Select Robertson Surname Genealogy

Robertson is a patronymic name meaning "son of Robert."  The surname is to be found in the north of England but is particularly popular in Scotland - because of national figures such as Robert the Bruce.

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Scotland.  The Robertson clan has laid claim to be the oldest clan family in Scotland, with descent from the old Celtic kings and earls of Atholl.  Their base has been Struan in Perthshire since the early 13th century.  At that time the clan name was de Atholia, but it then took the Gaelic form of Donnachaidh (descendants of Duncan).

The clan's first chief was Donnachaidh Reamhair (Stout Duncan) who, according to tradition, fought for Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence.  It was Robert Donnachaidh, the fourth chief, who helped capture the assassins of King James I in 1437.  He was accordingly rewarded.  Around that time most of the clan adopted the nomenclature of Robertson after this chief.

The Robertson clan feuded with the Stewart clan of Atholl and William Robertson of Struan, the sixth chief, was killed in 1516 trying to recover lands he had lost.  The eighth chief was then murdered and his brother inherited the estate.

These Robertsons later suffered because of their backing for the Jacobites.

Alexander Robertson, known as both a Jacobite chief and a poet, departed for France in 1690 after having had his estates confiscated.  He did later return but, following the Jacobite defeat in 1715, took refuge in France again.  He returned a second time and died in Scotland in 1749 in his 81st year, the last of his Struan line (the current chief derives from the Robertsons of Invervack).

Many Robertsons lost out after the Jacobite defeat in 1745, some being killed at the battlefield, others going into hiding, and others again fleeing to FranceThe Robertsons of Lude managed to escape the forfeiture of their estates because the head of their family was at that time still a minor.  General William Robertson of this family fought in America and in the Napoleonic Wars and was also a friend to Robert Burns.  But he was the last of the line at Lude.

Robertsons used to be found mainly in Perth and Dundee.  Today there are more in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh.  James Robertson devised his Golden shred marmalade in Paisley near Glasgow in the 1860’s.  It proved popular and Robertson’s Jams resulted.

Nicholas Robertson, who was first recorded in Virginia in the 1680’s, seems to have been the forebear of the Robertson pioneers in Tennessee.

In 1770 James Robertson left his home in North Carolina and led an expedition beyond the Allegheny mountains into what is now east Tennessee.  He and his uncle Charles were leaders of the new government that was formed in the Watauga settlement two years later.  James later co-founded what is now the city of Nashville.  His nephew Sterling grew up there and was an early proponent of Texas colonization.  In the 1830’s he founded Robertson’s colony in what is now Milam county, Texas

There were three more notable Robertson families in Virginia, one of Petersburg and two of Augusta county.

William Robertson of Chesterfield county was the father of “Scotch Bill” Robertson, born in 1716, and the forebear of the Robertsons of Petersburg, Virginia.  Thomas B. Robertson, born there, moved south to New Orleans to take the post of Territorial Secretary in 1807.  He became Governor of Louisiana in 1820.  Meanwhile his brother Wyndham was briefly later acting Governor of Virginia.

Another Robertson line in Virginia began with James and Mary Robertson purchasing land in Augusta county in the 1720’s.  Their descendants migrated to Georgia and Louisiana before returning to Virginia in the late 1800’s.  Willis Robertson was a prominent Virginian politician, serving first in the US House of Representatives and then in the US Senate in a career from 1933 and 1967.  Although a Democrat, his politics were conservative.  His son is the tele-evangelist Pat Robertson.

James and Rebecca Robertson, Scots Irish from Coleraine, came to Augusta county, Virginia in the 1730’s.  Their descendants moved in the 1780’s to Tennessee

Canada.  Colin Robertson who came to Canada from Perth as a young man in 1802 was one of the pioneers in expanding the fur trading business westward in the years between 1815 and 1820.  William Robertson was an earlier Scotsman in the fur trade, initially in Detroit and later in Quebec.  But the death of his wife in 1800 left him heartbroken and he left Canada forever. 

Two Robertson families from Glasgow – those of John and James Robertson - were early settlers of Lanark county in Ontario, arriving there in 1821.  Their father John had been a soldier with the British army during the Napoleonic Wars. 

New Zealand
.  Thomas Robertson from Edinburgh was an early settler on the Otago Peninsula on South Island in 1847.  He lived there for more than fifty years.

Select Robertson Miscellany

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

Select Robertson Names

Robert Donnachaidh, the fourth chief of the clan, was the first in 1437 to adopt the Robertson name.
Alexander Robertson was a poet and a Jacobite chief, the last of his line.
William Robertson was an 18th century Scottish historian and principal of Edinburgh University. 
James Robertson was the 18th century American explorer sometimes called the father of Tennessee.
Sir William Robertson was British Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the First World War.
Sir Dennis Robertson was a distinguished British economist who worked closely with Keynes.
Pat Robertson is an American tele-evangelist.

Select Robertsons Today

  • 86,000 in the UK (most numerous in Midlothian)
  • 56,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 47,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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