Family Genealogy


The following pages give details of the Family Genealogy and also some interesting historical links to the famous people and places. Currently, only the surnames Corbett and Semple are on the site with more being added regularly.

History of the Corbett Name

The Early Scottish Corbetts

Corbett and Robert Burns 

Corbett and the Clan Ross

History of the Semple Name

Semple and the Calton Weavers

Do you hear Music?

Links to other Genealogy Sites







History of the Corbett Name

Norman Origins

The surname Corbett has an ancient and historic origin. The first documented record in Britain of an individual with the name was Sir Roger de Corbet, whose name appears in the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book was the first 'land registry' set up by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was established to improve the tax raising procedures of England and as such recorded all land and assets thereon. For his services to William, Roger de Corbet was awarded land in what is now Shropshire and indeed to this day many with the surname still live there. The following is an extract of the relevant part of the Domesday Book.

'Roger [Fitz Corbett] also holds ACTON (BURNELL) ACTUNE [from Earl Roger] and a certain Roger from him. Godric held it; he was a freeman. 31/2 hides which pay tax. In lordship 1 plough; 2 slaves; 1 villager, 4 smallholders and 1 rider with 11/2 ploughs. Value before 1066, 30s; later 15s; now 20s. 1 more plough would be possible there.'

Notes: Acton Burnell is a village near Shrewsbury. Plough = team of 8 oxen. Villager = class of peasant with most land. Hide = area of about 140 acres. Free man = independent peasant who owed few dues to the manor. Slave = landless villager. Smallholder = middle class peasant with little land. Value = total receipts of the manor. Before 1066 = in the time of edward the Confessor. Later = when the Norman tenant acquired the land

Homepage Family Genealogy History of the Corbett Name




The Early Scottish Corbetts

In 1906, the Glasgow Herald published an article on the Scottish Corbetts, and started, ' The race of Corbet or Corbett, to which the donor of a wild and romantic Highland estate to the people of Glasgow belong, is more deserving of being termed a clan than not a few other races who are so styled. The history of the family has never been written, yet it is still one of the few existing that trace in the male line an undoubted descent from an ancient race in Normandy, which was Hugh Corbet (or Corbeau) living 1040, a generation before the Conquest. He is documented ' a noble Norman', and from his son Roger descended the baronial house, as well as the families now existing in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.'

The first Corbet in Scotland came from Shropshire and settled in Teviotdale under Earl David in the first quarter of the 12th century. He is said to have obtained the manor of Foghou which he held as a vassal under the Earls of Dunbar.

Robert Corbet appeared in Scotland in about 1116 as one of the retinue of Earl David, who later became King David I. The authoress, Augusta Corbet, who wrote 'The Family of Corbet - Its Life and Times', says that Robert was the son of Roger and grandson of Hugh. It is said he belonged to the family which held Drayton in Northamptonshire.

Robert Corbet was a witness in the instrument or Inquisition made by David, Prince of Cumberland, into the lands belonging to the old Church of Glasgow, and is also a witness in other deeds of David when he was king of Scotland (1124-53).

'The Cumberland or Cumbria of those days extended to the Clyde, and included Glasgow, which David incorporated into Scotland. David appears to have allotted lands in Roxburghshire to Robert Corbet, where his descendents were 'great lords of several generations'.

Sibylla Corbet, daughter of Robert, married Henry I of England and between them had many illegitimate children. One of these was Sibylla had an arranged marriage with Alexander I (1107-1124) of Scotland to help Henry promote a policy of friendliness with Scotland, a common occurrence in these days. Apparently, she was possessed of neither looks nor charm and died in loneliness on Eilean nam Ban (the Island of Women) in Loch Tay.

For many centuries the Corbets held lands in the Scottish Borders and often had divided loyalties between the thrones of Scotland and England, a political necessity in the troubled Border country. By the late 13th century, the Corbets owned land in the Castle Douglas/ Dalbeattie areas in addition to their traditional tenures. A century later, Constantine Corbet owned lands in Fife and a Walter Corbet owned lands around Lochmaben. By the late 16th century, Corbets owned lands in Clydesdale, with Symont Corbet's will showing land held near Hamilton (1574).

Between 1649 and 1754 eleven Corbets were burgesses (freemen or citizens of the burgh) of Dumfries. Hew Corbet of Hardgay and Walter Corbet of Tollcross both registered their arms in 1672 with the Lord Lyon, both incorporating the traditional Raven.

In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland. Robert Corbet, then provost of Dumfries, rode out with his men to meet him and warned the Prince to stand aside as Dumfries would have nothing to do with him. He apparently returned to Dumfries and locked the gates against the Prince!

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Corbetts were busy in Scotland in a variety of occupations, including shipmasters, tanners, tailors, schoolmasters, weavers, etc. In 1784, James Corbett was a weaver in Larkhall and in Hamilton, other Corbetts were prospering in the late 1700's. Janefield, part of the Tollcross eatate and now a cemetery, was occupied and farmed by a James Corbett in 1751.

According to Augusta Corbet ' The Corbets continued to hold Tollcross till the beginning of the 19th century when it was sold to James Dunlop of Garnkirk who died at Tollcross in 1816. They intermarried with the Boyds and Cunninghams and were known as the Corbets of Tolcorse'.


 Homepage  Family Genealogy Early Scottish Corbetts


Corbett and Robert Burns 

Corbet, William (1755 - 1811)

A senior officer of the Excise whose influence was of assistance to Burns in his own Excise career.

According to Joseph Farington, RA, who met Burns at Friar's Carse in 1792, and who, when he revisited Scotland in 1801 had dinner in Glasgow with Corbet's brother, Corbet: 'was the officer who succeeded to the command of the troops engaged in the Island of Jersey after Major Peirson was killed. His portrait is in the picture printed by Copley of that subject.' Unfortunately Farington did not identify Corbet in Copley's picture which is now in the National Gallery, London. The Battle of Jersey was a French raid upon the island in 1781.

If Farington's reminiscence was accurate, Corbet must have been promoted in the Excise service with some rapidity, for in 1784 he is listed as being a Supervisor in Linlithgow. In 1786 and 1787 he was Supervisor-General at Stirling, and from 1789 to 1791, Acting Supervisor-General at Edinburgh, a post he held permanently thereafter until 1797, when he became Collector of the Excise at Glasgow. At Glasgow, he was a member of the convivial club called the Board of Green Cloth. He married Jean McAdam of Kirkcudbright, by whom he had several children. His Glasgow address was 14 Miller Street. He died at Meadowside, Partick, and was buried in the cemetery of Ramshorn Church.

He first appears in the Burns story in February 1790, when Mrs Dunlop asked Burns if A Mr Corbet in the Excise 'could be of any use' in getting him on. If so, she could perhaps renew an old friendship with Mrs Corbet on his behalf.

Burns replied in March 1790: 'You formerly wrote me, if a Mr Corbet in the Excise could be of use to me. If it is a Corbet who is what we call one of our General Supervisors, of which we have just two in Scotland, he can do everything for me. Were he to interest himself properly for me, he could easily, by Martinmas 1791, transport me to Port Glasgow, port Division, which would be the ultimatum of my present Excise hopes.' ('A Port Division' Burns explained to Mrs Dunlop on 3rd February 1792, 'is twenty pounds a year more than any other Division, besides as much rum and brandy as will easily supply an ordinary family.')

Mrs Dunlop wrote to Mrs Corbet, and after an unnecessary setback of despair because rumour had promoted Corbet Collector 7 years ahead of fact, she managed to interest him in Burns. At any rate, towards the end of 1790, Corbet apparently asked Findlater, Dumfries Supervisor and Burns's immediate superior, to let him have an assessment of the poet's character and ability.

Two days before Christmas 1790, Findlater wrote to Corbet, describing Burns as 'an active, faithful and zealous officer' who 'gives the most unremitting attention to the duties of his office... and, tho' his experience must be as yet small, he is capable, as you may well suppose, of achieving [sic] a much more arduous task than any difficulty that the theory or practice of our business can exhibit'.

Corbet, one infers from Burns's own references to him, did actually visit Dumfries and meet the poet, late in 1791 or early in 1792. He may have been responsible for getting Burns transferred to a 'foot-walk' in Dumfries - 'Dumfries third division' - just before the poet left Ellisland, instead of the laborious rural district - 'Dumfries first itinerary' - which often involved riding 200 miles a week. He certainly stood by Burns when, in December 1792, the poet's radical opinions and utterances led someone to denounce him to the Excise Board as unpatriotic. The usual routine enquiry in such cases was ordered and Burns drove himself frantic with worry and fright over the threat to his livelihood. Corbet came to Dumfries to conduct the inquiry, along with Mitchell and Findlater; but Findlater testified that Burns was 'exact, vigilant, and sober, that, in fact, he was one of the best officers in the district'.

No stain on Burns's character was put on record, but Corbet probably gave him some friendly, plain-spoken advice, making it clear that 'whatever might be Men or Measures', it was for the poet 'to be silent and obedient'.

Homepage Family Genealogy Corbett and Robert Burns 




Corbetts and the Clan Ross



The Corbett Clan Crest is a Raven on a yellow background. It is said that the name Corbett is derived from the French 'corbeille' meaning a raven or someone who is dark-haired. The Motto means - ' God Feeds the Ravens' , that is to say, God looks after the Corbetts. I hope that's true!!


The Corbetts are a sept of the Clan Ross. The Badge of the Clan Ross is shown below.


Arms: gules, three lions rampant Argent, armed and langued Azure

Badge:A hand holding a garland of Juniper.

Motto: Spem successus alit (Success nourishes hope)

Tartans: Ross,Ross hunting,Ross dress.

Plant Badge: Juniper

Septs: Anderson Andison Andrew/s Corbet/t Crow/e Croy Denoon Denune Dingwall Duthie Fair Gair Gear Gillanders Hagart Haggart MacAndrew MacCullie MacCulloch MacLullich MacTaggart MacTear MacTier MacTire Taggart Tullo Tulloch Tyre Vass Wass

 The Clan Ross has an illustrious history dating back at least 800 years. A brief summary of its origins can be found at Clan Ross Origins.

Homepage Family Genealogy Corbetts and the Clan Ross





History of the Semple Name

Origins of Semple

The first records of the family Sempill/Semple were from the county of Renfrewshire in the 1200's. The county is located in the west of Scotland, just east of the city of Glasgow on the River Clyde. Robert de Sempill witnessed a charter of Malcolm, Earl of Lennox ca. 1280.

 The Semples had great possessions of land and held the office of steward of the Barony of Renfrew. This barony or lords has been carried down to the present day.

They also held the office of sheriff and occupied seats in Parliament. They also owned land in the counties of Ayr and Lanark and were remote barons in the Elliestoun area.

Semple Coat of Arms & Crest

Blazon of Arms: Argent, a chevron chequy Gules and of the First between three hunting horns Sable, garnished and stringed of the Second.

Crest: A stag's head Argent attired with ten tynes Azure and collared with a prince's crown Or.

Motto: Keep Tryst

Supporters: Two greyhounds Argent, collared Gules.

Standard: The Arms in the hoist and of two tracts Gules and Argent,upon which is depicted three times the Crest, ensigned of a Baron's coronet along with the Motto "Keep tryst" in letters Gules upon two transverse bands Or. 

Origin and Development of the Name Semple

The surname Semple appears localised in origin. It is believed to have come from the Strathclyde Britons, an ancient founding race of Gaelic-Celts in the north and lived in the Lancashire to River Clyde area. The name could possibly have arisen from the words 'St. Paul' for one who came from or lived near that place, or 'small', describing perhaps stature or a humble character. Another possible origin is from the word 'simple' which in the past meant straightforward or trustworthy.

There are several spellings of the name: Semple, Simple, Sample, Sempill, Sempell, Symple and Semphill. This often occurred, even between father and son. Sometimes the person could not write their own name so the officials and church clergy often wrote the name as it sounded. Even within documents, the name was spelled one way and signed another.

  Homepage Family Genealogy History of the Semple Name



Semple and the Calton Weavers

Joseph Semple my maternal great- great grandfather was a handloom weaver in Maybole, Ayrshire. In early married life he moved with his wife Sarah (nee Sarah Ann Murray) to the Calton District of Glasgow, then a focal point in the West of Scotland for the weaving trade.


Conditions for the weavers in the 19th century were atrocious. In addition with the introduction of the powered loom came even more poverty and social unrest. This has been documented in the Barony district of Glasgow, including the Calton area, and in Maybole. (See Barony Weavers and The Maybole Weavers Uprising of 1831).

Joseph Semple and his wife Sarah Ann Murray were both born into weaving families in 1828 in Maybole and it is likely that their parents were actively involved in the Weavers Uprising


  Homepage Family Genealogy Semple and the Calton Weavers 





Music on this Page

If you have a sound card you may be able to hear a tune called ' The Calton Weaver'.

The first verse of The Calton Weaver Folksong goes as follows:-

I'm a weaver, a Calton weaver
I'm a rash and a roving blade;
I've got siller in my pouches
I gang and follow the roving trade

As the verse says the weavers followed where they could find work and it is no surprise that poverty and deprivation followed them.

  Homepage Family Genealogy Music on this Page




Genealogy Links

Family Genealogy

Corbett Study Group


Corbett Family Genealogical Forum


East Ayrshire Family History Society


Ayrshire Roots





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