This most unusual name is of early medieval English, but with French origins. It is job descriptive for a builder or plasterer – one who specialised in using wattle and daub. The surname derives from the Middle English verb “dauben,” meaning to coat with a layer of plaster, itself from the Old French “dauber.” It seems likely that DORBER, DORBAR, DAUBER, DOWBER, DOWEBER, DAWBER, DAUBUR, DABER, DOBER, DOUBER, and DORBERER are all variations of the occupational name denoting a craftsman in wattle and daub and also a whitewasher.
The “English and Welsh Surname Dictionary” has the following entry:
Dauber, Dawber, Dorber, Dorbar –
The surname is by no means extinct.
The first recorded spelling of the family name is a Hugo Dauber, in the Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire, (1216-1272) – others mentioned are:
Willelmus Dauber, 1397: P.T. Yorks. p.44
Johannes Doweber, 1379: ibid. p.49
Johannes Douber 1397: ibid. p.56
Thomas Dorebar, Herefordshire, 1589
Thomas Doarbarre, London 1603
Elizabeth Dorbur, 1617
Ralph Dowber of Little Crosby, 1617: Wills at Chester (1545-1620). p.55
William Dowber, of West Derby, 1614: ibid
When my father [BERNARD 1914-1981], was a child, he was always told that one of our ancestors had come across with William the Conqueror in 1066 – though quite where that story came from, I don’t know.
Surname searches on the internet show that there are many DORBER’s in Germany , and it’s possible therefore, that our surname may have come from Germany. My Dad told me many years ago, that around the time of the First World War, the Dorber Family went out of their way to emphasize that the family name had a French connection rather than a possible unpopular German connection !
The “Origins of English Surnames” by P H Reaney, states that records show that a STEPHEN THE DAUBER worked on Corfe Castle as a plasterer in 1285.
The earliest mention of our spelling of DORBER, is of a JOHN DORBER, christened on 21st Nov. 1596 at the Church of St James the Apostle, Dover. His father’s name is given as RICHARD DORBER. What became of them is not known.
Parish Records across England throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries show there were families with the same or variations of our surname – for example:
ROBERT DARBER, christened in 1578 in St Albans, Hertford
JANE DURBAR, christened in 1589 in Biddulph, Stafford
JOHN DURBAR, christened in 1619 in Warrington
MARTHA DORBARR (1637) at St Thomas the Apostle, London
JOHN DURBER, christened in 1644 in Wigmore, Hereford
HENRY DURBAR, christened (1673), West Chiltington, Sussex
BEBRIES DORBER married in 1673 in Lancaster
JOHN DURBER, christened in 1687 in Selworthy, Somerset
ANN DORBAR, christened in 1692 in Chester
MARY DURBER, christened in 1700 in Christon, Somerset
MARY DORBER, buried in 1717 in Soho, Middlesex
SARAH DORBER, buried 24th April 1766 in Lincoln
HUMPHREY DORBER, son of HUMPHREY and MARY DORBER, was baprised in Gloucestershire on 9th January 1774.
The International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) shows that between 1720 and 1730, DORBER’s are recorded in the Parish Records of several London churches:
WILLIAM DORBER and ANNE gave birth to MARY on 4th February 1720. She was christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster on 26th Feb. 1720. WILLIAM and ANNE also gave birth to MARGARET. She was christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 26th June 1722. Their third daughter JANE was christened on 30th November 1729
WILLIAM DORBER and ANN(E) gave birth to WILLIAM on 9th Nov.1731. He was christened on 13th November 1731 at St Benet Gracechurch & St Leonard, Eastcheap, London.
An ANN DORBER was christened on 25th April 1732 at St Andrews Church, Holborn – neither her birth date nor the name of her parents, is mentioned.
Also, a WILLIAM DORBER married ELIZABETH BROUGHTON on 11th December 1750 at St Bartolph Church, Bishopsgate, London [is this the William born November 1731 ?] It would seem that a WILLIAM and ELIZABETH DORBER had a daughter ELIZABETH who was christened on 2nd December 1753 at All Hallows Church, London Wall.
Records also show that WILLIAM and ELIZABETH DORBER had a daughter SUSANNAH ANN who was christened on 23rd December 1760 at St Mary’s, Whitechapel, London. This event is also recorded in “The London Dockland Ancestors.” Mentioned in that same resource, is a NANCY DORBER, baptized in 1787, though no parents are named.
Church records across the country during the middle and later part of the 18th and early 19th Century seem to indicate a spread of DORBER’s in a north-westerly direction from London – possibly because of the developing Industrial Revolution.
Parish Records in Hawarden, Flintshire, show a number of DORBER children having been baptised in the first half of the 18th Century, but with little or no indication of who were their parents – the records show:
RICUS DORBER was baptised on 22nd May 1726,
MARIA DORBER was baptised on 31st March 1728,
ALICEA DORBER was baptised on 10th May 1730
MARY DORBER was baptised on 20th January 1747, and a RICHARD DORBER and his (unnamed) wife had their daughter JANE DORBER christened on 22nd July 1750 at Hawarden, Flint.
Records for St Mary’s Church, in the nearby Parish of Nannerch, show that:
JOHES DORBER married ANNA DAVIES on 8th June 1726.
RICHARD DORBER married ELIZABETH DAVIES on 30th November 1745.
WILLIAM DORBER married RACHEL MILLINGTON on 8th July 1751.
The Parish Records of Hawarden and Nannerch also have variations of the spelling of our surname – all are likely to be related, and in some cases, it is obvious that the same individual occurs with various spellings of our surname, on different documents:
WILLIAM DURBER was baptised on 6 April 1755 at Hawarden
RICHD. DURBER was baptised on 24 Feb 1760 at Hawarden,
ANN DURBER was baptised on 30 Sept 1761 at Hawarden,
RICHARD DURBER was buried 16 April 1781 at Hawarden,
WILLIAM DURBAR married ELIZABETH DERBYSHIRE on 3rd Sept. 1781 at Hawarden.
ANN DARBAR was married to WILLIAM PRICE at Hawarden on 3 December 1782.
MARIA DORBOR was buried in Nannerch on 19 March 1728,
JOHES DORBOR was buried in Nannerch on 22 May 1732,
An infant DORBOR was buried in Nannerch on 10 March 1735,
MARY DORBOR married JOHN JARVIS on 21st Nov 1745 at Nannerch,
MARY DORBOR was buried on 20 May 1747 at Nannerch,
ELIZABETH DURBAR was buried 15th July 1754 at Nannerch,
RACHEL DERBOR married RICHARD FOX in Hawarden on 25th November 1759,
JANE DURBER married HUGH JONES by banns on the 28th December 1772,
RICHD DURBER was buried 6 March 1760 at Nannerch
The International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.), has some of those listed above with an alternative spelling of our surname. Using these particular records, it’s quite easy to produce a partial Family Tree:
The I.G.I. has a WILLIAM DORBER (b. 1700) married to MARY (1701-1745). They had a son, RICHARD DORBER (baptised 22nd May 1726), and the I.G.I. shows he married ELIZABETH DAVIES on 30th November 1745 in Hawarden. The I.G.I. shows RICHARD and ELIZABETH to have had six children:
MARY DORBER, baptised on the 20th January 1748 in Hawarden. JANE, (b. 27th June 1749), was baptised on 22nd July 1750 in Hawarden, and later married to HUGH JONES on the 29th December 1772 in Hawarden. WILLIAM DORBER, was baptised on the 6th April 1755 in Hawarden, and married in Hawarden to ELIZABETH DERBYSHIRE on the 3rd September 1781. JOHN, baptised 8th February 1858 in Hawarden. RICHARD, baptised in Hawarden on 24th February 1760, and finally, ANN DORBER , who was baptised on 30th September 1761 in Hawarden, and was later married to a WILLIAM PRICE on the 3rd December 1782.
It is worth noting that Hawarden and Nannerch are only about thirty-five miles from Warrington – and it’s in Warrington where Parish Records of the late 18th and 19th Century, show direct links to our family today.
There are one or two other records of DORBER’s scattered about in the north-west of England, towards the latter end of the 18th Century and early into the 19th Century:
JOHN DORBER married MARGARET SINNEY on 26th July 1779 at Cresscanoby, Cumberland
ELIZABETH DORBER, born on 16th June 1791, was christened on 7th July 1791 at St Nicholas Church, Liverpool. Her parents are named as RICHARD and MARY DORBER.
JUDAH DORBER and RICHARD MAYER (a potter by trade) were married on 7th April 1801 in Newcastle-under-Lyme – all witnessed by a William Hill and William Ashley.
ELIZABETH DORBER married JAMES GIBSON on 11th October 1802, at Woolstanton, Stafford.
HANNAH DORBER married GEORGE CHAMBERLAIN on 6th Jan 1817 at St Peter’s, Church Street, Liverpool.
MARY DORBER married JOHN HANCOCK on 4th December 1831 at Woolstanton, Stafford
JANE DORBER married ROBERT MARCHBANK on 9th August 1835 at Grappenhall, Cheshire.
In the Baptismal, Marriage and Burial records for Flintshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, in particular, there are many, many entries with variations of our surname – all of whom are probably related in some way. One imagines that these variations are due partly to the lack of education of those whose records were being recorded during the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, and also due to the fact that the clergy often had to guess at an appropriate spelling of the surname – either because of difficulties over dialect or because of errors in information given to them at the time.
RICHARD, WILLIAM, EDWARD and JOHN seem to be common Christian names amongst the males of the DORBER family and many of these are found in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century in the Warrington area.
Records for St Elphin Church, Warrington, state that a JOHN DORBER was buried on 23rd March 1837, with the Curate, George Richards, officiating. JOHN was 78 years old when he died – giving him a birth year of c1759. The church records show that he died in the Poorhouse in Warrington.
There is also a record at St Elphin’s Church of a burial of an EDWARD DORBER, aged 44 on 16th July 1792 – giving him a birth year of 1748. His occupation was given as “Ostler.”
Were EDWARD and JOHN brothers? – and if so, was there possibly a third brother?
Further records at St Elphin’s Church, Warrington show that a RICHARD DORBER married SARAH BLINKHORN in 1786.
The marriage entry reads as follows: “RICHARD DORBER of this parish and SARAH BLINKHORN of this parish were married in this Church by Banns published July 23, 30th, Aug 6th, this eighteenth day of September in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-six. By me, I. Saul, Curate.”
Neither RICHARD nor SARAH could write their names on the Register – they marked with an “X.” The witnesses to the marriage were He(nry) Holmes and W(illia)m Arrowsmith.
[Despite considerable investigations on the various branches of the Blinkhorn Family who were living in Warrington during the 18th Century, I can find no trace of a SARAH BLINKHORN whose dates might fit with the marriage date of 1786 to RICHARD DORBER. However, the “Non-Conformist & Non-Parochial Registers from 1567 Onwards” do show a Blinkhorn Family attending Cross Street Presbytarian Church in Manchester. Records from there show a SARAH BLINKHORN, born on 15th January 1771 – she was christened on the 3rd February 1771. SARAH and her brothers (WILLIAM – born 10 May 1772) and JOHN (born 2 Sept. 1774) were the children of a WILLIAM BLINKHORN and his unamed wife. Were these Blinkhorn ‘s in fact cousins of the Warrington family of Blinkhorn’s ? – perhaps this SARAH was visiting in Warrington and ended up marrying RICHARD There are records of various Blinkhorn baptisms and marriages in Warrington but none of those dates would fit RICHARD DORBER’s new wife. Believing this SARAH to be RICHARD’s new wife however, raises a new question – if SARAH BLINKHORN (born 15th January 1771) is RICHARD’s new wife, then she would only have been 15 years old at the time of the marriage in 1786 – did she/they lie about her age or is it even her ??].
It seems possible or even likely that EDWARD and JOHN DORBER and this RICHARD DORBER (all born between 1748 and 1763) and could be related – perhaps even brothers
I believe RICHARD DORBER and SARAH BLINKHORN to be my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandparents.
Further records at St Elphin’s Church in Warrington, indicate that RICHARD and SARAH probably had three children:
RICHARD – christened 13th Sept. 1789 at St Elphin’s Church, and MARTHA – christened 7th June 1793 at St Elphin’s. JOHN – born 1790 and died in 1863, and MARTHA – christened on 7th June 1793 at St Elphin’s and buried in November 1808. At the time of MARTHA’s christening, her father’s occupation was described as a “Fustian Cutter.”
[Fustian was a heavy coarse cloth woven from cotton and flax – the cutter was a very long spike-like knife with the last 4 inches sharpened into a blade. Keeping it sharp possibly led Richard to links with the art of smithing].
It is recorded that a RICHARD DORBAR was buried at St Elphin’s Church, on 27th November 1809 – he was apparently 46 years old – this would give him a birth year of c1763. Is this a record of my Great-G-G-G-Grandfather’s death?
At present, I have been unable to find further information regarding SARAH – other than the marriage, christening and burial records at St Elphin’s Church.
RICHARD DORBER (born c1789 – died March 1860) – my Great Great Great Grandfather
Information about RICHARD is little sparse. His year of birth is unknown – though the 1841 Census gives his age as 50 – this would indicate a possible birth year of around 1789 or 1790 – but he could have been older. His birthplace is given only as Lancashire. [On the 1841 Census, the ages of people were rounded down to the nearest 5 years, so a man of 24 would be recorded as aged 20, a woman of 28 would be recorded as 25].
Records from St Elphin’s Church, Warrington show that a RICHARD DORBER was christened on 13th September 1789. It doesn’t necessarily follow that he was a new-born child – sometimes older children and even adults were christened.
On the 25th February 1811, the marriage records from St Wilfrid Church, at Farnworth, near Prescot, in Lancashire describe RICHARD as a Blacksmith of Farnworth.
He married ROSANNAH HAMBLETT – described as a Spinster of Farnworth. She was unable to write her name on the Register. The wedding was conducted by the Rev William Thompson and witnessed by Enoch Pierpoint and C. Chorley.
ROSANNAH was the daughter of JOSEPH and SARAH HAMBLETT. The IGI shows she had been christened on 10th March 1793 at St Thomas’ Church, Dudley, Worcestershire
RICHARD and ROSANNAH had at least three sons: JOHN (born c1812 – some records give his birthplace as Salford – others as Warrington), WILLIAM (born c1815 in Warrington), and RICHARD (born c1821 in Warrington).
Burial records from St Elphin’s Church, Warrington, also show that a MARY DORBER (aged 5) was buried on 5th January 1823 – giving her a probable birth year of 1818. Her address was given as in the Buttermarket – it is probable that she was a sister of JOHN, WILLIAM and RICHARD. There is also a record of a second daughter – ANN – born about 1827 – though more of her later.
The 1825 “Pigot’s Directory of the County of Lancashire” shows RICHARD DORBER as one of seven Blacksmiths operating in Warrington at Scotland Road.
Less than three years after the birth of her youngest child, ROSANNAH died. Records from St Elphin’s Church, Warrington, state that ROSANNAH DORBER was buried on 8th December 1829 – the records state she was apparently 47 years old at the time and her address was given as the Buttermarket.
I am sceptical regarding her stated age at death. If it is correct, then this would possibly make her much older than her husband RICHARD, with her birth-year of c1782 rather than c1792 – which fits in with her christening date on 10th March 1793 at St Thomas’s, Dudley, Worcs.
The Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project transcriptions of Parish Records, indicate that four years after ROSANNAH’s death, RICHARD married again on 3rd May 1834 at St Elphin’s Church, Warrington. By now, RICHARD could sign his name but his bride, CHARLOTTE DUNCAN was only able to make her mark rather than sign the marriage register. The marriage was witnessed by Thomas Howard and Elizabeth Williamson. The marriage was performed by the Curate, Charles Nicholson.
According to I.G.I. and later census returns, CHARLOTTE seems to have been born anywhere between 1800 and 1807, though exactly where she was born, is not known.
Records from St Elphin’s Church, Warrington seem to indicate that RICHARD and CHARLOTTE had a son – born in late 1838. Their child – AUSTIN DORBER – was buried on 21st September 1840 – he was 20 months of age and his address is given as Scotland Road, Warrington.
One can only speculate over what may have happened to RICHARD and CHARLOTTE between their marriage on 3rd May 1834 and the 6th June 1841 – the date when the Census was completed
Whether AUSTIN’s death caused some kind of breakdown in the marriage, is difficult to say, but the 1841 Census shows them living apart – RICHARD (aged 50) is described as a labourer, and is shown living as a lodger in the home of 38 year old SAMUEL OWER (a Blacksmith), SAMUEL’s wife MARY, and their six children in Prescot, Lancashire.
In the 1841 Census, CHARLOTTE (aged 40) is sharing the household of a JOHN LENARD (aged 50) – who he was, and what his relationship was with CHARLOTTE, is unknown.
CHARLOTTE(aged 50) is featured on the 1851 Census – and is now shown living with 29 year old JOHN OGDEN and his wife ANN, and their two children:
JOHN, born in c1848, and ELIZA ANN OGDEN, born on 2nd May 1851.
ANN OGDEN (b. 1827) was actually the surviving daughter of my Great-Great-Great- Grandfather, RICHARD DORBER, and his first wife, ROSANNAH HAMBLETT. ANN was probably aged about 7 when CHARLOTTE became her step-mother in May 1834. It is likely that CHARLOTTE looked after ANN for a number of years, though there is no evidence as to how long that may have lasted.
After RICHARD DORBER and CHARLOTTE had separated and, after she had left the household of JOHN LENARD (1841 Census), CHARLOTTE needed a home , and her step-daughter (ANN) was able to provide one for her. CHARLOTTE appears on the 1851 Census, living at 27 Royton Street, Manchester with ANN and JOHN OGDEN – he’s a House Painter by trade. On this census, CHARLOTTE is described as a “Mother in Law” and her employment is given as “Stay Maker.”
CHARLOTTE is not on the 1861 Census, but appears again on the 1871 Census (aged 71). She is still with JOHN and ANN OGDEN and their family at 27 Royton Street.
The 1871 Census describes CHARLOTTE as a Seamstress and Mother – though in fact, she was ANN OGDEN’s step-mother. ANN was the surviving daughter of RICHARD DORBER’s first marriage to ROSANNAH HAMBLETT.
According to BMD data, CHARLOTTE died in June 1872 in Manchester. Records indicate that RICHARD DORBER died in March 1860 in Salford, Manchester.
What became of ANN OGDEN (nee DORBER)? On the 1861 Census, ANN has 4 children:
JOHN (born c1848), ELIZA ANN (born 2nd May 1851), FREDERICK (born 1854) and MARGARET (born 1856)
The 1891 Census shown ANN living with her daughter ELIZA and ELIZA’s 38 year old husband, THOMAS TAYLOR and their 8 year old son THOMAS JAMES TAYLOR, at 6 Crown Street, Hulme, Manchester. ANN is described as being a 64 year old widow, working as a Charwoman – she is not shown as THOMAS TAYLOR’s Mother-in-Law but merely as a “Lodger.” I have not been able to ascertain what actually happened to ANN after 1891 nor the date of her death.
* * * *
Ideally, I would like to carry out research on the DORBER Family using primary sources, but time, financial constraints and the current availability of secondary resources makes that task difficult. What I intend to begin doing, using information from the Census, the I.G.I. Index and the B.M.D. Index, together with information from many other sources, is to set out what is available on each of RICHARD and ROSANNAH’s three sons in turn.
Records show that RICHARD and ROSANNAH had three sons as well as the two daughters mentioned above. The sons were were: JOHN (b. c1812), WILLIAM (b. c1815) and RICHARD (b. c1821). Whilst it would be fascinating to consider each of the family branches of the three sons from their births in Warringon, right up to the present day, it would be extremely time-consuming and an almost impossible task.
Initially, therefore, I will follow the direct line from JOHN DORBER, who was my Great-Great-Grandfather (born c1812) and his wife ANN STANLEY to:
SAMUEL EDWARD DORBER, who was my Great Grandfather (born 1845) and his wife ELLEN FLANAGAN, and then to my Grandfather:
JOHN DORBER, (born 1st January1875) and his wife MARY BUTTERWORTH and their seven children, who were:
JACK (born 1895), DOLLY (born 1897), MABEL (born 1901), VICTOR (born 1903), EDNA (born 1907), TEDDY (born 1913), and finally, BERNARD (born 1914) – my Father.