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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2003
The Cockburn Name

I had an e-mail from Russell Cockburn in Scotland.  He sent the following information on the lowland family of Cockburn - which I understand is pronounced Coburn. - Judith Lloyd.
"In the Scottish lowlands and borders there were many important families. The Cockburn's were one such family.  It is almost certain that they took their name from the Cok Burn, a stream, in an area called the Merse which is in the county of Berwickshire.

There are two theories as to their origin:  One is that they arrived with the Saxons as hereditary priests or standard bearers of Irmin, war god of the Saxons.  Irmin's symbol was a cockerel, which was later used by the Cockburns in their crest.  However there is no evidence to prove this theory so it is quite possibly myth.  The second and more likely story is that they came with the Normans and were given lands in Scotland.  Early Cockburns had Norman characteristics of dark hair and brown eyes. One of the first Cockburns on record was Piers de Cockburn, which also would suggest Norman ancestry.  Piers de Cockburn was named in a charter in 1230. Additionally the Ragmans Roll, in which Scottish gentry swore fealty to King Edward I of England at Berwick in 1296, contained the names of both Piers & Thomas Cockburn.

The first Cockburn we can be certain of is Alexander Cockburn whose date of birth is unknown. In 1330 he married  Mariota de Veteri Ponte or Vipont a Norman heiress."  (Her father was one of the three Scottish earls killed at Bannockburn in 1314).  "They settled at Langton, near Duns in Berwickshire. Alexander is known as the father of all modern day Cockburn branches.  Much later in 1527 his descendent bought the lands at Cockburn Law, near Duns, Berwickshire from the Earl of Crawford and started the branch Cockburn of that Ilk who became Lairds of Duns."

If there are any Cockburns who would like to have more information on this name you may contact Russell by mail at Russell Cockburn, 31 Ellen Street, Whitburn. West Lothian. EH47 0HJ. Scotland. Tel: 01501 749921 or at his e-mail address,

There are several areas, societies, etc in Scotland, bearing the Cockburn name.  There is the Cockburn Association which was founded in 1875 in Edinburgh.  Its mission is the preservation of buildings and environment in Edinburgh.  There is Cockburn Mill in Berwickshire and also a Cockburn, Australia.

The Cockburn tartan is royal blue and black with white, yellow and red stripes.  There is a Cockburn Clan Association web site on the internet.  It is on this site that the possibility of the name being derived from the English name Colbrand is mentioned.  Napoleon was escorted to St. Helena by Sir George Cockburn.

The county/area of Berwickshire is in the southeastern most corner of Scotland.  It is bordered by England (It was in fact part of England until it was made part of Scotland by King Malcolm II in 1018.  Its original county seat, Berwick-on-Tweed remains in England), East and Mid Lothian, Roxburghshire, and the North Sea.  The North Sea border is rocky and unapproachable for the most part, but the land itself is mostly fertile and supports a large variety of agriculture such as turnips, barley, wheat, sheep, and cattle.  Most of its rivers empty into the Tweed where there are several fisheries.   Berwickshire is home not only to the Cockburns but also to the Homes, Lumsdens, and Douglas Clans.  Sir Walter Scott is buried there in Dryburgh Abbey.

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