The Cobe Dilemma

So, I haven’t really been working too hard to pin down the Cobe’s exact origins in Ireland. Mostly because I am just at a loss. So, I joined a British Isle’s Facebook group and made an inquiry to see if there were any other Irish Cobe researchers across the pond (I’m that desperate, I’m down to networking for leads.) No luck.

The Facebook Lead

Thanks for adding me! I am looking into the surname Cobe from Ireland. I know the experts say immigrants never traveled alone; however, this Cobe family appear out of nowhere in Barrie, Canada sometime before or near 1837. Richard Cobe was already married to Eliza Smith – both were recorded to be from Ireland. There are no other Cobe’s in Barrie and the Smith’s don’t “appear” to be associated with this couple. They left Barrie shortly after the 1837 rebellion and went to Ohio where I have tracked them extensively, but have found no clue as to where in Ireland they might have come from or who their people were. They directly claimed Catholicism in some records. I admittedly have left the Catholic angle off my research list because I haven’t a clue where to start there. Are there any Irish or Canadian Cobe researchers out there who would like to collaborate? Thanks in advance.

TIP: When posting on a bulletin board or Facebook group, always provide good detailed information specific to the assistance you seek. Providing what clues you have to other researches will help them narrow down the most relevant information to help you. This ensures more fruitful results when seeking help this way.

A helpful member of the Facebook group validated what I had already idly determined (but did not verify due to lack of experience in British Isles research), the Cobe/Cobbe/Cobb surname is found in only a few places. Using the 1901 census as a kickoff point, the surname is narrowed down to just a few Counties. 1901, I suspect is significant because that is the earliest comprehensive census available. Regardless, even in 1901, there aren’t that many Cobe’s in Ireland.

Cobbe Family, page 46, OLaughlin, Michael C. The Book of Irish Families: Great & Small. 3rd ed. Vol. 7. 28 vols. Kansas City, MO: Irish Genealogy Foundation, 2002.

In 1901, the Cobbe and Cobb variation of this surname is mainly found in Co. King’s and Co. Queen’s, which today are Co. Offaly and Co. Laois respectively. The Catholic Cobbe’s are all in Co. Queen’s and Dublin, with Protestant Cobbe’s in Co. King’s and elsewhere. However, if I look at Church marriage records, I am finding the surname mostly in Co. Kildare between 1820-1850, and nothing in Co. Queen’s and King’s. This is hurting my head.

A long time ago, I had followed a lead found in The Book of Irish Families Great & Small, Michael C. O’Laughlin (2002, 3 ed). Volume 7 of this publication does have a coat of arms for a Cobbe family of Co. Dublin. This was a landed family that was still there during the timeframe of interest. But I have ruled them out as possible direct relatives. This Dublin family are all accounted for and did not go to Canada. I suppose there is always the possibility of unrecorded illegitimate children.

The FTDNA Puzzle

I revisited my father’s atDNA Origins report on FTDNA (they get updated from time to time as the science evolves). And the lines have been refined. It could mean nothing really; Origin boundaries are just speculative science limited by the number of DNA participants and their genetic origins. And, Dad’s Irish genetics are heavily diluted with all of his German lines. It’s all about statistics. I hate numbers as much as I hate politics.

Anyway, the boundaries have changed slightly. Dad still has overlap from the main island of the UK into, specifically, Northern Ireland. Earlier research that I had attempted on the surname suggested that the name Cobe or Cobb came with the Norman invasion in 1066. But, let’s face it, that was a loooooong time ago and has little relevance to my 1800s research in that area.

Quirky thing – when I overlap the FTDNA map onto a county map of Ireland, Dad’s DNA range does not overlap the parts of Ireland were Co. Offal, Laois, and Kildare are. Not even Co. Dublin. Hmmmm…am I reading too much into the boundary thing? Or is this indicative of the Cobe’s coming with the Normans in 1066?

What does this all mean?

I’m back to my sneaking suspicion that Richard’s name may not have been Cobe. Was he on the run as a boy (remember, they appear to have married quite young)? Did he run away from home or the law? But if this is the case, why chose such an uncommon surname to use with an Irish backstory? I know, I know, I am likely more devious minded than my distant ancestors.

We only have one source naming Eliza as Smith. Smith! You can’t get more anonymous than Smith if you have to come up with a surname. Was her name really Smith?

I am methodically combing passenger list records for the early 19th century into Canada, not a lot of luck going on there.

Or should I just check the Cobe’s off as “can go no further” and call it quits? If only I could find a direct male descendant of our immigrant Cobe’s.

Irish Research Kickoff Points

  1. Wiki page (for various Irish counties and topics) and records available online
  2. The National Archives of Ireland
  3. Irish Ancestors