Select Tobin Surname Genealogy

The Tobin surname is Irish, but of Anglo-Norman origin.  The name here was first Aubyn from the Aubyn place-name in Normandy and then St. Aubyn.  It was born by a Norman family that had come to Ireland in the wake of the Strongbow invasion in 1170.  They settled in Kilkenny and Tipperary.

St. Aubyn became Toibin in its Irish version (which some still use).  Tobin later resulted

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Ireland.  By the 1440s there were three major Tobin lines in SE Tipperary, as well as a senior line existing in Kilkenny: 
  • the 14th century Annals of Ireland described the Tobins of Kilkenny as a turbulent sept more dreaded by the English than the native Irish.  
  • the Tobins were also an eminent family in county Tipperary, with the head of the family being known as the Baron of Coursey.  The three main family lines there in the 16th century were those of Killaghy, Kilnagranag, and Caherlesk.
These families lost their lands in the Cromwellian settlements and were relocated to Mayo and Ballymoe in Galway around 1656.  Some Tobins had also spread by this time to Waterford and Cork.

James Tobin did represent the town of Fethard in Tipperary in the 1689 Parliament.  But he was a follower of James II.  After James IIs defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, he fled the country and became a major in the French Irish Brigade. 
His son, Edmund Marques de Tobin, the most celebrated of this branch, was killed in 1747 in the War of the Austrian Succession while in the service of Spain.

The Toibin spelling resurrected itself in Ireland in the 20th century.  The actor Niall Toibin was born in Cork in 1929, the writer and journalist Colin Toibin in Wexford in 1955.

England.  Two important Tobin families established themselves in England by the mid-1700s.  The first were Bristol merchants who became prominent slave traders with plantations in the Caribbean.  The second were first seen on the Isle of Man.  They became important merchants in Liverpool, also active in the slave trade. 

The forebear of the first family was believed to have been James Tobin, a Bristol sea captain who started off the familys plantation business on Nevis in the Caribbean in the 1740s.  It was his son James Tobin, profiting from the huge profits in the late 1700s in Caribbean sugar production, who became one of the most ardent pro-slavery advocates.   James had three notable sons:
  • James Webbe Tobin, friend to both Wordsworth and Coleridge, who campaigned against cruelty to slaves.
  • George Tobin, a Royal Naval officer and natural history painter who sketched in 1791 on Captain Blighs voyage to Tasmania.
  • and John Tobin, an unsuccessful writer for most of his life who finally had a hit with his play The Honey Moon in 1804.
The second family was first found at Braddan on the Isle of Man where John Tobin was described as a periwig maker.  His son Patrick, born around 1735, was a fish curer, principally of salted herring for the export market.  It was Patricks son John Tobin, however, who was to establish the family fortunes.

John went to sea out of Liverpool as a boy.  By 1793, when he was thirty, he was master of the privateer Gypsy.  That year he captured three French ships La Hirondelle with 122 slaves, La Cintrewith with 211 slaves, and La Pourvoyance with slaves and ivory.  This was to be the making of him.

Sir John later became a successful Liverpool merchant and served as the mayor of the town in 1819.  He built the family home Liscard Hall in Wallasey in 1833. 

America.  There were Tobins recorded in New Jersey in the 18th century.  Isaac Tobin was born in Hunterdon county in 1750.  His father may have been James Tobin from Kilkenny.  Isaac fought in the Revolutionary War (after initially deserting) and later moved with his son William to Ohio.

The St. Louis area can boast two famous Tobins, although there is no evidence that they were at all related.  The first was Tom Tobin, an early mountain man of the Southwest.  He was born in 1823 to Bartholomew Tobin, an Irish immigrant laborer and his Delaware Indian wife Sarah. 

Tom Tobin was one of only two mountain men to escape alive from the siege of Turley's Mill during the Taos Revolt in 1847.  In later years he was sent by the Army to track down and kill the notorious Felipe Espinosa and his brother.  Tobin returned to Fort Garland with their heads in a sack.

The second Tobin was Margaret Tobin who was born in 1867 in nearby Hannibal, the daughter of John Tobin who had immigrated from Ireland in the 1850s.  Margaret Tobin became famous as the unsinkable Molly Brown.

Escaping Ireland at the time of the potato famine was Thomas Tobin, a potato farmer in Clonmel. Tipperary.  He leftwith his family for Boston in the late 1840s.  Maurice Tobin remained in Clogheen, Tipperary at this time.  But his son James departed for Boston in the 1890s.  Jamess son Maurice
was mayor of Boston in the 1930s and subsequently US Secretary for Labor in President Truman's Cabinet.  Dennis Tobin meanwhile arrived in Boston from county Clare in 1890.  He was a long-time leader of the US Teamsters Union. 

William Cork and his wife Bridget came to Mobile, Alabama from Cork at the time of the potato famine.  He did not last long, apparently dying during the yellow fever epidemic.  Afterwards Bridget and their family lived in a house on the banks of Kisatchie Creek.  She died in 1909, having outlived her husband by forty four years.

Richard Tobin from Waterford came to San Francisco on the brig Catalina in 1849 in a lengthy journey that took in the Magellan Straits and Chile.  He quickly involved himself with other immigrant arrivals in the city in new business ventures.  In 1852 he started his own law firm Tobin & Tobin, still operational today, and he helped start the Hibernia Bank in 1859 (sold in 1992 to Bank of America) and the San Francisco Chronicle in 1865 (sold in 1999 to the Hearst Corp).

Richard and his Chilean wife Mary were among the first, in 1870, to live in the fashionable Nob Hill section of San Francisco.  His Tobin descendants remained an influential San Francisco family over the 20th century.

.  Tobins came to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

.  The earliest here might have been Michael Tobin and his family from Waterford who stayed a short time in the 1770s before moving onto Nova Scotia.  Patrick Tobin and his family arrived from Kilkenny in the early 1800s.  And Tobins from Wexford had settled in St. Johns by the 1860s where they were active in the fish supply business.  Three generations of Tobins lived and worked at the Tobin house on Duckworth Street in St. Johns built after the Great Fire of 1892.

Nova Scotia
.  Michael Tobin, a butcher, had arrived in Nova Scotia from Newfoundland in the 1770s.  His sons James and Michael started a trading business in Halifax J & M Tobin - in the early 1800s which was to make James, by the 1830s, one of the wealthiest men in Nova Scotia. 

Richard Tobin was a British soldier from Cork who was granted land in Dalhousie, Nova Scotia after his unit was disbanded in 1818.  Some of his descendants later settled in Massachusetts

Select Tobin Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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William de St. Aubyn was an early Norman settler in Ireland who was granted lands in Kilkenny in 1204.  
Sir John Tobin was a successful Liverpool merchant of the West African trades in the early 1800's.
Maurice Tobin was mayor of Boston in the 1930s and US Secretary for Labor under President Truman after the war.
James Tobin was a distinguished American economist who was awarded the Nobel economics prize in 1981.
Niall Toibin has been one of Ireland's best loved stage actors from the 1960's onwards.

Select Tobins Today
  • 5,000 in UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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