Everything that you ever wanted to

know about the Covington name


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Before we look at the actual historical transition of our name, it is interesting to first look at how names have evolved and why, indeed, we need surnames at all. In early times when the population was smaller and few people would ever travel far from their respective settlements, people would be known only by their given name and place of habitat e.g. Harold of London, Peter of Bedford etc. It was only when the population grew and the undoubted confusion caused by there being more than one William of York in one's midst, that individual surnames originated for the purpose of more specific identification.


The four primary sources for second names or surnames were;


Occupation, for example, Baker, Butcher, Smith etc. In some cases though time has changed the shape of these words and such names as Baxter, a derivative of Baker, have emerged. As a simple rule of thumb, many names ending in -er, have derived from this source.


Father's name plus relationship, for example, Johnson, Patterson, Jones etc. Again names have evolved from the original source and such names as Dawson are now quite common, but is in fact from the same origins as Davidson, with Daw being an olden days shortened version of David.


Personal characteristics, for example, Longman, Short, Small etc. Some names were derived from a persons manner, for example Dukes and Abbots probably were given to somebody who acted in a "dukely or abbotly" manner. Many names derived from less complimentary distinguishing characteristics, such as Shufflebotham and Crookshanks. Names such as Goodfellow, Wisdom and Fairman are perhaps somewhat kinder to those who now carry the name. It does seem somewhat unfair that anybody should have to inherit a name with such obvious characteristic connotations as Boldass, particularly when one may grow up to be a 6 stone ballerina!


Places or localities for example York, Bradford, and of course Covington, even Churchill which derived from those who lived near a church on a hill. By far the largest group of surnames is drawn from names of places, from whence a person came, or occasionally was going to, or from the geographical detail of his place of habitat. This, one would consider, to be quite straightforward, but in many cases, as years have passed by, the spelling and pronunciation of a name may have changed dramatically. An interesting example of this is the surname Snooks, which it is said, has derived from the Kent town of Sevenoaks.


Much of these spelling changes were due to illiteracy rather than some wish to confuse latter day genealogists. In the early days even the most educated had their problems spelling words when pronounced by a rural speaker. More of this later when we look at the different derivatives of Covington.


Welsh variations, the same basic rules apply for Welsh names, except many more are derivatives from their father's name, eg Davies, Jones, Williams etc, all being translation as "son of". Another variation is the old Welsh prefix of "ap", again meaning "son of". This has spawned names such as Pritchard (ap Richard) and Pugh (ap Hugh) etc. Somewhat surprising is the fact that there are more hyphenated names in Welsh families than anywhere else in the UK. This is because the Welsh have a great affinity to using both parents names in their surnames as a means of differentiating between all the Jones' and Williams' who live there.


Scottish variations. Like the Welsh, many Scots share the same few names, having taken their chosen name originally from the powerful clans with whom they sought protection, as a sign of allegiance. Even today the inhabitants of one Scottish island all have the same name, though they are not all related by blood. To rectify this confusion many added place-names to their surnames, and although this initially was started by the lairds and barons, it soon spread to farmers and the like. Today Scottish names can be found throughout the world, thanks to the Scots great tradition of colonisation, however many 18th Scots fearful after the Jacobite Rising, travelled south and adopted less obtrusive English local names.


Irish variations. The surname prefix "Mac" is of both Irish and Scottish extraction and like "Ap" in Welsh and "Son" in English means "son of" and is placed before the father's name. An interesting additional note is that O' before a name is usually linked with, and placed in front of, the grandfathers name, and again, roughly translated means "of".


Royalty - According to the Marquis de Ruvigny in 1911, there were about 100,000 living descendants of Edward III. Today that figure must have grown substantially and would suggest that over 20 out of every 100 Englishmen born are a royal descendant. If you are fortunate enough to link in with a member of the royal family, much of your future genealogical research work will have been done for you. Sadly, it is unlikely to mean that you will be invited to Sunday tea with the Royal Patron, but it does make interesting, after dinner, small talk at your next candle-lit supper.


My main research has always been limited to those actually named Covington, or its derivatives. No doubt anybody wanting to trace back descendants of each spouse of a Covington will eventually find their way into the Royal circle. Please let me know if you are successful in any legal claim for part of the Duchy of Cornwall.


One of the great challenges for any genealogist is to come up with the definitive answer to the question "Where did my name come from?" Not surprisingly there can sometimes be a difference of opinion between one genealogist and another. I'm pleased to say that the same applies to the Covingtons, be it that we don't seem to be too far apart in our version of the grassroots origin. Detailed below are a number of versions of the answer to the "Where are we from?" question. Because this is my website, I'll go first !!


The Covingtons of England, a collation of data from various sources by Martin H Covington


The location origins of the Covington name are believed to be associated with the English translated phrase "One who came from Covington", (The estate or settlement of the Cufa family), in Huntingdonshire. (Note; Cufa is a kind of wicker coracle used on the River Tigris in Mesopatamia, although how a tribe came to be named after a wicker basket is somewhat unclear).


Therefore, breaking down the original Cufingatun name, piece by piece, we have:

Cufa      (Anglo Saxon tribe name)

   Inga    (of the)

   tun      (estate) or ton (Anglo Saxon for a place surrounded by a hedge or palisade, i.e. a town or village).


Many Anglian names containing the -ingtun prefix were established in the Northumbria/Berwickshire area. It seems that the connective particle "-ing" is only found with "-tun" in both English and Scottish forms. Examples are given of Edington, Edrington, Mersington, Regington, Thirlington and Upsettlington as being first recorded around 1095 in Berwickshire and meaning " farm associated with ... ". This is a similar explanation to that as described for Covington, Huntingdonshire. There may also be links with Covenham & Coveney.


The earliest examples to be found of the Covington name, or spellings similar, are as follows; Covintune and Covesgraue  - 1086 Domesday Book, Kuvintone  - 1226 Episcopal Registers, Coutngton  - 1260 Assize Rolls for Hunts, 1331 Feet of Fines for Hunts by G.J.Turner, 1493 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Covinton  - 1272 Feet of Fines for Hunts, 1279 Rotuli-Hundredorum 2 vols 1812-1818, 1285 Feudal Aids 6 vols 1899-1920, 1303 Feudal Aids 6 vols 1899-1920, 1303 Exchequer Subsidies for Hunts 1303, Coventon  -   1478 Feet of Fines for Hunts


Covesgraue (Domesday Book) may have developed into Cosgrave which is in Northamptonshire near Stony Stratford on A508, just outside Milton Keynes, where, there is said to have been a strong form of the Covington name in the past.

It is most interesting to note that the majority of early examples found were recorded in the Huntingdonshire area. Covington, the village, is no more than a hamlet, although it does have a fine example of a Norman church, suggesting that it was once a relatively important settling place.



Covington, Hunts (The Place Names of Bedfordshire & Huntingdonshire)(The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names by Eilert Ekwall)


The Covington name evolution in Scotland


There is also a small town in Lanarkshire, Scotland named Covington. It is believed that the place name could have originated from Scandinavia. It is also suggested that Covington, Colinton & Cobbinshaw could be linked, as all 3 have as their first elements the CO personal name Kolbeinn (Scandinavian), an adaptation of the Irish name Columban.

Covington, Lanarkshire 

Kolbeinn may have given rise to the Villa Colbani, circa 1190 (Colban's Estate) and the following extracts from Scottish History detail how the name has been developed to the present day.

Colbaynstoun, Colbayn, Colban & Colbanus  - 1120 (Kelso)

The earliest form found was Colbaynstoun, i.e. the vill or tun of Colbayn or Colbain, perhaps the Colbanus who was a witness to the charter by Earl David founding the Abbey of Selkirk (later Kelso), circa 1120.

Colbainestun - 1187-89 - He is doubtless the ancestor of Thomas de Colbainestun who witnessed a charter by William the Lion confirming certain churches in Dumfrieshire to the see of Glasgow between 1187-89 (REG p65).

Villa Colbani - 1189-1196

Colbaynstoun - 1204 (Dryburgh) - Thomas de Colbaynstoun witnessed resignation of the lands of Ingilbristoun (later Inglisberrie) in 1204 (Dryburgh, 163) and as Thomas de Villa Colbain witnessed an undated charter by William the Lion to David de Haia, son of William de Haia of Herol (SCM 11 p305). William de Colbaynstoun between 1202 and 1222 was witness to a charter by Brice, Bishop of Moray bestowing the church of Deveth (Daviot) on the cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Spyny (REM 53).

Colbanstone, Colbanston & Colbenstone - 1296

Margaret de Colbanstone and Isabele de Colbanston rendered homage for their possessions in 1296. The seal of Isabele bears the Virgin & Child & S'Isabelle de Colbanesto, and that of Margaret bears a device like a shuttle in pale between 3 stars and a legend S'Margar' d' Colbanst (Nain 2, p198,534,550). Edmund de Colbenstone of Lanarkshire, probably a relative, also rendered homage in the same year (ibid p213).

Colbeynston - 1297 - In 1297 a Royal Message from Edward 1st of England was directed to William de Colbeynston.

Colbaynston & Colbayneston - 1304

In 1304 Sir John de Colbaynston held the successful farm of barony of Colbayneston of the King (Bain 2, p232,428

Cowantoun - 1434, Covingtoun - 1480 & Colbinshaw - 1512

(Abbreviations; Bain - Calendar of documents relating to Scotland preserved in Public Record Office, edited by Joseph Bain, Edinburgh 1881-84, Kelso - Liber S.Marie de Calchou, registrum cartarum abbacie Tironensis de Kelso 1113-1567 Edinburgh 1846 (2 volumes), Dryburgh - as Kelso but "Premonstratensis de Dryburgh", Edinburgh 1847, REG - Registrum episcopatus Glasguensis, Edinburgh 1843 (2 vols), SCM - Miscellany of the Spalding Club, Aberdeen 1841-52 (5 vols))


So, the Covington name has derived from one of two locational sources, one English and the other Scottish. From my research, I believe the English version to be the one that has spawned the majority of today's people named Covington, whereas, the Scottish name has remained purely as the place name of a little village in Lanarkshire. Few Covingtons live, or have lived, in, or close to, Scotland, so it is seems highly unlikely that the personal name developed from there.


At some stage, a Covington coat of arms was produced. More details can be found here.


The earliest person named Covington that I have been able to trace was that in 1297, a "Royal Message" was sent by Edward the First of England to a William de Covington of (Colbeynston) in Scotland. The next was Sir John de Covington of Colbeynston, Scotland. He held a successful farm in the Barony of Colbeynston for the King in 1304.


The earliest English Covington found was the rector of Covington Church in Hunts, Edmund Nicol de Covington in 1350. Both are named as "of Covington", so can be considered as being from the pre-surname era, as can one Abbut of Covington, who I have recorded as born, circa. 1520. The latter examples are actually more likely to be describing the job location, as The Rector or Abbot of Covington, so genealogically speaking are of little real interest as they would not have passed the name onto their children, if they had had any. The earliest “proper” Covington surname, that I have on file is Abraham, born circa 1430 in Norfolk, England (ref 12502).

But that is just my interpretation of the information that I have managed to uncover.


The following item is somebody else’s view. One Zella H Nesbitt, grand-daughter of Berrill Covington (ref 2505), a 19th century Brit who became a member of The Church of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as The Mormons, and moved his family from Bedfordshire, England to Utah in the U.S.A. Click on link for more details of The Covington Mormons.


Covington History, the opinions of Zella H Nesbitt, during 1984 (note: this is a direct extract from the original work and there are some obvious errors in interpretation of English History)


The name "Covington" can have two origins and it is now impossible to separate them. There are two Scottish places called Covington.  One of these was spelled Villa Colbani around 1100, Colbaynistun around 1212, Cowantoun in 1434 and Covington in~l480.  The meaning is Colban's Village.  The other place is of fairly recent origin and was probably named for a Covington.


The older place was probably named for the Colbanus who witnessed a charter by Prince David around 1120. This Colbanus was probably the ancestor of Thomas de(of) Colbainestun who witnessed a charter by King William the Lion around 1180. He is probably the Thomas de Colbanyston who was a charter witness in 1204 and who witnessed a charter by King William the Lion a few years later. William de Colnanyston was a witness to a land charter granted by Brice, Bishop of Moray around 1210.


Margaret de Colbanstone and Isabele de Colbanston rendered homage for their property to the English Crown in 1296. The seal of Margaret bears a device like a shuttle between three stars and the legend “S’Margar'd'Colbanst”. The seal of Isabele depicts the Virgin and Child and the legend "Slsabele de Colbanesto”


Edmund de Colbenstone also rendered homage the same year. All of the foregoing lived in Lanarkshire and were probably related. A royal message to William de Colbeynston from King Edward I of England was delivered in 1297. Sir John de Colbaynston held the farm or the Barony of Colbayneston by direct grant from the King around 1327.


There is also a Covington in Huntingdonshire, England, which was spelled Covintune in the 1086 Domesday Book, Kuvintone in 1226 and Couyngton in 1260. The meaning is “homestead of Cufa's people". Cufa is probably of Scandinavian origin and the meaning is unknown.


The foregoing information was researched for me by a Mr.J.C. Downing. I am not sure if we are related to our Scottish Cousins but Huntingdonshire is very close to Bedfordshire and it is quite possible that we could claim a future connection to them. However, the Covington's were in Bedfordshire very early also. The Parish Register of St.Pauls begins with 1565 and almost the first name in it was a Covington. I also found Coventon wills in the late l500's. At this time they seemed well established and it is my belief that they had been there for some time before that.


The first man by that name emerging from the shadows or unknown and unidentified ancestry is a John Coventon probably born around 1612-16. His wife was Ann and we find three children listed in St Pauls as belonging to them. Elizabeth - Christened 1633: William 1640 and Mary 1643. Then at this time all of the entries in St Pauls are missing as they are in many other parish registers of England at this time. We have to turn to History to understand why, for a period of nearly 20 years there were no Baptisms, marriages or burials recorded.


History tells us that this was the period of the civil wars when Cromwell ousted the Kings and became Lord Protector of England. In order to understand why this affected the church records we need to go back to about 1330 when King Henry VIII separated from the Roman Catholic Church in order to be able to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope & the Catholic Church did not allow divorce. At least this was more logical than simply beheading her, which of course became the fate of poor Anne Boleyn and then latterly Catherine Howard. He confiscated church properties and made such changes as suited his purposes.  They then became known as Church of England or Protestants.  When his daughter Mary Tudor came to the throne after his death she reinstated the Catholic Religion and executed so many protestants that the Catholic Church fell into disfavour and in 1558 when Henry's other daughter Elizabeth came to the throne she appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury and began to unify the two extremes of religion and this brought about what is termed the golden age of English History.


About this time it became a law for all the Parish Ministers of all the churches to begin keeping a written record of all the Christenings (Baptisms), Marriages and Burials which took place in their jurisdiction and these became known as the Parish Registers. Some began right away and others took a little longer and we find that the five churches in Bedford, England began about 1565. This began the period when those trying to locate their ancestors in England began their golden age, so to speak. Many of these old registers are a gold mine of information. This continued until about 1642 when the rebellion of the Civil Wars began


By 1649 the Roundheads as the rebels called themselves finally succeeded in having King Charles I beheaded and Cromwell, their leader, became Lord Protector of what is known as the Commonwealth period. The churches came under attack as did anyone else who remained loyal to the King. The churches were searched and anything that would burn was burned, which included many of the Parish Registers. Many of the Ministers fled into hiding and took their records with them. Some of the records were buried and in some cases were never found again, and so this next 20 years are a very difficult time for genealogists.


From 1653-1660 the records were kept by a registrar who was appointed by the government and while some of them did a fairly good job, others were careless as is the case in St. Pauls. In 1660, Charles II was crowned and many of the ministers returned to their Parishes. In St Pauls, Bedford the entries begin again in November 1660.


What this means to our Covington Family is that John and Ann were having their family right in the middle of this terrible time.  We will probably never know exactly how many children they had, but this John seemed to be the only one at that time.


Brief Covington Story- From 831 A.D. to the 1976 Bicentennial by Vaden Covington


“The name Covington originates from "Kolbin" which the Norseman, Turgesin brought with him when he invaded Northern Ireland in 831 A.D. It was translated by the Irish as "Covan." In the migration to Scotland the name became "Cova." In the further migration to England the name became "Cov" the name: "Ing" meaning people and "Ton" meaning town. Thus town of Cov's people or Covington.


Covington appears in Baiamund's Roll as "Covingtoune" - in the 1086 A.D. Domesday Book as "Covintune" - in the 1126 A.D. Episcopal Register as "Cuvintone" and in the 1260 A.D. Assize Rolls of Huntingdonshire as "Couyngton."


The town of Covington is located 65 miles north of London, England and 3 miles from the famed Kambolton Castle where Catherine of Arragon was in exile, while King Henry VIII formed the Church of England, so he could divorce her.


The Covington Church was built in Covington in 1171 A.D. and is still used and in good repair. My wife and I were there in 1971 to help celebrate the 800th year since the Church was dedicated. (Covington Church which has served the parish of Covington, England for over 800 years. Its fine Norman doorway and ancient heraldic glass gives a direct link with the Norman Conquest of England. One of its early ministers was Nicol de Covington.)”


Subsequent to this, I received the following e-mail in July 2007 from Victoria Chulkova (hornsea@printwho.com)


Dear Madam / Sir,

My name is Victoria Chulkova.

On your web site I have known some information concerning the name Covington - Kolbin.

My mother's name was Tamara Kolbin. Her father was Victor Kolbin and her grandfather was  Vasiliy Kolbin. The family was living in Kotelnichi near Viatka, Russia. The name Kolbin is very rare in Russia, as it is not Russian one. I don't have any information when Kolbins came to Russia, and I don't have any information about Kolbins before Mr. Vaisily Kolbin. He left Russia in the beginning of XX century to UK and was leaving in Hornsea (York) till his death in
earlier 60's.

Do you have any information how Kolbins got to Russia.

Thank you in advance,

Kind regards,

Victoria Chulkova (Mrs.)


Opinion as to the true root of the Covington name appears in a file contributed for use in US Gen Web Archives, by Joy Fisher sdgenweb@yahoo.com February 4, 2008 - Author: B. F. Johnson


"The Covington family goes back to a very ancient period in both Scotland and England. The Scottish founder of the family was said to have been Colban, who nourished about the year 1120. From him came the local name of the parish which in 1190 was called Colbani. In 1212 it appears on the record as Colbaynistun. In 1396 it is called Colbanstoun. In 1480 it appears as Covington. This evolution in names and variations in spelling are very common in all of our English and Scotch names. The original meaning of the name was Col, black, ban, bone or leg. Colban, therefore, was "the blacklegged." In those days in Scotland the men wore kilts, and were bare as to the greater part of the leg. It is therefore clear that Colban was of dark skin, and as the majority of those around him had fair skin it was very natural for them to seize upon this personal peculiarity by which to designate him, tthis being a custom in all primitive nations. This is the Scotch derivation.


The English family originated in Huntingtonshire of that country. The early name was Coventon, afterwards changed into Covington. Coven or Covan was derived from the Latin conventus, a convent, and Coventon or Coventon thus means a convent town, the family evidently taking its name from some convent town. The old form of Coventon survived down to the seventeenth century, and Covent Garden, London, is a relic of this old spelling. In Englandwhile the family name was spelled Coventon, a coat-of-arms was granted which is described as follows: "Az. fretty argules a saltier parted of the last between four estoiles or." Crest. "An heraldic tiger rampant gu. semee of estoiles armed and tufted or, supporting a tilting spearppre."    Motto, "Invidere Sperno."


So, all in all, a mix of opinion, some in agreement & other’s not. Of course, we should not be surprised by this, bearing in mind that the best and most concise definition of history is: “The bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians, together with everything that is involved in the production, communication of, and teaching about that knowledge.”


Please send e-mails to: covingtonhistory@mhcovington.plus.com

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