Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Hobson is a large one-name study. There are 8,600 occurrences of the Hobson name (including variants) in the England & Wales 1881 census and around 7000 in the US 1880 census.
This implies there could be a total of around 90,000 Hobson births in the UK (15th century to current day) and we estimate there could be around 50,000 Hobson births outside the UK.
Our aim is to construct the Hobson family trees (as far as is feasible) in all countries.
The current UK focus is to extend the Hobson family trees backwards in time from 1851 to earlier. This does not preclude research on the more recent Hobson families, but “modern” research is secondary and usually arises in response to an enquiry. The one-name study overview of the earlier records is essential to give more certainty to our research and to reduce the number of Hobson family trees further.
Due to the introduction and expansion of online records, many family historians are now able to trace their roots back to 1841/51 or, if the enquirer does not have access to online records, we can usually manage it for them. We therefore believe that working on the earlier, more disparate and incomplete Hobson records provides more benefit to the general public.
With the introduction of the new GRO indexes, a parallel exercise is being conducted to reconcile all Hobsons (using BMD events) from one census to the next. Whilst this has always been possible for small one-name studies, we now hope it can be achieved for a large study.
Hobsons emigrated to the US from the 17th century onwards. It is estimated that there are at least 15-20 main family lines in the US (excluding ad hoc individuals). Jay Hobson's research of Hobsons in the US is a primary reference point.
We are developing USA, Canadian and Australian Hobson family trees.
We are adding all our paper records to our TNG data base as quickly as possible, but this process is still in its infancy.
The main variant of the name is Hopson. The change occurred as families moved towards the south of England probably due to dialect.
The name is commonly mis-transcribed as Robson (same origin), Holson, Kobson, Hodson, Habsen, Hebson etc.
The “Dictionary of English Surnames” by Reaney & Wilson gives some insight into the origin of the name.
Hobson (Hopson) is derived from son of Hob(b). Hob is a pet-form for Rob/Robert and this also gave rise to names such as Hobbs, Hobbes, Hobbis, Hobbison etc.
Hobson is not related in any way to Hodson/Hodgson (ultimately derived from the diminutive of Hodge, the pet-form for Roger) nor to Hudson (derived from the diminutive of Hudd, a pet-form for Hugh and Richard) nor to Hebson (derived from the diminutive of Hebb, a short form of Hebert/Herbert).
In the introduction, Reaney & Wilson provide some statistics, although they stress that the analysis of names is based on “recorded documentation, much of which relates to the upper classes rather than the large, and proportionally much higher number of peasants”. Reaney & Wilson state that “In the twelfth century, the most popular names were William (10 per cent) and Robert (7 per cent), followed, with variation of order in different documents and counties, by Richard, Ralph, Roger, Hugo and Walter. John (3 per cent) was much less popular.” Over the centuries the frequency of these names has changed and by the fourteenth century “John (34 per cent) was much more popular than William (18 per cent). Then came Thomas (9 per cent), Richard and Robert (6 per cent), Henry, Roger and Geoffrey….”
We can therefore expect the frequency of Robert diminutives/pet-forms to be high and Hobson is no exception. In addition, the name will have developed from numerous people with the name Robert which means that there is an extremely large number of family groupings within the one-name study.
Analysis of the England & Wales 1881 census records shows a predominance of Hobsons in Yorkshire and more specifically in the Sheffield area. Research so far indicates that Hopson developed out of Hobson (probably due to dialect) as the name moved west and south out of Yorkshire.
The distribution of Hobson names in the 1881 census is as follows:
West Yorkshire 2882 (33%) (of which 534 were in Sheffield)
North & East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire 1021 (12%)
Lancashire 1103 (13%)
Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire 1086 (13%)
Other 2500 (29%)
The name arose primarily in Yorkshire, England. Traditionally Hobsons were agricultural workers, stonemasons, carpenters, shoe makers etc. The largest percentage of names still occur in Sheffield and its surrounding areas. The industrial revolution brought Hobsons into Sheffield and other developing cities such as Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool, Doncaster, York and Hull. Stone masons worked on building infrastructure, others took jobs in the steel making industry (there is a large preponderance of cutlers), wool manufacturing and other such industries. Others took advantage of the growth in ship building and moved north to Durham and Teesside. Some Hobsons moved further afield to become potters in the Stoke on Trent/Burslem area and a few moved on to Birmingham. As with all families some Hobsons went to London and the South of England.
There is a large growth of Hobsons in Cambridgeshire from the 16th century onwards (thought to have originated from Yorkshire) and some migrated into Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. This family produced the Cambridge carrier from whom “Hobson’s Choice” was developed.
Hobsons departed for the US and Canada from the 17th century onwards. We have not yet been able to prove many of these origins, but they appear to have originated from Yorkshire often via Ireland. In the 19th century, Hobsons went to New Zealand and Australia. The first governor of New Zealand was William Hobson.
The top US regions where the Hobson name appears are: California, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi
The top Canadian regions are: Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta
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