Show ContentsBrisbane History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancient Dalriadan kingdom consisted of the Hebrides islands, and the rugged mountains of Scotland west coast. The name Brisbane began in this region; it was a nickname for a person who had sustained a broken bone. This surname derived from the Old French word, briser, which means to break, and the Old English word, bàn, which means bone. [1] This was also a nickname, given to a person who was often involved in fights, which resulted in the breaking of bones. Members of the Brisbane family were found in the county of Renfrew (now part of the Strathclyde region), in Scotland, where the family can trace its origin to shortly after the Norman Conquest, in 1066.

Alternatively, the name could have derived from "a place where courts were held; brys, a trial at law, and bann, a mount; breasban, the royal mount. The family of Brisbane is of considerable antiquity; the present descendants are in possession of an elbow chair made of oak, having the family arms, with the date 1357 carved on the back." [2]

Early Origins of the Brisbane family

The surname Brisbane was first found in Renfrewshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Rinn Friù), a historic county of Scotland, today encompassing the Council Areas of Renfrew, East Renfrewshire, and Iverclyde, in the Strathclyde region of southwestern Scotland.

"Probably the first of the name in Scotland was William Brisbone, whose name appears on a list of archers sent from Berwick to Roxburgh in 1298. Thomas Brisbane or de Birsbane had a charter in Aberdeenshire from Robert I. Alanus dictus Brisbane filius quondam Willelmi Brisbane shortly after 1334 obtained a grant from Donald, earl of Lennox of the land called Mucherach in the earldom of Levenax and of the land called Holmedalmartyne (Levenax, p. 61). In 1358 there is entry of a payment to Alexander Brysban (ER., I, p. 549), and in 1376 Herthornhill was leased to Thomas Brisbane (RHM., I, p. lxvii). Alan Brysban witnessed a charter of the lands of Ballebrochyr and Lechard, c. 1390-1400 (Lennox, II, p. 52). Another Thomas Brysbane, dominus de Latheris, in 1415 witnessed the charter of the barony of Cowie to William de Haya de Erole (SCM., II, p. 321), and in 1417 was present at a perambulation of the lands of Tarwas and Wldny (Udny) (RAA., II, 53). James Birsbane was proprietor of the lands of Reise and Akirgyll in Caithness, 1498 (Laing, 235). The surname is found in Aberdeen in 1401 (CRA., p. 382), in Perth, 1409 (REB., I, 26; II, 16), and in Edinburgh from 1610 onwards as Brisbain, Brisbaine, and Brisben (Edinb. Marr.). The Brisbanes of Bishoptoun acquired the lands of Killincraig and Goga in the parish of Largs, c. 1400. By a Crown charter, dated 1695, the estate was erected into the barony of Brisbane (Ayr Fam., I, p. 136), which thenceforth became the usual territorial designation of the family, 'Brisbane of Brisbane.' Alexander Bisbane, burgess of Dundee, 1674 (Brechin) was doubtless a Brisbane, and so likewise Agnes Bursbean in Colhowis of Dennie, 1622. [1]

"In 1332, William Brisbane was Chancellor of Scotland." [3]

Today Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland is pronounced "Brisbin." The city is named for the Brisbane River, which is in turn named for Sir Thomas Brisbane (1773-1860), the Scottish-born, 6th Governor of New South Wales at the time of the city's founding.

Early History of the Brisbane family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Brisbane research. Another 76 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1332, 1706, 1750, 1758, 1766, 1769, 1773, 1774, 1776, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1787, 1789, 1790, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1801, 1807, 1812, 1826, 1829 and 1860 are included under the topic Early Brisbane History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Brisbane Spelling Variations

Medieval spelling was at best an intuitive process, and translation between Gaelic and English was no more effective. These factors caused an enormous number of spelling variations in Dalriadan names. In fact, it was not uncommon to see a father and son who spelled their name differently. Over the years, Brisbane has been spelled Brisbane, Brisbine, Birsbain, Birsbaine, Brisblane, Birsben, Brisbin, Birsban and many more.

Early Notables of the Brisbane family

Notable amongst the family at this time was

  • Margaret Brisbane, 5th Lady Napier (died 1706), née Napier, a Scottish peer
  • Sir Charles Brisbane (1769?-1829), rear-admiral, fourth son of Admiral John Brisbane, who died 1807, was in 1779 entered on board the Alcide, commanded by his father, was present at the defeat of the...
  • Sir James Brisbane (1774-1826), commodore, fifth son of Admiral John Brisbane, and brother of Rear-admiral Sir Charles Brisbane [q. v.], entered the navy in 1787 on board the Culloden. After serving i...
  • John Brisbane (d. 1776?), physician, a native of Scotland, graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1750, and was admitted licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1766. He held the post of physician to the...
  • Sir Thomas Makdougall-Brisbane 1773-1860), general, colonial governor, and astronomer, was the eldest son of Thomas Brisbane of that ilk, and was born at Brisbane House, Largs in Ayrshire, on 23 July...

United States Brisbane migration to the United States +

These settlers arrived in North America at a time when the east was burgeoning with prosperous colonies and the expanses of the west were just being opened up. The American War of Independence was also imminent. Some Scots stayed to fight for a new country, while others who remained loyal went north as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of all of them went on to rediscover their heritage in the 20th century through highland games and other patriotic Scottish events. The Brisbane were among these contributors, for they have been located in early North American records:

Brisbane Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Brisbane with two children who landed in New Orleans in 1822

Australia Brisbane migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Brisbane Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • John Brisbane, aged 20, a miner, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Henry Moore"
  • Matilda Brisbane, aged 19, a domestic servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1860 aboard the ship "Schah Jehan"

New Zealand Brisbane migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Brisbane Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Daniel Brisbane, aged 27, a labourer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Resolute" in 1865
  • Jane Brisbane, aged 28, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Resolute" in 1865
  • Janet Brisbane, aged 6, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Resolute" in 1865
  • Mary Brisbane, aged 2, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Resolute" in 1865
  • William Brisbane, aged 7 mths., who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Resolute" in 1865

Contemporary Notables of the name Brisbane (post 1700) +

  • William Henry Brisbane (1806-1878), American Baptist minister of the southern United States who freed and settled a group of slaves he had inherited, and became an active Abolitionist
  • Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936), American newspaper editor
  • Albert Brisbane (1809-1890), American social reformer
  • William Brisbane, American politician, Member of Minnesota State House of Representatives 16th District, 1867, 1871 [4]
  • Charles Brisbane, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for New York State Senate 5th District, 2004 [4]
  • John Brisbane (d. 1776), Scottish physician who graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1750
  • Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane (1773-1860), Scottish soldier and astronomer, promoted to Major-General in 1813, Governor of New South Wales (1821-25), eponym of Brisbane, Queensland [5]
  • Captain Sir James Brisbane (1774-1826), British naval officer, fifth son of Admiral John Brisbane, and brother of Rear-admiral Sir Charles Brisbane [5]
  • Admiral Sir Charles Brisbane (1769-1829), British naval officer, fourth son of Admiral John Brisbane, who died 1807

The Brisbane Motto +

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: Certamine summo
Motto Translation: In the battle's height.

  1. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  2. Sims, Clifford Stanley The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames. 1862. Print.
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from
  5. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 5 Feb. 2019 on Facebook