Fairbairn History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Fairbairn family lived among the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. Fairbairn was a name given to a person with attractive, youthful looks, or someone who was noted as having been a beautiful child. The surname Fairbairn is derived from the Old English words fair, which means lovely, and bearn, which means child. However, the name Fairbairn may also be a local surname applied to someone from the settlement of Fairbourne in Kent or Fairburn in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In this case, Fairbairn belongs to the large category of Anglo-Saxon habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.

Early Origins of the Fairbairn family

The surname Fairbairn was first found in North Yorkshire at Fairburn, a small village and civil parish in the Selby district that dates back to before the Domesday Book when it was listed as Fareburne c. 1030. A few years later in 1086, the Domesday Book lists the placename as Fareburne [1] and literally meant "stream where ferns grow," having derived from the Old English fearn + burna. [2]

Some of the first records of the family were Augustin and Robert Fayr(e)barn(e) who were listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Yorkshire in 1297. [3]

By the time of the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379, spellings were quite varied: Johannes Fayrebame; Willelmus Fairebarn; and Robertus Fayrebarne were all listed there at that time as holding lands. [4]

In Scotland, the name literally means "beautiful child" [5] and the first record of the family was "Stephen Fairburn, burgess of Berwick on Tweed, [who] held the hostelry of the abbot and convent of Arbroath in Dundee c. 1327." [6]

Early History of the Fairbairn family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Fairbairn research. Another 166 words (12 lines of text) covering the years 1297, 1327, 1644, 1680, 1742, 1685, 1686, 1688, 1690, 1692 and 1693 are included under the topic Early Fairbairn History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Fairbairn Spelling Variations

Fairbairn has been spelled many different ways. Before English spelling became standardized over the last few hundred years, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. As the English language changed in the Middle Ages, absorbing pieces of Latin and French, as well as other languages, the spelling of people's names also changed considerably, even over a single lifetime. Many variations of the name Fairbairn have been found, including Fairbairn, Fairbairns, Fairbarn, Fairborn, Fairborne and many more.

Early Notables of the Fairbairn family (pre 1700)

Notables of the family at this time include Sir Andrew Fairbairn; and Sir Palmes Fairborne (1644-1680), an English soldier and Governor of Tangier. He was "the son of Colonel Stafford Fairborne of Newark, and probably related to the Yorkshire family of that name." [7] Sir Stafford Fairborne (d. 1742), was Admiral of the fleet and the eldest son of Sir Palmes Fairborne. "In June 1685 Stafford was lieutenant of the Bonadventure at Tangiers, and during the illness of his captain commanded the ship in a successful encounter with some Sallee vessels at Mamora. On 12 July 1686 he was...
Another 98 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Fairbairn Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Fairbairn migration to the United States +

In an attempt to escape the chaos experienced in England, many English families boarded overcrowded and diseased ships sailing for the shores of North America and other British colonies. Those families hardy enough, and lucky enough, to make the passage intact were rewarded with land and a social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families became important contributors to the young colonies in which they settled. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Fairbairns to arrive on North American shores:

Fairbairn Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Andrew Fairbairn, aged 32, who immigrated to the United States from Newcastle, in 1899
Fairbairn Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Alexander Fairbairn, aged 53, who landed in America from London, in 1903
  • Florence Fairbairn, aged 22, who immigrated to the United States from Tyrone, in 1907
  • Andrew Dodds Fairbairn, aged 47, who landed in America from London, England, in 1907
  • Adelaine Fairbairn, aged 20, who landed in America from Omagh, Ireland, in 1908
  • Charles Stewart Fairbairn, aged 19, who landed in America from Thornton, England, in 1908
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Fairbairn migration to Australia +

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

Fairbairn Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • George Fairbairn, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Prince George" in 1838 [8]

New Zealand Fairbairn 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:

Fairbairn Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Fairbairn, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Jura" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd September 1858 [9]
  • Mrs. Fairbairn, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow with 3 children aboard the ship "Jura" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 23rd September 1858 [9]
  • Mr. Alexander Fairbairn, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [10]
  • Mrs. Fairbairn, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [10]
  • Mr. Robert Fairbairn, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Fairbairn (post 1700) +

  • Sir David Eric Fairbairn KBE, DFC (1917-1994), English-born, Australian politician and cabinet minister
  • James Valentine Fairbairn (1897-1940), English-born, Australian aviator, politician and cabinet minister
  • John T Fairbairn, English political journalist, author and translator
  • Sir Peter Fairbairn (1799-1861), Scottish engineer and inventor, youngest brother of Sir William Fairbairn, was born at Kelso in Roxburghshire in September 1799
  • Patrick Fairbairn (1805-1874), Scottish theologian, born on 28 Jan. 1805, at Hallyburton in the parish of Greenlaw, Berwickshire, son of John Fairbairn, a farmer
  • Joyce Fairbairn PC (b. 1939), Canadian senator, the first woman to serve as Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Sir Nicholas "Nicky" Hardwick Fairbairn QC (1933-1995), Scottish politician
  • David Fairbairn (b. 1949), Australian painter and printmaker, winner of the Dobell Prize for Drawing in 1999
  • Stephen Ian Fairbairn (1896-1968), British financier and rower in the 1924 Summer Olympics
  • William Ronald Dodds Fairbairn (1889-1964), Scottish psychiatrist, psychoanalyst
  • ... (Another 6 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Prince of Wales


The Fairbairn 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: Nec cede arduis
Motto Translation: Not high yield


Suggested Readings for the name Fairbairn +

  • 2963 Down the Century from 1800 by Esther V.H. Cline.

  1. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. ^ Sims, Clifford Stanley The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames. 1862. Print.
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  8. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) PRINCE GEORGE 1838. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1838PrinceGeorge-London.htm
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  11. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html


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