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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

This study endeavours to share documentation, provide clarification and flesh out the bare bones of earlier research on various ancestors. It hopes to minimize duplication of effort and expand the scope of research from one particular family to a larger family of origin where all descendants can find their place.

The name was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2018.

Variant names

Cozby is a variant particular to a line in Charles Cosby’s Virginia family.

Name origin

Cosby is an English surname. It originated as a habitational name from a place in Leicestershire named Cosby, from an Old English personal name Cossa + Old Norse býr ‘farm’, ‘settlement’. (Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press)

A query of the surnames of England and Wales returns a count of 542 and is ranked 10,667. (Source: Surnames, England & Wales, National Statistics 2002). 

Historical occurrences of the name

Notable family members include:

  • Francis Cosby (1510-80): Born in Great Leake, Nottinghamshire, England, he settled at Stradbally, Queens County, Ireland during the Tudor conquest of Leinster.

    • One of his grandsons, Charles, went to Virginia in 1628 and established an extensive Virginia line.

    • Another of his grandsons, Richard, produced a wave of emigrants in the early 1700’s. They included sailors, soldiers, government officials and merchant adventurers. Brothers and cousins, they travelled and served together in different countries. They were very mobile and left descendants in many countries including Canada, Australia, India and the Caribbean.

  • William Cosby (1685-1736): Governor of New York and New Jersey (1732-36). Bound as an apprentice by his older brother, this William Cosby had his heart set on joining the army at an early age and prevailed against the wishes of his parents. He distinguished himself at a siege of Tournai and was made a lieutenant for his bravery and courage. He caught the attention of a mentor who sent him to Utrecht for an education. As a Colonel with the 18th Irish Regiment, he served in Minorca, Gibraltar, the Leeward Islands, and was Governor of New York and New Jersey from 1732 until his death at Fort George, New York in 1736;

    • His daughter eloped with Lord Augustus Fitzroy and bore two sons from which the Dukes of Grafton have descended since that time.
    • Her great-grandson, Robert Fitzroy, Captain of HMS Beagle, hired Charles Darwin as his Naturalist.
  • Alexander Cosby (1682-1743): Brother to William (noted above). This Alexander was apprenticed to a merchant but ran away to sea after “indiscretions with his master’s wife”. Whilst at sea, he was apprehended by Spaniards who gave him the choice of either “walking the plank” or being left on a deserted island. Choosing the island, he flagged down a rescue ship one week later and was reunited with his family. He obtained a commission in the army and was commanded to Annapolis, Nova Scotia later becoming Lt Governor of the garrison at Fort Anne. He left a legacy of mischief and strife and a son;
    • Admiral Phillips Cosby (1726-10 Jan 1828): The first Canadian-born British Admiral. Born Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Appointed marine-aid-de-camp by General James Wolfe and was with him at Quebec in 1759. Said to have been present with the Duke of Grafton (his uncle) when Napoleon offered his services to the British Army but was declined.
  • Alexander Cosby (c. 1716-1759): As a solider, he was sent to India by the Directors of the East India Company on a mission to reorganize the company’s troops. He served with Lawrence Stringer (1697-1775), Founder of the Indian Army. Alexander died at Surat age 39 and left a son;
    • Sir Henry Augustus Montague Cosby (1743-1822): Henry was born in Minorca where his father was stationed. He first saw service as a volunteer in the army at the age of 13. At about the age of 17, he distinguished himself by saving the life of the major commanding H.M.'s 79th regiment, who offered him an ensigncy in his regiment, which he refused. He was knighted for his services at the age of 40. He left a number of children, some of whom never left India.

  • George Cosby (c. 1759-65; d. 1806): Born in “the Jerseys” or “The Province of New York”, George  served 4 years in the 2nd Battalion of (Rogers’s) King’s Rangers (1780-84), headquartered at St. John’s, Quebec during the American War of Independence.  In 1787 he appeared in Niagara (Ontario, Canada) and petitioned for a land grant as compensation for his military service.  He told his grandson that he came from the Cosby family at Stradbally but his parental links have never been identified.  He left numerous descendants in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada.


At some point, every document trail goes cold. DNA results have the ability to jump over hurdles until supporting documentation is found. In a one-name study where the focus is on the paternal line, the focus is on Y-DNA. As a result, this ONS is being launched simultaneously with a Y- DNA project of the same name.  If you are a male member of this family, please consider joining the Y-DNA project.


Portrait of Admiral Phillips Cosby, circa 1800.

Source: .

Author: Gold, Joyce [publisher];Ridley, William [engraver];Robinson [artist]