Culbert Family Resource Page


Hillsdale County, Michigan, USA, courtesy of Margaret Forsythe
Culbert graphic provided by  



Compiled By: James H. Culbert
Last Updated: 10 Jun 2016

Surname Origins

The CULBERT name is one of many variant spellings of the Olde English and Anglo-Saxon personal compound name "cud-Leorht," which translates as "famous-bright."  The development of alternative spellings is usually the result of localised medieval dialects.  Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation.  In England, the Poll Tax was probably the first example of this. 4  This name may also stem from CULBHEART, which is said to be a Gaelic form of "crafty".  Crafty is related to "wisdom," and this suggests a connection with the surname CUTHBERTCULBERT may also be derived from CUTBERT, and this earlier spelling is very similar to CUTHBERT and CUTHBERTSON, one reason for the close relationship between these surnames.

Edward MacLysaght states that the surname CULBERT is of Huguenot origin, and found mainly in Ireland's northern province of Ulster. 1  CULBRATH is an eighteenth century variant of it in County Monaghan.  CULBERT families are known in Ireland since the 15th Century, especially in the province of Munster.

In Scotland, CULBERT is associated with County Fife.  It is a variant of COLBERT, and of the Old English "Ceolbeorht." 2

In Ireland, I have found that the CULBERT, CULBERTSON and CUTHBERTSON surnames are sometimes used interchangeably.  Those who bore these names in Ireland came originally from Scotland.  Despite traditions indicating that these immigrants to Ireland were from Covenanter stock that came from Scotland in the late 1600s, it is more likely that the CUTHBERTSONs from Scotland settled in Ireland in a much earlier time, and they were the ancestors of many of the later Irish CULBERTSONs.

One researcher told me a story about CULBERT origins in Ireland, which has been passed down in her family.  As the story goes, a CULBERT (or more likely a COLBERT), possibly named Eugene, from France, was on a French naval ship that was sunk in a battle with the British off the northwest coast of Ireland (in the region of County Donegal).  This seaman was able to swim to the coast in the fog, was held captive for awhile, and was later released.  He settled in Ireland and never returned to France. 5

I also have two documented reasons for these surnames being changed in subsequent generations.  One is Edward CUTHBERT from Cumberland, England, who migrated to Oldpark, North Belfast, Ireland in the mid-1800s.  He found that the surname CUTHBERT was virtually unknown in Belfast, but that there were plenty of CULBERT families.  He eventually gave up trying to correct folks about his surname, and when he married a Belfast girl, he did so as Edward CULBERT.  This family continued to use the CULBERT surname in Ireland, and switched it back to CUTHBERT when members returned to England. 6  The other concerns Robert CULBERT, born in County Armagh, Ireland, who served in the British Army and left with his family for Canada in 1847.  However, Robert died en route, and his children were taken in by French Canadian families in Quebec.  In a effort to better assimilate them into their community, their surnames were changed to COLBERT and CUTHBERT. 7

The oldest record I have found to date about a CULBERT is that of Elenor CULBERT, who married Walter PRICE on 8 May 1699, at St. Andrew, Dublin, Ireland. 3

Surname Resources

The traditional harp of Ireland obtained from Lindel BuckleyCULBERT Records in Ireland

The traditional harp of Ireland obtained from Lindel Buckley 1864-1913 CULBERT Births in Ireland

The traditional harp of Ireland obtained from Lindel Buckley 1845-1934 CULBERT Marriages in Ireland

The traditional harp of Ireland obtained from Lindel Buckley 1864-1939 CULBERT Deaths in Ireland

The historical flag of ScotlandCULBERT Records in Scotland

  CULBERT Passenger Arrivals at New York City, 1846-1851

  CULBERT Passenger Arrivals at Castle Garden, New York City, 1855-1890

  CULBERT Passenger Arrivals at Ellis Island, New York City, 1892-1924

  Other CULBERT Passengers to America


1 Edward MacLysaght, 1999, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th Ed. (Dublin, Ireland and Portland, Oregon, USA), Irish Academic Press.

2 Dr. George F. Black, 1946, Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History, New York Public Library, 12th printing (1999), p. 190, ISBN 0-87104-172-3.

3 D.A. Chart, Marriage Entries from the Registers of the Parishes of St. Andrew, St. Anne, St. Audoen, and St. Bride (Dublin), 1632-1800, William Pollard & Co. Ltd., Exeter and London, 1913, 185 pp.

4 The foregoing is provided by Name Orgin Research at their website.

5 Story provided by Debbie Camejo [Email: debbiedoo42 at] in April 2001.

6 Dennis Kennedy, 2006, Climbing Slemish: An Ulster Memorial, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada, ISBN 1-4120-9943-9.

7 Provided by Johanne Quesnel COLBERT.  [Email: johannequesnel at] in Oct 2009.


  Some of my Culbert ancestors lived in Wilmington, Delaware.  A great site for information on the Irish in Wilmington can be found at:

19th Century Immigrant Roots

CULBERT and Related Surnames Index Page

For further information contact:

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