The Gorby Coat-of-Arms

historyIt has always been assumed that Samuel Gorby came to America from England, and there was at least one Gorby living in Manchester, England until 1908.

In 1987, I had the good fortune to spend a week in England (before I was interested in Gorby genealogy), but I did inquire at the Windsor Research Services (who claim to specialize in Genealogical, Heraldic and Historical research) if there was a Gorby coat of arms. I was told one did exist, and it was described as: Argent, a fret vert, on a canton sable, a stag at gaze proper. The crest was described as three ostrich feathers, a plume proper.

Ah-Hah!, thought I. So much for the folk who go around in the States peddling the Gorby coat of arms as being a "royal rose". That most closely resembles the arms of the house of Lancaster more than any other I've seen. English heraldry closely guards who may have a crown on their arms, so this version is most likely a prefabrication. This English version MUST be the correct one, especially as the book the grey-haired researcher pulled the information from looked older than he.

Finally, to verify that the information I was given that we did have a Coat of Arms that actually had belonged to a someone named Gorby, we went the Ultimate Authority on Arms in the areas once controled by the mighty British Empire - The College of Arms in London.

After three months of not-so-patiently waiting for the College to complete it's research, we Finally received the long awaited letter in the mail. Ripping the envelope concealing it's precious contents, I eagerly read what it contained.

The Answer to the Question as to who the Owner of this Gorby Coat-of-Arms is:
No One.
That is correct gentle reader, the Official word from the College of Arms in London is that there has Never been Arms granted to anyone with the name of Gorby. Not in England, not in Scotland, not in Wales, not in Ireland. They consider Gorby to be a variant of Corby, so they also researched Corby at the same time. A Corby associated with a Bank was granted Arms in 1916. Never earlier.

So if anyone offers to sell you a Gorby Coat-of-Arms, Just Say No!

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Gorbys in Ireland

 Recent developments have made the certainty that Samuel Gorby was from England a lot less certain. There were also, and apparantly still are, Gorbys who lived and are living in Ireland. The 1871 Canadian Census from Ontario lists three Gorbys, one born in Ireland in 1813 and two born in Ontario in 1803 and 1845 of Irish ethnic origin. To confuse the issue further, the eldest of the three is listed as Roman Catholic while the other two are listed as Anglican. I have no idea how these Irish Gorbys fit into the scheme of things. Here is the information on these Gorbys:

Thomas Gorby, Born: 1803 @ Ontario. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Ethnic Origin: IRISH. Occupation: Unknown.

William Gorby, Born: 1813 @ IRELAND. Religion: Church of England, Anglican.
Ethnic Origin: IRISH. Occupation: Farmer.

Thomas Gorby, Born: 1845 @ Ontario. Religion: Church of England, Anglican.
Ethnic Origin: IRISH. Occupation: Farmer.

 In May, 1997, Terry managed to make e-mail contact with a Gorby born and raised in Ireland. Her comment was "Quite possible we are distant relations as all Gorbys seem to be part of the same family."

Later in that same month, I was able to talk to on the telephone, one Aidan Gorby, a gentleman who lives south of Dublin. He said that he was delighted to hear from us. Luckily, his sister tracks information about his branch of the family, and he has offered to send us the information they have about their line. He also said that several years ago, he received a letter from a Gorby who lived in New Zealand!

We are quite excited about this contact, and hope that this will open a new area of research into our family. What this information does do is raise the possibility that there are multiple Gorby lines here in the US and that while we may all still be related, we may not all be descendant from Samuel and Mary (May) Gorby.

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The Traditional Gorby History

"Traditional" or oral family histories often contain the most unreliable information about a family, but they are at least an amusing read, so here is the Gorby Family history as it appeared in Alva Gorby's 1936 edition.

The Meaning of the Name Gorby

The name Gorby is of Norwegian origin. The syllable "Gor" comes from the same root word as the first syllable in the word garden. The second syllable - "bi" in the Norwegian Language - means to live in a town or city but to go to the country to do one's work. Therefore the name Gorby showed the owner to be a "gentleman farmer", living in the town with all the comforts in his home which the town afforded, while he went to his fields to work during the day.

Since so many of the Gorby pioneers were farmers, and so many of the present generations are following in the footsteps of their ancestors, the name Gorby could not have been more wisely chosen, and there must be "something in a name".

The Gorbys in Norway

Hundreds of years ago the Gorbys lived in Norway. One family, so the story goes, decided to emigrate to England. On the voyage the ship was caught in a storm and many of the passengers were lost. Of the Gorby family, only one small boy was left.

This little lad could not yet talk plainly and the others could not be sure whether he said his name was Gorby or Corby. Later, tradition says, some of this boy's descendants took the name Gorby and others Corby. This same legend exists in the Corby families of Hazelton, PA and of Washington, DC, so there must have been some foundation for this story.

(1997 Note: Terry's father maintains that the version he grew up with is that Gorby is of Swedish origin.)

(1997 Note: Terry received the following information on the origin of the Gorby name from a company specializing in Irish genealogy. We know that the Gorby name was here in the US long before 1851, but this does add evidence of there being more than one Gorby line in existence here. This information also lends some creedance to the Gorby and Corby connection, and seems to indicate why the earlier Gorbys thought there was a Norwegian connection.)

There are two explanations for the origin of the Irish surname Gorby and its variants Corby, Corboy and Mac Corboy.

Firstly, Gorby is an anglicized form of the Gaelic "Mac Corrbuidhe", the name of a sept in Leix, Offaly and north Tipperary. The orgin of "Mac Corrbuidhe" is uncertain, but research suggests that it is composed of "corr" meaning "crane" and "buidhe" meaning "yellow".

However, it is also possible that Gorby is ultimately of English origin, having been introduced into Ireland by English settlers. In this instance, the name is of toponymic orgin, that is, derived from the place where the original bearer once lived or held land. Here the name denotes "one who came from Corby", the name of various places in northern England. Those in Counties Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire are derived from the Old Norse personal name "kori (of unknown orgin)" and "byr originally meaning "farm, settlement and in time village, town" whereas the one in Cumbria is derived fron the Old Irish personal name "Corc" again with the Old Norse suffix, "byr". In England this surname or a variant is first recorded in the Hundred Rolls of 1273 where we find Alan de Corby of Co. Leicestershire. Thomas Corby and Friswere Rich were married in St. James Clerkenwell in 1591 and the marriage of Thomas Corby and Ann Sparrow is registered in St. George Hannover Square in 1757.

The name was introduced into America by Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. Passenger lists show that one Pat Corby, a 20 year old laborer, sailed froom LIverpool to New York on the "James-H. Shepherd" in August 1851. In July of the same year, Wm. Gorby, an 18 year old laborer, sailed the same route on board the "Queen-of-the-West.

The Gorbys in England

Only fragments of Gorby history after their reaching England have yet been found, as there has been little effort made along that line, so the little we have is almost mythical.

One myth is that the Earl of Richmond was a Gorby, knighted by King Henry VIII for some special deed, or, with Henry's reputation, it may have been a misdeed. It is also claimed that John Richmond, the father of Hannah Richmond who married Job Gorby, the oldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Allman) Gorby was a descendant of this Earl of Richmond.

There is a claim that the Gorby's owned Corfe Castle in England for many years, and that the last owners were Katherine Gorby and a sister, both single. The last one to die was Katherine, who died December 28, 1908, at Charleton Union Hospital, Manchester, England. Her address was 47 Booth St, East Charleton, Manchester. There were no heirs after the death of these sisters, and the Castle was held by the Crown, the revenues being managed by the Bank of England.

Mr Leon A Gorby of East Palestine, OH, has had quite a little correspondence with authorities in England on this question. Lord Salisbury himself answered at one time and enclosed two postcard pictures of the Castle, one of the moat which was in ruins, and one of the gates which were in good condition. Mr Gorby sent these pictures to Mr Josephus Gorby, then of Mansfield, OH. But the tradition that the Gorbys ever owned Corfe Castle is probably one of the biggest myths of them all.

Information concerning Katherine Gorby was obtained from the Chief Clerk, Reg 186 Deansgate, Manchester, England, and the Manchester Guardian, Daily paper, 3 Cross St, Manchester, England. (1997 Note: The modern equivalent of the Chief Clerk's office is most likely the Greater Manchester County Record Office, 56 Marshall St, Manchester, M4 5FU - Tel: 0161-832-5284 - Email: There is also the Manchester Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Cumberland House, Spinning Field, Manchester, M60 3RG - Tel: 0161-234-7878.)

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle has existed since the early part of the 10th century and in those days of constant strife in England it changed hands with almost every revolution. It is located on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorsetshire, England, about four miles from the southern coastline, 130 miles from London. The Castle guards a gap in a line of hills in the center of Purbeck. It was a stronghold for hundreds of years and was constantly changing hands, and was the scene of tragedy, imprisonments, foul crime, and sometimes a retreat for those oppressed.

The foulest crime was the murder of young King Edward I. He had been hunting in Wareham, near Corfe, and at the close of the day went to Corfe to call on his step-mother, the queen Elfrida. She kissed him, gave him some wine, and while he was drinking it had him stabbed in the back. This threw a gloom over the Castle which time has never been able to dispel. The dead king was cannonized and the gate was named St Edward's gate in his honor.
(1997 Note: This is the Saxon King Edward in 978AD, not King Edward I. His step-mother was named Aelfthryth.)

In one of the many changes of ownership it was conferred upon the Duke of Richmond by Henry VIII. If there is any truth in the claim that the Gorby's descended from the earl of Richmond, that may account for the ownership of Corfe Castle at one time by the Gorbys - providing there is any truth in the latter claim. But so far this is all just traditional.

(1978 Note: Gorby descendant Lyn Black writes that a 1977 inquiry into Corfe Castle brought this reply, "Corfe Castle? I know it well, but these days not much remains of that Castle. It's set in a lovely position tho, in a dear village.")
(1997 Note: What I have found indicates that this castle was owned by the Crown when Henry III was king (1216-1272), and continued to be owned by the Crown until it was destroyed in 1646. For more on Corfe Castle and it's history, try the Corfe Castle Page).

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