Gabriel Roberts represented Welsh
infiltration into this English outpost.

By the 1530’s the English monopoly had disappeared and Gabriel
emerged as one of the chief merchants. Unlike
the English,
he took no part in overseas
trading but confined himself to purchasing
wares at Chester and distributing them in Anglesey.
He amassed great
wealth and then took the next step, so common among prosperous
merchants of his
day, of becoming a landed man. 

The Roberts Methodists from Anglesey.  The origins of this Roberts family were in Llanddeusant
parish near Holyhead in Anglesey.  By the
1830’s David Roberts had become the Methodist elder of Anglesey,
the rather stern and dour Methodism of that island.
He and his wife Sarah had ten children,
including eight sons who rose to maturity.

Three of these sons had quite remarkable livesJohn Roberts prospered in
Manchester as a merchant and was its Mayor in 1896.
was a zealous promoter
of higher
education in Wales and was instrumental in the founding of
College in Aberystwyth.  Frederick
Roberts was a medical missionary who went out to China where he died in
1894.  The youngest son William became a
famous doctor and was much honored by the medical profession.

son Robert wrote History
of a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Family,
published in
1905, which was part autobiography, part family history, and an
perspective of Anglesey
and Welsh
life in Manchester
that time.

Roberts in England and Wales.  The Roberts name is
to be found in both England and Wales, plus a few in Scotland..
The table below shows the numbers in 1891.

1891 UK Census Numbers (000’s) Percent
England    78   68
Wales    34   30
Scotland     2    2
Total   114  100

John Roberts of Waterford.  John Roberts, born in 1712, was the son of a local builder and the grandson of a Welsh businessman who had settled in the town.  When
he was working as an
apprentice architect in London he eloped with Mary Susanna Sautell when
he was
only seventeen years old.  Her father, a
Huguenot, disinherited her because he disapproved of the match.  The
couple returned to Waterford and went on to have 24 children, among
them being the landscape painters Thomas Roberts and Thomas Sautelle

After some
years in
Waterford, John obtained a commission to complete the building of a new
residence for the Bishop of Waterford.
The resulting building, the Bishop’s Palace on the Mall, made
his name
as an architect.

continued to be
active in Waterford until his death in 1796 while working on the
of the Catholic cathedral in Waterford.

the early part of 1796, getting up one morning at three o’clock
instead of six – having mistaken the hour – to inspect the workmen, he
sat down
in the unfinished building, fell asleep, and awakened so thoroughly
that death shortly after ensued.”

He is remembered to this
day.  John Roberts Square is a
pedestrianized area that is one of the main focal points of Waterford’s
day commercial center.  The first John Roberts festival was held in 2000 to celebrate the
of Waterford’s celebrated Georgian architect.

The Roberts at Pencoyd in Merion Township.  John
Roberts came to the area of Pennsylvania called
Merion in November 1683.   Two
months later he married Gaynor Roberts, a
fellow passenger on the sailing ship on which he had crossed the
Atlantic.  Their marriage was the first
such ceremony
performed at Merion Quaker Meeting House.
Of the three men named John Roberts who had come to America on
the same
voyage, this John Roberts was called “The Maltster” for the crop he
raised, barley for malt.

Family tradition has it
that John Roberts commenced the construction of his stone house in
township, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1684.
But the consensus of architects and historians is that it is
that such a structure could have been initiated so soon after Roberts’
arrival.  The more likely start date was
1690.  John Roberts named the house Pencoyd after his family home back in Wales.
It sat on the top of a rise of land
overlooking the Schuylkill river.

house stood until 1964 when it sold for demolition by land developers.  The family ownership over that period has
been (showing the years of ownership):

  • John Roberts, 1683-1724
  • Robert Roberts, 1724-1768
  • John
    Roberts II, 1768-1776
  • Algernon Roberts, 1776-1815
  • Isaac Warner Roberts, 1815-1859
  • George
    Brooke Roberts, 1859-1897
  • and T. Williams Roberts, 1897-1962.

George Brooke Roberts
became President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1880; and two earlier
Roberts – Algernon and Percival – started the Pencoyd Iron Works along
Schuylkill river in the 1850’s.  It has
continued, albeit with different owners, until today. 

Edward Bebb and Margaret Roberts.  In 1795 a young man in Montgomeryshire named Edward
Bebb decided to emigrate to America.  With
that in view he asked Miss Roberts, the sister of the Rev. John
Roberts, to go
with him.  But she refused.

“It was a very serious thing at that time.
They took about two months to get across with their own packed up food
and many
ships were wrecked on the way and the passengers never heard of again. So Miss Roberts refused to go and he went by

Edward Bebb’s departure for America, Margaret Roberts
was urged by her family to marry the Rev. Owens.  She
did marry him and in 1801 the young
couple decided to do what had seemed too frightening to young Margaret
just six
years earlier – emigrate to America. They were accompanied by
Margaret’s older
sister, Grace, and Grace’s husband and two children. They had a
passage and the husbands of the two women and Grace’s two children all
died on
the voyage over. One story has the officers of the ship poisoning the
men and
children because they wanted the women for themselves.

women left the ship in Philadelphia by
sliding down a rope at the bow and fled to the house of their brother
Roberts.  Two days later – could it be
believed – Edward Bebb came from Ohio to the Roberts home in his quest
for a
bride.  Edward Bebb and Margaret Roberts
Owens were married there on February 2, 1802.

wedding was witnessed by her two
brothers, John and George.  Edward and
Margaret returned together to Ohio and their son William was born later
year.  He was the first white child born
in Butler county west of the Great Miami river.


Select Roberts Names

  • Bartholomew Roberts, known as Black
    Bart, was the Welsh pirate who raided shipping in the Americas in the early 1700’s.
  • Frederick Roberts, later Earl Roberts, was one of the most successful British Army generals during the Victorian era.  He was of Anglo-Irish stock.
  • Elizabeth Anne Roberts was one
    of the first female missionaries (in the 1880’s) of the Presbyterian Church in Wales.
  • Andrew Roberts is a British
    historian and conservative commentator.
  • John G. Roberts is the 17th and
    current Chief Justice of the United States.
  • Julia Roberts is a well-known American actress.

Select Roberts  Numbers Today

  • 220,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 142,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Roberts is the #10 ranked surname in the UK.


Select Roberts 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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