Robson Surname Genealogy

The name Robert gave rise to the northern surnames Robertson and
Robson, Robertson in Scotland originally and Robson in the northeast of
England.  Robert became popular in Scotland through Robert the
Bruce.However, Robson in the northeast may have had an older Anglo-Saxon origin
– from
Hroethbert, the name found on a stone cross in the Robson heartland at
Falstone.  Meanwhile the Highland origin of the name Robson could
have been Robb Gunn of the Gunn clan.

Resources on

Robson Ancestry

Robson is very much a name of the northeast, with a
concentration in the
old counties of Northumberland and Durham.  The earliest Robson
record was in 1371 when three Robsons were reported as murdered at
Falstone in Tynedale.  By the 16th century, these Robsons –
together with the Charltons, Dodds, and Milburns – formed one of the
principal clans of North Tyne.  They were described in a London
play in 1654 as:

“A wight good riding surname, good
honest men and true, saving a little shifting for their living.”

The leading Robson of Falstone was the acknowledged figurehead, a kind
of chieftain labelled as the “heidsman” or “laird.”  The border
was a lawless area in those times.  Border families like the
Robsons were raiders or “reivers” or, less complimentarily, “the
Tynedale thieves.”  The Robsons had ongoing feuds
with families across the border such as the Armstrongs and, most
notably, the
Grahams of Liddesdale.

By the early 17th century the area became more lawful and many in the
clan disbanded.  The Robson name is still common in nearby
villages such as Bellingham and Birtley (a Robson family has been
living in Pitt House in Birtley for nigh on two hundred years).
But there was a drift southward to Durham and Yorkshire in order to
find work.

Robsons were linen manufacturers and grocers in Darlington in the
early 1700’s and, from a slightly later date, fishermen and herring
curers at Flamborough on the Yorkshire coastline (their history is
described in Peter Robson’s 1991 book, The Fishing Robsons).

But the
main jobs were to be found in Durham coal
mining.  The Robson name crops up frequently amongst the miners of
Durham coal towns such as Bishop Auckland, Hetton-le-Hole and
Houghton-le-Spring; and also amongst the fatalities in various Durham
mining disasters – from Murton in 1848 to Easington in 1951.

The coal mining era has now ended and Robsons are better known for
their football.  Bobby Robson,
the former England football manager, and Pop and Bryan Robson, both
England footballers, are all from this area.

Scotland.  The border was
practically non-existent during reiver times
and there was some spillover of Robsons into Roxburghshire and Robesons
into Berwickshire.   The earliest mention was a Richard
Robson as abbot of Kelso in 1464 and the Robson name is to be found in
Border towns such as Jedburgh and Hawick.

Many Robsons left the Borders in the early 19th century, such as:

  • John Robson – from Roxburgh to Canada in 1821.  His son
    John, born three years
    later, headed west and became Premier of
    British Columbia province.
  • Hugh Robson, a Barthill
    ploughman and his family – from Dumfries to Argentina in 1825.
  • William and Christina Robson –
    from Roxburgh to Australia in the
    1830’s.  They became one of the early settlers in Hunter Valley,

Ireland.  The Robson name,
of English or of Scottish origin, could be found in counties Armagh and
Antrim from the 17th century.  English Robsons were part of the
Quaker community in Sego, Armagh in the 1680’s.

America.  There are both
Robsons and Robesons in America, but not that many.

Robeson  One
early Robeson was Andrew Robeson who emigrated with his uncle from
Scotland to America in
1676 and settled first in New Jersey and later in Philadelphia.  A
historical and genealogical account of him and his descendants was
written by Susan Stroud Robeson in 1916.

Thomas Robeson
came to North Carolina and started his Walnut Grove plantation along
the Cape Fear river. His son, Colonel Thomas, was a hero of the
Revolutionary War, defeating a larger Loyalist army at the batle of

However, these Robesons are not the Robesons who are remembered today
but a slave on the Robeson plantation in Martin county who escaped on
the Underground railroad to Philadelphia in 1860.  William Robeson
went on to study at Lincoln University and become a church
minister.  His son was the acclaimed African American singer,
writer and early campaigner for civil rights, Paul Robeson.

Robson  They came
later.   A number brought their mining skills
with them, such as William Robson who had arrived in 1849 and followed
various mining opportunities across the Midwest before settling in
Pittsburg, Kansas. There his sons started the Robson Brothers Coal

A later arrival, in 1866, was John Robson and his
family.  John worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines for a number
of years before he had saved up enough money to buy his own farm in
nearby West Virginia.

and New Zealand.
  Many Robsons were miners and the mining
opportuniries in Australia drew them there:

  • William
    Robson, a mining engineer, left Newcastle, England for Newcastle NSW in
    1841 and there he helped develop the Mount Keira coal mine.
  • while Joseph
    and Jane Robson and their family had come to Victoria in 1853 by way of
    Brazil.  Joseph was also of a mining background and had first
    tried gold mining in Brazil.  At Ballarat he became manager of one
    of Australia’s largest gold mines.

In 1858, Friend Lamb and Isabella Robson, recently married, came with
other Robsons from Sunderland on the Indiana
to New Zealand.  These Robsons, from a shipbuilding family, were
carpenters and they plied their trade in Christchurch.

Robson Miscellany

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

Select Robson Names

Robson, born in Durham, was a Victorian arhitect who achieved
renown for his school-building projects in London in the 1870’s and
John Robson was British
Columbia’s premier in the 1890’s and a major figure in its entry into
the Canadian Confederation.
May Robson, born Mary Robison
in Australia, was a Victorian stage actress who lived to star in films
of the 1930’s.
Paul Robeson was the acclaimed
African American singer, writer, and early campaigner for civil rights.
Dame Flora Robson was a popular
English character actress.
Bobby Robson played football
for England and was the England football manager in the 1980’s.

Select Robsons

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Tyne & Wear)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous
    in Florida).
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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