On separate page: Status Report, up to Apr. 2021
Summary (July 2020, updated to Jan. 2022)
There were two families originally going by the name Loban. One originated in or around Drumderfit, in the Black Isle area of Ross-Shire, as told in legends; genetically they appear to be Celtic. Their name gradually changed to Logan, which was a common name in that region, though this is seen in the records only a few times, and seems to have been well underway before the extant records. It is not clear yet whether there are any living descendants still spelling the name Loban (or modified to Lobban).
The other family originated in Moray, perhaps from Anglian settlers in the first millenium or from a later Flemish immigrant, as they have Germanic Y-DNA. There were very few Logans in this this area and when the name changed it was usually to Lobban, which seems to be a uniquely Scottish name. There is no genetic connection between these two groups, which I now refer to as the Highland Lobans/Logans and Lowland Lobans/Lobbans, respectively. The name Loban also occurs in other parts of the world, unconnected to the Scottish name. We expect that the descendants of each branch are approximately equally numerous, but the Highland branch members are hidden among the multiorigin Logans. (A detailed essay on this is in preparation.)
Origin: legends and hypotheses
According to 19th C. histories (image below from Anderson 1825), the name Loban originated in the Inverness area, at Drumderfit about 1372, and tells that these Lobans were of the Clan MacLennan. This has resulted in the Lobans being accepted as a Sept of Clan MacLennan and using their tartan. At present the genetic connection between the MacLennans and Highland Lobans, if any, is unknown.
George Fraser Black, in The Surnames of Scotland (1948), wrote:
“LOBAN. A Moray surname; a belt of a few miles along the Moray Firth it is said holds most of them. The name is explained as from Gaelic loban or lopan, and ‘was given to the progenitor, who is said to have been a Maclennan, from his having hidden under a peat-cart or sledge’ (Henderson, NI., p. 120). The date is about 1400. The legendary story of the origin of the name was first published by David Carey, the first editor of the Inverness Journal, in his novel Lochiel, or the Field of Culloden, London, 1820. Sir Charles Lowbane, a cleric, was witness to a submission anent the lands of Strathnarne, 1542 (Cawdor, p. 166), William Lobane in 1560 was tenant in Drumderfit (Macbain, Inverness names, p. 76), and John Loban was a tenant under the marquis of Huntlie, 1600 (SCM., IV, p. 288). Jonat Lobane and others were accused in 1614 of ‘crewel vnmerceifull murther’ in Inverness (Rec. Inv., II, p. 121), and Robert Lobein in Deir was charged in 1627 with being an ‘idle and masterless man’ (RPC.). George Lobban in Bodylair, parish of Glass, is mentioned, 1716 (SCM., IV, p. 168); John Lobon appears in Ternemnie, 1703 (Banff Rec., p. 244); and Elspat Lobban was the maiden name of the mother of James Fergusson, the astronomer. Alexander Lobban in Garland, parish of Dundurcas, 1773 (Moray), and John Lobban was member of Huntly Volunteers, 1798 (Will, p. 7).” [Black, p. 433; emphasis added]
and, under MacGhilleghuirm, ‘Son of the blue lad,’ “Gillegorm was a hero of the Maclennans, ancestor of the Lobans….” [Black, p. 496]
However, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, late Lord Lyon in his The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland (1952) thought there were two groups:
“William Lobane appears in 1564 as tenant in Drumderfit in the Black Isle, where the family were so long tenants that the local proverb says ‘as old as the Lobans of Drumderfit.’ . . . It seems more likely that the Morayshire and Banffshire Lobbans are of a different origin. ”
My late uncle, Alan Rudge (1933–2017), researched the Lobban/Loban name extensively and came to the same conclusion as the Lord Lyon: two groups, one centered in Banffshire being separate from the Inverness families (ms here). He drew the map reproduced below; note the locations of LOBAN 1 (Highland Lobans) and LOBAN 2 (Lowland Lobans).
He further hypothesized that LOBAN 2 originated from a progenitor from France, who arrived in 1534 with the Abbott of Kinloss, that this man “Scottished” his name to Loban, and that his descendants settled in Banffshire and neighboring Elgin/Moray and Aberdeen. This specific hypothesis has not been supported by DNA data, but it does seem that the founder was from the Continent, perhaps a century earlier. Malcolm Lobban (see his book, p. 11) adds to the potential continental European origin by noting the large number of Flemish people who settled in Scotland over a 600 year period and held positions of influence, including sovereigns of Scotland. The University of St. Andrews is actively researching the Flemish influence, which extended throughout our Northeast Scotland area. On the basis of a small amount of Y-DNA evidence, we have revised the hypothesis to propose that the founder was a Flemish immigrant, possibly in the early 1400s. The results of our first year of work testing these hypotheses are presented in the Status Report, Apr. 2021.
A map (below) compiling all the baptism and marriage records for Lobban in NE Scotland (in the case of marriages, only the groom), shows that there was a cluster of parishes centered on Rothiemay, Banffshire, where the name occurred during the period of extant Church of Scotland records (i.e., up to 1855). The periods for which records exist vary from parish to parish, but of particular note is the missing Rothiemay records from 1711–1748, a time when there were many Lobans living in the parish. These missing records would greatly increase the number for Rothiemay. The descendants of this hypothetical ancestor spread into this region and multiplied, but then declined. Hence, I am also interested in the diaspora, particularly those who emigrated to England, Australia, Canada, and the USA.
We knew that it is unlikely that further written evidence about the proposed progenitor will be found, given the destruction of Catholic Church records after the Reformation, and the general dearth of records before 1600. However, we realized that we might get evidence for some aspects of these hypotheses from study of Y-DNA; for more on the Y-DNA project see the Y-DNA Project pages and the Progress Report, Sep. 2019.
Several people have considered the relationship between Logans and Lobans in this part of Scotland. Of course, Logan is a widespread name with probably many origins. However, in the Drumderfit story (above) both names are mentioned in the same breath. Malcolm Lobban, in his 2008 book, The Scottish Surname LOBBAN, has summarized the evidence, and concluded that Loban might actually be the earlier name. Indeed there is a record of one of the tenants at Drumderfit being a Loban. There are examples of this orthographic switch in the family records mentioned in this web site (e.g., South African Logan line), and it appears to have been widespread in the centuries before records; my detailed essay arguing that perhaps all of the living descendants of the Highland Lobans are called Logan is here. Malcolm’s chapter is available here (download pdf) [or get the entire book here].
My “Germanic” DNA greatly puzzled me at first. I first speculated that the most-recent common ancestor of the Lowland Lobbans was a Flemish immigrant, and I mention this idea several places in this site. But another possibility is suggested by a great article about the origin and survival of the Scots language in Atlas Obscura, where the author describes the Anglian people who moved into England and then Scotland after the collapse of the Roman Empire:
The Anglian people, who were Germanic, started moving northward through England from the end of the Roman Empire’s influence in England in the fourth century. By the sixth, they started moving up through the northern reaches of England and into the southern parts of Scotland. Scotland and England always had a pretty firm border, with some forbidding hills and land separating the two parts of the island. But the Anglians came through, and as they had in England, began to spread a version of their own Germanic language throughout southern Scotland.
There was no differentiation between the language spoken in Scotland and England at the time; the Scots called their language “Inglis” for almost a thousand years. But the first major break between what is now Scots and what is now English came with the Norman Conquest in the mid-11th century…. Over the next few centuries, Scots, which was the language of the southern Scottish people, began to creep north while Scottish Gaelic, the language of the north, retreated. By about 1500, Scots was the lingua franca of Scotland.
[Sidebar 1] Surnames and climate change
As an interesting aside, Wayne Shepheard published an essay in the Journal of One-Name Studies, 13 (4), Oct-Dec 2018*, proposing that surnames came into widespread use as a result of the sudden drop in temperatures and increased storminess near the end of the 13th C., when the Medieval Warm Period in Europe disappeared into the harsh Little Ice Age (approx 1300–1850), with major consequences for agriculture. New social welfare programs were necessary to help the destitute, and these in turn likely spurred the adoption of surnames (already underway) so that government and churches could better identify people on tax and welfare rolls. The history of Drumderfit begins not long into this period, when surnames were perhaps still rather fluid.
*Viewable online by logged-in ONS members at https://one-name.org/members/journal/pdfs/vol13-4.pdf. Besides the references in this article, there are two relevant articles in Scottish Geographical Journal, Wittington 1985 and Dodgshon 2005 (full text) . The latter mentions the most severe phase, the Maunder Minimum, about 1645–1715.
[Sidebar 2] Two notes on first names in historical times.
(1) I picked this information off the Jam?son Family Network site. and it is very helpful in explaining why there are so many Alexander, John, James and William Lobbans; I reproduce it verbatim:
During the 1600’s and through the 1800’s, many cultures followed the custom of naming their children in a specific manner, generation after generation. This was especially true to those people in the British Isles, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. This practice remained pretty much in tact as families began emigrating throughout the world, certainly among the Ulster Scots and the early settlers in Colonial America. This is, no doubt, why so many identical or similar names appear generation after generation within the same family. This practice continued, even as middle names became more common, beginning about the early 1800’s, but waned somewhat by the middle or latter 1800’s as cultures intermixed and traditions diminished. Although still used by some families, naming patterns and traditions seem no longer as widespread, or at least far less so.
The most common ‘old’ method seems to be as follows:
- Eldest son – named after his paternal grandfather
- Second son – after his maternal grandfather
- Third son – after his father
- Fourth son – after his father’s eldest brother
- Eldest daughter – after her maternal grandmother
- Second daughter – after her paternal grandmother
- Third daughter – after her mother
- Fourth daughter – after her mother’s eldest sister
Sometimes the order is reversed — the eldest son is named after his maternal grandfather, etc.
(2) In contrast, it was long popular in the USA to commemorate presidents and other public figures in boys names. Thus in the US Loban line and the descendants of John Lobban of Virginia, we find such names as George Washington Lobban (1826–1891), Abraham Lincoln Loban (1865–1953), Henry Clay Lobban (1857–1892), Carrington Lee Lobban (1887–1951), and Stonewall Jackson Lobban (1867–1939). A Time history article explains, ” [An early Puritan] tradition of using the last name of the beloved person as the first name of the child eventually expanded to include people who did not have a personal relationship with the parents. ‘After the Revolution this became a way to honour famous men,’ wrote Cleveland K. Evans in the Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming. ‘Presidents like Washington and Madison; statesmen like Franklin and others provided popular male names.” In recent times that trend has diminished.
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Page by Christopher S. Lobban, posted 13 July 2019, last edited 8 Jan 2023.