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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Turnbull Clan Association

Beyond Borders, Bulls, and Bedrule
Turnbull Clan Association (TCA)

Many of the records of the Turnbull family had been destroyed by the 11th century, which is described as the most turbulent and difficult times in Scottish history. Some verbal history was passed along generation to generation, making the verbal history somewhat unreliable. Legend tells us that William Rule turned an enraged charging bull away from King Robert the Bruce, and thus became known as William Turn-e-bull. The following story is how Turnbull became a common name in France and brings to mind the epic tale of the chicken and the egg, which came first and from where. Trumbull’s claim they were first, Trimble’s say no, we were, and Turnbull’s stick by there guns, it was us. We are tho, all truly related as Scots..

French Turnbull

The Scot surname Turnbull went to Germany, specifically Prussia, in the 15th century. They went as mercenary soldiers andlor merchants. Over the decades, the spelling was Germanized to Tormuel. Some two hundred years later after the original migration, a descendant was Albrecht Drommel, who lived in Tilsit, East Prussia around 1679. He was, of course, completely German.

But the most important migration of Turnbull was to France. Starting in the fifteenth century, and as part of the "Auld Alliance" to help the French king reconquer France from the English, a large number of Scottish soldiers migrated. Joan of Arc was involved in the early fight to drive out the English.

After the fighting had subsided the French king gave out land as a reward to his Scottish followers. The Turnbulls were among these, and married French wives. One of the branches became Tournebulle. and a French descendant was Stephan Tournebulle, who in 1507 was the procurator of the "Scottish Nation" at the University of Orleans, Orleans was where Joan of Arc and her Scoto/French forces had fought the English.

Another branch of the family settled in Normandy. where the spelling became Tournebu or Turnebu. A French descendant of this branch was Adriaen Tournebu, (15 12-1565) a Hellenic scholar. Of this man, John Hill Burton in The Scot Abroad (1898) said ~a learned French professor, whose name was Tourneboeuf (actually Tournebu), which some writers maintain was a translation of Turnbull~ further they declare him to have been the son of a Scotchman settled in Normandy." George Black in his classic Surnames of Scotland ( NY Public Library. 1946) says of the French and Normandy Turnbull’s: "Persons of the name settled in Fiance bore (talking of their coat of arms) argent, three bulls heads, couped sable, anned and langued gulcs, but the Tournebu or Tumebu family in Normandy, who have been claimed as of Scottish origin, had, for arms argent, a bent azure."

Thefamily that went to Berry Province (Joan of Arc’s scenes of action) where the name became Tourneboeuf. Another source substantiating the claim of Scot ancestry is in Rev. ForbesLeith magnificent 2 volumes Scot Guards + Men at Anus in France (1882), of which the author possesses a copy). On pages 206-207 of volume II, Forbes-Leith, who was a Roman Catholic priest, describes the Scot colony that settled in Berry Province C 1425. One of the families was Turnbull, and in recent years, I have corresponded with the Mayor of Aubigny-sur-mer. who has furnished collaboration of the above, and given some modern traces of the 15th century Scottish presences.

The author Rennie states that the Tournebulles of Champagne Province were likely descended from a Scot, and their name is closer to the original spelling than the Normandy branch.

Finally, another source which sheds light on French Turnbull’s is Dictionairre de Noblesse de

Francaise by St. Simon and Sereville (Paris 1995) listing all the nobility of modern day France, on page 956, the authors state:

Name--dc Tournebu
Coat of Arms-—As described above by Black
Extraction—Chevaleresque—from mounted Knights. Ennobled 1463 and again 1540.

No reference is mentioned here of their Scot descent, although it is nearly certain. So, the Turnbulls established a distinctive presence in France starting out as mercenary allies of the Dauphin and Jeanne D’Arc, and, in later centuries, becoming prominent French nobility, even to the present day.

Written by: Don Hanson
Scholar of Scottish Migration to Europe

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