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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: Borderlands, Scottish

Where did the Scottish Cockburn family come from? What is the Scottish Cockburn family crest and coat of arms? When did the Cockburn family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Cockburn family history?

The name Cockburn comes from the Boernician Scottish-English border region. The Cockburn family lived in Berwickshire named Cockburn. The place name in turn, comes from the Old English cocc, meaning "rooster," and burna, meaning "a stream." As such, the surname is classed as a local, or habitational name, derived from a place where the original bearer lived or held land.


Since medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, and since there were no consistent rules for the translation of rules from Gaelic to English, spelling variations are extremely common in Boernician names of this vintage. Cockburn has been spelled Cockburne, Cobourne, Coburn, Coburne, Cocburn, Cockbain, Cockborne, Cockbourn, Cobourn, Cockburn, Cokburn, Cogburn, Cokbain, Cokborne, Cokbourn, Cokbourne, Cokburne, Cowburn and many more.

First found in Roxburghshire in the lands of Merse. One of the first recorded instances of the name was during the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214) when a Cukoueburn was listed in the area of Clifton, Roxburghshire. Typical of these early entries, no given name was provided. Peter de Cokburne witnessed a grant in 1220. One of the earliest records of a Clan crest was in 1296, when a rooster (cock) is shown on the seal of Peres de Cokeburne. Sir Alexander Cockburn was killed at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. In 1390, his grandson Alexander was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cockburn research. Another 133 words(10 lines of text) covering the years 1281, 1595, 1656, 1735, 1685, 1770, 1685, 1770 and are included under the topic Early Cockburn History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 117 words(8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cockburn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Cockburn family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 125 words(9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Many of the Boernician-Scottish families who crossed the Atlantic settled along the eastern seaboard in communities that would become the backbone of the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. In the War of Independence, American families that remained loyal to the Crown moved north into Canada and became known as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestral culture of all of these proud Scottish families remains alive in North America in the 20th century through clan societies and highland games. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Cockburn or a variant listed above:

Cockburn Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Archibald Cockburn, who settled in Carolina in 1682
  • James Cockburn, who came to East New Jersey in 1684

Cockburn Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Thomas Cockburn, who came to New York in 1701
  • Alexander Cockburn, who arrived in Leeward Islands in 1710
  • William Cockburn, who came to Boston in 1715
  • Alexander Cockburn and his wife who settled in Granada in 1774

Cockburn Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Edward, James, and Jane Cockburn, who all arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1820
  • J P Cockburn, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • Charles Cockburn, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1874


  • Alexander Claud Cockburn (1941-2012), Scottish-born, American political journalist and writer
  • Alison Cockburn (1713-1794), Scottish poet
  • Henry Thomas Cockburn (1779-1854), Scottish judge, author, politician, made Lord Cockburn in 1834
  • John Alexander Cockburn (1850-1929), Australian (Scottish born) politician, Premier of South Australia (1889-1890)
  • Claud Cockburn (1904-1981), radical British journalist
  • James Cockburn (1819-1883), Canadian (Scottish born) lawyer, politician, Father of Canadian Confederation, Canada's first Speaker of the House of Commons (1867-1874)
  • Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn (1802-1880), English judge and politician
  • Sir George Cockburn (1772-1853), Scottish British Navy Admiral, who escorted Napoleon to his last prison on St. Helena Island
  • Bruce Cockburn OC (b. 1945), Canadian singer, songwriter made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002, inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and holder of 5 honorary doctorates


The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Accenti cantu
Motto Translation: He animates by crowing.


Cockburn Clan Badge
Cockburn Clan Badge

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A clan is a social group made up of a number of distinct branch-families that actually descended from, or accepted themselves as descendants of, a common ancestor. The word clan means simply children. The idea of the clan as a community is necessarily based around this idea of heredity and is most often ruled according to a patriarchal structure. For instance, the clan chief represented the hereditary "parent" of the entire clan. The most prominent example of this form of society is the Scottish Clan system...


Septs of the Distinguished Name Cockburn
Cobirn, Coboirn, Coboorne, Coboourn, Coboourne, Coborne, Cobourn, Cobourne, Coboyrne, Coburn, Coburne, Cobyrne, Cocbirn, Cocborne, Cocbourn, Cocbourne, Cocburn, Cocbyrne, Cockbain, Cockbirn, Cockboirn, Cockboorne, Cockboourn, Cockboourne, Cockborne, Cockbourn, Cockbourne, Cockboyrne, Cockburn, Cockburne, Cockbyrne, Cogbirn, Cogborne, Cogbourn, Cogbourne, Cogburn, Cogbyrne, Cokbain, Cokborne, Cokbourn, Cokbourne, Cokburn, Cokburne, Colbirn, Colboirn, Colbon, Colboorne, Colboourn, Colboourne, Colboyrne and more.


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  1. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  2. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  3. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  4. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  5. Paul, Sir James Balfour. An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland Second Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1903. Print.
  6. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  7. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  8. Leeson, Francis L. Dictionary of British Peerages. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1121-5).
  9. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  10. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  11. ...

The Cockburn Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cockburn Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 22 October 2014 at 15:46.

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