Turnbull Surname Genealogy

This Scottish surname started out as a nickname, for a man thought to
have been strong enough to turn back a charging bull.  Turnbull
has it that it was a name bestowed by Robert the
Bruce on the clan leader for this act of bravery.   The
Turnbulls were a Border clan and Turnbulls were to be found on both the
Scottish and English sides of the border.

Trimble, Trumble, and Trumbull are all possible variants of Turnbull.

Turnbull Resources on

Turnbull Ancestry

The Turnbull
clan is thought to have descended from the Rule family of Roxburghshire
on the
Scottish borders, named after the Rule river in Hobkirk parish.  The first recording of the name was in 1315
when William Turneball was awarded lands at Philiphaugh.  A
Turnbull later lost his life against the English in humiliating fashion
at Halidon

These Turnbulls became a notorious Border reiver
clan from their base at Bedrule castle.
records that the Turnbulls could easily put 500 reivers into the saddle
one of their forays.  In 1513, Lord Dacre
led an English army through the Rule valley for an assault on the
reivers.  But George Turnbull quickly
rallied 700
Turnbulls, Kerrs, Douglases, and Scotts and defeated the invaders in
the battle
of Sclaterford.  In 1545 the English destroyed the Turnbulls’ main
fortress, Bedrule castle, in retaliation.

History also recorded territorial land disputes between the Turnbulls
and their neighbors the Stewarts.  John Turnbull held the Minto
lands along the Teviot river in 1390.   The land then
reverted to the Stewarts.  But the Turnbulls then came to be
predominant from about 1530 onwards.

the crowns of Scotland and England became one under James VI of
Scotland in
1603, many members of Border clans like the Turnbulls were
dispersed to northern England, elsewhere in Scotland, and to Ireland.

By the time
of the 1891 Census
, the Turnbull numbers in Scotland were
down to 20
percent in the Borders and there were more Turnbulls in
than in Scotland.

England.  The
between Scotland and England was porous and many
families would move into the Cheviot Hills
and the northern lands of Northumberland, depending on the
politics of the
day.  One
family line in Northumberland traces itself back to Mark
who was born
in Chester-le-Street in 1616.

Those who became “English” often changed
from their Presbyterian roots to Church of England.  For
example, John Turnbull was born at Roddam
in 1789 in the Anglican parish of Ilderton, but was baptized in the
Presbyterian church at Branton.

Adam Turnbull, a keelman, was recorded as dying in
Newcastle in 1744 at the mighty age of 112.
He had married four times, the last when he was over 100 years
old.  It was said that he could walk twelve
miles a
day until within three years of his death.

Joe Turnbull was the first piper of the Duke of
Northumberland at Alnwick castle.  There
is a picture of him, painted in 1756, playing his pipes at the castle.

Turnbulls began to move south for work reasons in the early 1800’s, to
Tyneside and later to the Durham coalfields.  Many Turnbulls
coal miners.   Joseph Robinson’s 2007 book Tommy Turnbull – A Miner’s Life
described the life of one such miner.

Ireland.  In Ireland the
Turnbulls settled in county
Donegal under the name of Rule, in Antrim under the name of Trimble,
and in the rest of Ulster under the name of Turnbull.

Canada.  Thomas
Turnbull and his
family arrived in Pictou county, Nova Scotia in 1776 as part of an
early Scottish
settlement.  Little was known about the
family as they had been picked up in the Isle of Man as “fugitives from
Scotland.”  These Turnbulls settled in McClennan’s Brook.

Another Turnbull family was based in Digby,
Nova Scotia.  Their story was recounted in
John F. Turnbull’s 1960 book The History
of the Turnbull Family of  Digby.

Turnbull family of
Charleston, South Carolina, who owned numerous plantations in
Mississippi in
the antebellum period, were descendants of the Scottish doctor Andrew Turnbull who had led
a failed
attempt to establish a British colony in Florida.

The Turnbull
numbers have been fewer in America than in Canada.  One
set of
Turnbulls settled in America near Canada, Thomas Turnbull and his
family arriving at Rossie on the St. Lawrence in upstate New
in the 1830’s.  Trumbulls from Northumberland,
possibly at one time Turnbulls, were a noted Connecticut family.
Some Scottish Turnbulls in Virginia became Trumbles when they settled
in Texas in the 1850’s.

Australia.  John and Ann
Turnbull arrived from Scotland with other Presbyterians on the Coromandel in 1802.  They
settled at Ebenezer along the Hawkesbury river in NSW.  The
Turnbulls’ sandstone home, completed in 1810, still stands.  They
have a
large number of descendants living in Australia today, including the
Liberal politician Malcolm Turnbull.
family story was related in Dorothy and Roy Turnbull’s 2002 book Turnbulls on the Coromandel.

Turnbull Miscellany

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

Turnbull Names

William Turneball, a contemporary of Robert the Bruce, was
the first to bear the Turnbull name.
William Turnbull from Bedrule
became Bishop of Glasgow in 1448 and later founded Glasgow University.
was called the first railway engineer of India, having
laid the first line there between Calcutta and Delhi in the 1850’s.
Stephen Turnbull is a
best-selling author who writes about medieval Japan and its people.

Select Turnbulls Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Durham)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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