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Arms of the Washbourne family of Washbourne & Wichenford" - "Argent on a fess between six martlets gules three cinquefoils of the field" (Papworth's Armorials)
Arms of Sir John Washborne of Washbourne, Bretforton & Orleton in Estham (formally of Dufford) - "Argent a fess between six martlets gules" (Burke's General Armory)

Washburn (alternatively Wasseburne, Wasseborne, Wasshebourne, Wassheborne, Washbourne, Washburne, Washborne, Washborn, Wasborn, Washbon, Washman, etc.) is a toponymic surname, probably of Old English origin, with likely Anglo-Norman and Norman-French influences after the Conquest, as the name evolved.


The surname has several origins in England:

Worcestershire and Gloucestershire[edit]

The family, of Norman origin, can be traced through the lands in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire called "Little Washbourne" and "Great Washbourne". Little Washbourne, historically in the parish of Overbury, Worcestershire, and the manor thereon, eventually became known as "Knights Washbourne", for the many from this line that bore that honour. In the Herald's College, London, Vol. I., page 54, is given: Washbourne. "A name of ancient Norman descent; the founder was knighted on the field of battle by William the Conqueror and endowed with the lands of Little Washbourne and Great Washbourne, Counties of Gloucester and Worcester".

The name may have come from the Saxon for "from the flooding brook,"[2] with "wash" meaning "swift moving current of a stream," and "burn" referring to a brook or a small stream. It may have originated from the River Isbourne, which flowed near Little and Great Washbourne.

The Washburn name and variations[edit]

The name was anciently "Wasseburn" or "-born". C. W. Bardsley's Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames states that "Wasse" was anciently and still is a common surname in Yorkshire. It is a place name derived from the various river and sea beaches subject to overflow by floods and tides, hence known as wasses and now as cashes. "Wasseburn" signified a flowing stream. The little ham that stood upon its banks took its name from the stream, and the proprietor or lord of the village was so and so de Wasseborn, just as the parson was the most important person in the parish. The form "Wasseborn" is the form first met with about 1100; and "Wasseborn" or "-burn" continued in common use by the family with the occasional addition of a final "e" until about the middle of the 17th century when the family wrote the name "Washbourne", a form which still prevails in England.

Through all the first two periods, writers of public documents, even of wills, felt themselves at liberty to suit their own convenience or taste in spelling the name, so that great varieties of spelling are found in public documents and varieties in the same document. Thus in the will of John Washburn of Bengeworth, it is "Wassheburns"; in his wife's "Wasborn"; in his son's "Wasburne" and in the inventory "Wasborne"; in the burgess' will "Washborne"; in his wife's "Wasburne" and "Washborne"; in the public registers of Bengeworth pretty uniformly "Wasborne". John the emigrant wrote his name "Washborn". In America three forms of spelling have prevailed - the most common "Washburn", "Washborn", and "Washburne", with even a greater variety of spelling of the name than is found in England, and not always by outsiders.[3]

The first to use it as a surname was Sir Roger d'Wasseburne, ancestor of the American immigrant Washburns' of Plymouth Colony. Washbourne Manor at Little Washbourne, was the ancient seat of the family, shown in Doomsday for that of Urse d'Abitot, and later recorded for Sir Roger d'Wasseburne, in the 1200s. Roger is shown as "of Washbourne, Stanford and Little Cumberton". His son Sir John d'Wasseburne, is recorded as "of Washbourne, Bretforton & Orleton in Estham". This Roger and John of the 1200s, are the first to use the surname.

Descendant in the male line of the "Knights Washbourne", the first American colonist of the family, being that of John Washborn (Sr.), b. 1597 in Bengeworth, England, came to Plymouth Colony in c. 1631. His son, John Washburn (Jr.), b. 1620, also in Bengeworth, sailed to New England in 1635 on the Elizabeth & Ann, with his mother Margery and brother Phillip. He married in 1645, Elizabeth Mitchell, daughter of Experience and Jane (Cooke) Mitchell, of Duxbury, Plymouth Colony. She was the granddaughter of Francis Cooke, who came to America on the Mayflower. They settled first in Duxbury and had eleven children, including the first notable set of Seven Brothers in the American Washburn line. It has been suggested that a likely 90% of the American Washburns hail from one of these "Seven Brothers".

Another contributor to the American Washburn line, a younger brother of John Sr., William Washburne, the immigrant ancestor to Connecticut Colony, and later Hempstead, Long Island, did not join his brother John Washburn in Plymouth Colony. He remained in England, where he raised a large family, and finally sailed with his in-laws to New England. They settled first in Stratford, Connecticut Colony, with the Nichols', eventually settling in Hempstead. He and his wife, Jane Nichols, had 9 or 10 children.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 19,505 Washburns in the United States, making it the 1,685th most common name in the country.[4] There are also a number of Washburns in Canada, many of whom are descendants of United Empire Loyalist Ebenezer Washburn.

Coat of arms[edit]

Arms of Sir Roger d'Wasseburne - "Gules bezantée on a canton or a raven sable" - (Joseph Foster)

"Gules bezantée on a canton or a raven sable"[edit]

Roger de Washbourne.png The first coat of arms met with for this family were recorded in the St George's Roll, c. 1285 for Sir Roger d'Wasseburne. The blazon, "Gules bezantée on a canton or a raven sable", suggested to early writers a familial connection to the Houses of la Zouche ("Gules bezantée") and le Corbet ("Or a raven sable"), but this connection has yet to be corroborated. It is possible that these arms were borne, rather, in feudal homage to these Houses, but again, this possibility is conjecture. The later recording of these same arms is shown here, by Joseph Foster in 1902, and suggests a slightly different blazon, "Gules ten bezants 4, 3, 2, 1" for la Zouche. This is actually a very common variation in heraldry and is noted so in the description of the arms on the page for Zouche.

"Gules bezantée on a canton or a cross sable"[edit]

Washborne COA.png Another COA as shown in Burkes General Armory for "Washborne" - "Gules bezantée on a canton or a cross sable". The specific Washborne family member that bore these arms is, as yet unknown.

"Argent a fess between six martlets gules"[edit]

Washbourne 2.jpg When the vast estates that Urse d'Abitot had accumulated were usurped from his son Roger, a substantial portion of the same, including the lands of Little Washbourne, were ultimately bestowed upon his sister's husband, Sir Walter Beauchamp of Elmley. The Washbourne family that resided at Little Washbourne thereafter, did so as under-tenants to their now over-lords, the Beauchamps of Elmley Castle. The arms for this branch of Beauchamps' were "Gules a fess between six martlets or", as shown next.

Sir John d'Wasseburne, formally of Dufford, son of Sir Roger, is the first Washbourne to be recorded as having borne the Beauchamp "a fess between six martlets" arms, changing the tincture's to the Washbourne colors of Argent and Gules as shown.

"Gules a fess between six martlets or"[edit]

Walter de Beauchamp of Elmley Castle.gif The arms for Sir Walter Beauchamp of Elmley Castle, bore a red shield with gold fess and martlets, and the Washbournes' bore a silver shield with red charges, as shown above. This feudal homage was also borne by and recorded for several other families. Members of the Wysham, Walshe, Waleys, Burdett, Blount, Cardiff and other families, all bore these "fess between six martlets" arms, in differing tinctures. All of these other families are recorded as marrying into the Beauchamp family.

"On a fess between six martlets three quatrefoils slipped sideways"[edit]

Washburn arms as used by Washburn College.png Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas, adopted a variation of the Washbourne Arms, using creative license to alter the tinctures (colors), to its school's colors, and used it as its own logo. The college, originally chartered as "Lincoln College", changed its name to "Washburn College", after a substantial pledge was received from Massachusetts Industrialist Ichabod Washburn. Since becoming "Washburn University", the school has abandoned the Washburn Arms logo. They're now using a stylized "W" in its place. The school mascot "The Ichabod", is still in use.

"Argent on a fess between six martlets gules three cinquefoils of the field"[edit]

Washbourne 1.jpg These are the Arms of the main branch, the Wassheborne's of Wassheborne and Wichenford, who were seated at Wichenford Court, Worcestershire. Shown in the 1569 Visitation of Worcestershire for Washburne, also recorded in Papworth's Armorials and Burke's General Armory. The direct male line ceased with William Washbourne, Esq., of Wichenford and Pytchley.

People with the surname Washburn[edit]

The linked page could easily be titled, "The Washburn Family of Livermore, Maine".

Washburns in Canada[edit]

Washburns in the United States[edit]

Washburns in fiction[edit]

People with the surname Washburne[edit]

People with the surname Washbourne[edit]


  • Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials, by John W. Papworth (John Woody), 1820-1870; Morant, Alfred William Whitehead, 1828-1881, ed, p. 809
  • Burke: The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, by Sir Bernard Burke, Harrison, London, 1884, p. 1080
  • Joseph Foster - Some Feudal Coats of Arms, J. Parker Oxford & Co., 1902
  • Herald's College, London, Vol. I., page 54, Washbourne.
  • Bardsley: C. W. Bardsley's Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, p. 795
  • Ebenezer Washburn: His Ancestors and Descendants, by Geo. T. Washburn (a family story of 700 years)
  • Political Graveyard


  1. ^ Hanks, Patricia; Hodges, Flavia, eds. (2002). Oxford Names Companion. A Dictionary of Surnames. p. 653. ISBN 019 860561 7. 
  2. ^ Baby names
  3. ^ Ebenezer Washburn: His Ancestors and Descendants by Geo. T. Washburn
  4. ^ http://names.mongabay.com/data/w/WASHBURN.html
  5. ^ Maine Memory Network - Cadwallader Lincoln Washburn
  6. ^ deaf artist

External links[edit]

External links[edit]