Robinson Surname Genealogy
Robinson is a patronymic name meaning “son of
Robin.” It was said that the name Robin was originally made
by Robin Goodfellow, whose mischievous tricks were later described in
Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and perhaps even more so
by Robin
of Locksley, otherwise known as Robin Hood.

Robinson Resources on

England. The first recorded reference was to a Richard
Robynson in Yorkshire in 1324. It has been mainly a Yorkshire and
of England name since that time.

was a wealthy York merchant in
Elizabethan times. His descendants played a notable role in
politics, one as Lord Grantham as Foreign Secretary in 1782 and
another as Viscount Goderich briefly as Prime
Minister in 1827.

Other Yorkshire Robinsons included:

  • the Robinsons at Cleasby in
    north Yorkshire who went back to Elizabethan times.
    Robinson of this family embarked
    for America in 1670.
  • a Robinson family from Brignall in north Yorkshire which had
    acquired the Rokeby estate in 1610. They later held estates in
    Kent and
    Ireland. Matthew Robinson was an eccentric 18th century member of
  • and Richard Robinson who heard George Fox preach at Sedbergh
    in 1652
    and was an early Quaker convert at his home at Countersett Hall on

Robinson family founded the Robinson brewery in Houghton-le-Spring,
Durham in
1754. The brewery continued in Robinson
hands until the outbreak of war in 1914.

Robinson has also been a prominent
name in Cumberland (now Cumbria). Among
these Robinsons have been:

  • William Robinson from Penrith who made his
    fortune in
    the 17th century in London as a merchant and returned to found
    School in his home town.
  • another William
    Robinson, a Quaker, who was also a merchant in London.
    He, however, set off in 1657 on the tiny vessel Woodhouse
    for America. In Boston he met
    religious intolerance, was
    arrested, and was hanged.
  • Gerard Robinson who was a mariner from Whitehaven
    who in 1752 also left for America, in this case Virginia.
  • while Mary Robinson, who was a shepherdess in the Lake
    District in
    the early 1800’s, was known as the Maid of Buttermere in
    Wordsworth’s poem The Prelude.

from Lancashire moved to the Isle of Man around
the year 1800. Two brothers, John and Henry, were responsible for
the architectural facelift that Douglas on the Isle of Man received in
the 1840’s.

The Robinson name is mainly to be found in Ulster. It was thought
the Robinsons of Glenam in Antrim may have originally been Scottish

One Robinson family began in Dublin in the 1650’s with Bryan
Robinson, thought
to be from the Newby
Hall Robinsons in
The Rev. Christopher Robinson was rector of
Granard in county Longford in the 18th century.
His offspring were:

  • Admiral Hercules
    Robinson of the British navy
  • and his son Hercules, a British colonial
  • and Sir Bryan Robinson, a colonial judge in Newfoundland.

Romney Robinson of this family was a
director of the Armagh Astronomical Observatory.

Robinson family began in Dublin with Bryan Robinson in the
1650’s. They
were physicians and doctors of medicine. Later Robinsons of this
served as Victorian colonial Governors. Romney Robinson was a
longtime director
of the Armagh Astronomical Observatory in the 19th century.

emigrated to Virginia from Cleasby in north
in 1670. Eight years later he built his
home, later called Hewick, in Middlesex county along
the Rappahannock river. The Robinson family there became one of
of Virginia. Hewick still stands today.

The Rev. John
was a Puritan pastor at
Leyden who never made it to America. He
died in 1625. But two of his sons, Isaac
and John, did get to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1630.
Other early New England arrivals

  • Increase Robinson who was in Dorchester by 1637 and later
    settled in
  • and Thomas Robinson who had reached Hartford, Connecticut by
    1640 and
    later settled in Guilford.

Canada. A later Christopher Robinson of
the Virginia Robinsons, an Empire Loyalist, took his family to Canada
in 1788:

  • his
    son Sir John was a leading figure in early Ontario politics
  • and his grandson John
    was Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1880.

One of Sir John’s brothers, William, was
a fur trader; another, Peter, a promoter of Irish emigration to Canada. The Irish emigrants under this scheme which
began in 1822 were in fact called Peter Robinson settlers

South Africa. Robert Robinson, a butcher from the Isle of Sheppey
in Kent (although of earlier Yorkshire roots), was one of the 1820
settlers to
South Africa. He and his family made
their home in the Cradock district of the Eastern Cape.
His children eventually numbered fourteen, of
which the fourteenth and last, born in 1840, was Joseph.
Joseph Robinson was later to make a huge fortune in
South African gold mining.

Robinson Miscellany

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

Select Robinson Names

Jack Robinson is a fictional name in the usage: that something is done faster “than you can say Jack Robinson.” Its origins are uncertain.  John Robinson was the pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers before they left for America and is considered as one of the founders of the Congregational Church.  Sir John Robinson was a leading political figure in Upper Canada in the early 1800’s.  Joseph Robinson, the son of an 1820 settler, was a South African mining magnate.  Edward G. Robinson, born Emanuel Goldenburg from a Romanian Jewish family, was an acclaimed American movie actor in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Jackie Robinson was the black baseball player who broke the color bar in the national game.  Sugar Ray Robinson was an acclaimed American boxer.  Mary Robinson was the first woman President of Ireland.

Select Robinsons Today
  • 188,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Tyne and Wear)
  • 174,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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