Select Gibson Surname Genealogy

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, Gislebertus.  The 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 Scotland.

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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 onto Dumfries 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 early 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 and 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 Quaker meeting was appointed in that city, they agreed to go thither and abuse the 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 Stacey
Gibson, was a generous benefactor to many local institutions and private charities.  He was the proprietor of the Saffron Walden and North Essex Bank that in 1896, after his death, joined with others to form Barclays Bank.

America.  A large number of Gibsons in America, it would appear, originate from one man - John Gibson, a staunchly Presbyterian 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. 

A Gibson 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 recent times, the Gibson Girl artist Charles Dana Gibson and, apparently, the writer 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) and Gideon 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 descendants 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.  From 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 and 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 sixty, 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.

John Gibson was a mid-19th century Scots Irish arrival, starting a whiskey distillery 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.

A third origin for Gibsons from South Carolina 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. 

Another sort of monument is Gibson House, built in 1851, the home of Scottish immigrant David Gibson and his family.  David, who had arrived from Scotland in 1825, was the land surveyor who helped map early Toronto.   Wanted by the government 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 years.  He did eventually receive a pardon and, on his return to York county, built Gibson 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.

Select Gibson Miscellany

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

Select 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 Gibsons 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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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