Select Robbins Surname Genealogy

Robins and Robbins are patronymic forms of the medieval given name Robin, itself a diminutive of Robert (from the Old German Hrodebert).  Robin came to England originally from France.  The name was made popular by Robin Goodfellow, another name for Puck whose mischievous tricks were described in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and by Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest who stole from the rich to give to the poor.  The French surname spelling of Robin is to be found in the Channel Islands.

Robins and Robbins are roughly equal in numbers in England.  But Robbins predominates in America.  Robbins could be Jewish name in America, from Rubin or Rabinowitz or similar names

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Select Robbins Ancestry

England. The surname appeared initially in non-patronymic form as Robyn or Robin or Robyn in the 13th century before the patronymic Robyns and Robins emerged.  The Robbins spelling generally came later.

An early Robyns sighting was at Long Buckby in Northamptonshire where the name appeared as Robinus as early as 1210.  Thomas Robyns, born around 1480, lived in the village of Holdenby nearby and from him are said to have come two lines of descent, each of whom had descendants who found their way to America.

West Country
.  The main numbers of Robins and Robbins, however, have been in the west country.  Both names were found in Gloucestershire.  If anything, Robins extended southwest into Devon and Cornwall; Robbins into the West Midlands.

One line of Robins in Cornwall was to be found in the fishing village of Megavissey, beginning with Thomas Robins in the mid-16th century.  They tended to be seamen or rope makers. 
The earliest well-documented ancestor was William Robins who died in 1844 and whose headstone still stands in the graveyard of St. Peter’s parish church.  Charles Robins of this family departed for Ireland. 

Paul Robins meanwhile had sailed with his family for Canada on the Voluna in 1846, keeping a diary of his journey. He was a pioneer of the Bible Christian movement in North America.

Robins held the manor of Matson near Gloucester in the 15th century and possibly earlier.  In 1590 the heiress Margaret Robins married Jasper Selwyn who then came into possession of the estate.  But the family did produce an early American emigrant; and Thomas Robins, a Gloucestershire artist of the mid-18th century, was thought to have been a descendant.  This history was recorded with other Robins history in the Rev. Mills Robbins’ 1908 book Gleanings of the Robins or Robbins Family of England.

The spelling in Warwickshire tended to be Robbins.  A Robyns family in Worcestershire had migrated to Stoulton in Warwickshire by 1500 and became Robbins there.  A branch of this family moved to Leicestershire and Richard and Thomas Robbins emigrated to New England.  Francis Robbins meanwhile was a yeoman farmer in Lillington in the late 1600’s; and a family line has been traced from Thomas Robbins and Mary Sabin who married in Fenny Compton in 1791.

Channel Islands
.  The Robin name, originating from France, has applied in the Channel Islands.  Raulin Robin was recorded as a landowner in St. Brelade in Jersey as early as 1331.  A much later Raulin Robin was elected Jersey Jurat in 1700.  One of his sons, Charles Robin, saw the potential in Canada’s fishing grounds and formed a company in the 1760’s to exploit these opportunities. 

“Charles had great success in Canada and in 1802 returned to Jersey and expanded his home there.  He never married and died in 1824 leaving £480 to the poor of the parish.”

The Robin line did continue in Jersey, but has recently died out.

There were unrelated Robin families on Guernsey dating from the late 1600’s.  They were covered in Mendham and Foster’s 1990 book The Robin Families of Guernsey.  Nicholas Robin was a prominent Methodist on the island in the early 19th century.  Three of his sons – James, Alexis, and Francis – emigrated to South Australia in the 1850’s and prospered there.

  There were early Robbins in Scotland, recorded at Stobo in Peeblesshire on the Scottish borders in the 15th and 16th centuries.  However, the name has disappeared there.

.  Robbins in Ireland was probably an English implant.  They were recorded in Tipperary from about 1700 onwards.  Hymenstown was their home in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Edward Robbins
was a farmer at Clara in county Offaly at the time of the Great Famine.  The product of his farms was not enough to provide for his large family.  In 1849 he therefore emigrated to South America with his wife and eleven children.  After a rocky start in Buenos Aires, Robbins worked as shepherd in Cañuelas.  He died in 1866.

America.  Early Robbins were to be found in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina. 

.  Robbins lines here were:

  • Nicholas Robbins, a shoemaker possibly from Kent who came to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1635 and settled in Duxbury three years later.  His line was covered in Larry Robbins’ 2008 book The Nicholas Robbins Family.
  • Richard Robbins from Stoulton in Warwickshire who was in Charlestown, Massachusetts by 1640.  One line led to the Robbins Cape Cod families.  Another line led to Edward Robbins, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts from 1802 to 1806.  
  • George Robbins, a farmer and mill owner possibly from Oxford who lived in Chelmsford, Massachusetts from 1667 onwards.  He was married three times and was the father of eleven known children.  The lineage here can be found in Omer and Elsie Robbins’ 1992 book A Robbins Family History.  
  • Robert Robbins who was resident with his wife Mary in Concord, Massachusetts in 1671 and subsequently moved to Groton.  His line has sometimes got tangled up with that of George Robbins.  
  • while William Robbins was a soldier in King Phillips’ War who stayed on and lived in Reading, Massachusetts until 1691.  He later was one of the first settlers of Walpole.  Dana Robbins’ 1949 book History of the Robbins Family of Walpole has been the reference point here.
New Jersey.  Daniel Robins was originally Daniel Robinson and had come from Scotland.  He had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and transported to Connecticut as an indentured servant. 

Freed from this bondage, Daniel married in 1663 and he and his wife Hope migrated to New Jersey.  His descendants there generally adopted the Robbins spelling and many of them became Quakers.  One Quaker branch owned the Seven Stars Tavern in Woodstown, New Jersey from 1807 to 1927.

.  Colonel Obedience Robins from Northamptonshire was one of the most influential early Virginia colonists.  He owned 2,000 acres on Cheriton Creek, his Cherrystone plantation, and represented Accomack county in the Assembly between 1629 and 1642.  In 1642 he was instrumental in having the name of Accomack county changed to Northampton, some say, in order to honor his homeland. 

Another Northamptonshire line may have extended to Thomas Robins, first found in Westmoreland county around the year 1695.  Others have connected him to the New England immigrant Nicholas Robbins of Duxbury.  Thomas’s son, also named Thomas, settled in North Carolina.  Later Robbins moved south and west.  Gladys Wrenn’s 1995 book The Robbins Family – from Virginia to Texas covered the descendant line.

North Carolina.  There were Robbins appearing in Rowan county in the 1750’s and later in Randolph county.  Some have them coming from a dissenting Baptist family in England.  The first Robbins in Randolph county was probably William Robins, a blacksmith, whose will was recorded in 1786. 

Ahi Robbins, born there in 1799, helped found a local school known as the Union Institute.  This later became Trinity College and then Duke University.  Three of his sons were killed during the Civil War.  Franklin survived and became a prominent North Carolina lawyer.

.  Robbins has also been an adopted Jewish name in America.  Examples are: Harold Robbins, the best-selling writer; Irv Robbins of Baskin & Robbins ice-cream fame; Jerome Robbins, the Broadway producer behind West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof; and Leo Robbins, the author and playwright who was killed in a plane crash off New York in 1957.

  There were Robins and Robbins who left America for the Canadian maritime provinces after the Revolutionary War was over.  John Robins from New Jersey came to Charlottetown in 1782 and later settled in Bedeque, PEI.  Joseph Robbins from Massachusetts departed for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1790.  His son Abel became a prominent merchant, shipowner, and entrepreneur in the town.

Abijah and Amariah Robbins were Loyalist brothers from Herkimer, New York who came to Ontario as young boys in the early 1800’s.  Both fought in the War of 1812.  Abijah made his home in Mono township, Simcoe county; Amariah in Moore township, Lambton county.  Anna Mason’s 1985 book The Robbins Family History covered the family lineage from the perspective of Amariah’s son John who married Mary Ann Gray.

South Africa.  Elijah Robbins was a Christian missionary from Massachusetts who came to South Africa in 1859 to spread the Gospel among the Zulus at the Adams mission station.  His son Whitman was a dentist in Durban.

Herbert Robinski escaped Nazi Germany for South Africa in 1936, building a new life for himself and his family in Port Elizabeth under the anglicized name of Robins.  His son Steven Robins wrote about the tragedy of the family left behind in Nazi concentration camps in his 2016 book Letters of Stone.

.  Three Robbins had brief lives down under. 

John Robins from Plymouth in Devon was a First Fleet convict on the Charlotte in 1788.  He survived the voyage but died on Norfolk Island three years later.  While fishing, Robins “endeavored to get from one rock to another, fell into the sea, and went down like a stone.” 

Charles Robbins,
a seaman from Barnstaple in Devon, came out to Australia in 1802.  He made a name for himself through his exploration of the coastal regions of New South Wales and Tasmania.  Robbins Island and Robbins Passage off the northwest coast of Tasmania were named after him.  However, he then went missing and presumably died in 1805.

James Robbins from Monmouthshire on the Welsh borders came to Australia with his wife Tamar in 1855 in search of gold.  Finding none, he enlisted with the British army to fight in the Maori Wars in New Zealand.  He was badly wounded there in 1864 and died soon afterwards.

Select Robbins Miscellany

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

Select Robbins Names

Benjamin Robins from Gloucestershire was a pioneering English scientist, mathematician, and military engineer of the early 18th century.
Charles Robin
 was an 18th century entrepreneur from the Channel Island of Jersey who traded between Britain and the maritime region of Canada.
Harold Robbins
, born Harold Rubin, was an American author of popular novels, one of the best-selling writers of all time.
Jerome Robbins
, born
 Jerome Rabinowitz, was a Jewish-American choreographer, director, and theater producer probably best known for his work on West Side Story.

Select Robbins Today
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in Gloucestershire)
  • 37,000 in America (most numerous in Florida) 
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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 500 surnames.

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