logo bar
  What's new... recent updates Researching Brebner/Bremner Genealogies Worldwide Since 1988 Site Search
Databases Genealogies Gravestones Photographs
About the author...
Addresses and locations
BMD/Vital Statistics Databases
  Births and Christenings
  Deaths and Burials
  Wills, Probates, Testaments
Census Data
  Canadian Census 1851-1916
  United Kingdom Census 1841-1911
  United States Census 1790-1930
  City Directories
Commercial Services
Compiled Genealogies
  Locate Genealogies by Area
  Locate Genealogies by Spouse
Getting started on this site
Home Page
Monumental Inscriptions
Name Origins
Other Family Names
Photographs & Portraits
Project Status
Publications and Presentations
Research Philosophy
Researchers' Database
Site Search
Technical Corner
Text Documents, Biographies, Extracts
What's New...
Origins of the Name
"The old form was Brabener, 'the Brabander', i.e. a native of Brabant. In the Caithness pronunciation of the name, the medial 'b' is sometimes heard. Artificers and traders from the Low Countries of the continent settled in Aberdeenshire and elsewhere on the East Coast at an early date. " The braboner, or webster craft, or weaver trade, holds the eighth place amongst the nine trades" of Dundee (Warden, Burgh Laws of Dundee, p.503). The name was common in East Ross, Mar and Strathdon in the sixteenth century. Walter Brabounare held a tenement in Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1418 -1426 (Irvine, I, 126 130) and Gerard de Brabancia medicus, held a tenement in Glasgow, 1486 (REG., p.450). Agnus Brebner witnessed an Elgin document of 1489 (Laing, 235), Alexander Brabanar was tenant of the Twa Half Dawakis ( i.e. davochs), (Scot., Davache; which is equal to four plough-gates, or "as much land as four ploughs could till in a year.") Ardamanoch, 1504 (ER.,xii, p. 660) , and Thomas Brabnair is mentioned in a precept of 1521 (Cawdor, p.143) . Andrew Brabnere was admitted burgess of Aberdeen, 1507 (NCSM., p 44), Patrick Brebner is recorded in Strathdee, 1527, and John Brabonar was tenant of Dalmoloak in 1539 (ER., xvii, p. 671). William Brabner was a "quhytfischer" in Futtie, 1601 (CRA., p. 217), Dod mcAllister vic finlay Brembner is in record 1649 (IDR., p 367), and James Brimner was servitor to John, Earl of Atholl, 1630 (RPC., 2.ser iii, p. 559). Alexander Brymner, burgess of Stirling, 1775 (Stirling) Brabanere 1565, Brabiner 1595, Brabnar 1550, Braboner 1653, Brabuner 1541, Braymer 1681, Brebener 1641, Breboner 1540, Brember 1685, Brimmer 1760, Brobner 1662,; Brabanner,Brabener, Brabin, Braibner, Brebiner, Brebner, Bremner, Brender, Brymer 1681."

from "The Surnames of Scotland" George F. Black 1993 ISBN 1 874744 07 6

The name also appears in England, documented as early as 1372, where Sir Nicholas Brembre, a grocer of London became lord mayor of that city in 1377. After a great deal of unsavory behaviour, including the beheading of a rival in 1384, he was re-elected for a second term, during which his misdeeds included the beheading of 22 prisoners awaiting trial in the Newgate gaol. This resulted in his being charged with treason and in his eventual execution in 1388.
There are more than 80 different spelling variants of the Bremner/Brebner name throughout Scotland. Some of these are more common in certain areas than others. The spelling was usually determined by the pronunciation of the name, hence the different areas having different spellings, and there was certainly less emphasis on spelling consistency in the earlier times. In the old parish records up to 1855, there was little standardization, and the name would generally be spelled as the church clerk saw fit. In most cases, that spelling mirrored a previous spelling of the name, so that if all previous births in a family had been recorded in one spelling, it was likely that that spelling would continue. A change in church clerk often brought about a change in spelling, as did a move to another parish.
Of all the variants, the Bremner spelling is by far the most common, and is found in all parts of Scotland, but especially in Caithness. Brebner is more prevalent in Aberdeen I think primarily because the Brebner families were merchants and civic officials held in high regard during the 18th century, and church officials were more accustomed to that spelling.
In Strathdon, the Brebber variation appears. This spelling is also seen in Glasgow in the latter part of the 19th century; those individuals may be from that Strathdon group. That spelling is still in use by descendants of that group in locations as geographically diverse as British Columbia and New Zealand.
In the Dundee area, one sees more incidences of Brimer,Brymer and Bremer. Those spellings also frequently appear in the Stirling records.
The older version of the name, Braboner derives from the original Flemish. Translated as "weaver", this spelling was still in use in the late 19th century in the Glasgow area. It was most common in Fife and across the Tay in Dundee in the 16th century, as was the Brabner form that also appears in the Manchester area from the 17th century. Another less common variant is Brabender, which appears in both Row and Glasgow.
While the Bremner/Brebner form is most common in the North-East, as one travels further south, other forms like Brimer and Brymer appear. This can present a problem in research, as there are frequent instances of children within one family sporting 3 or 4 variations of the surname. There's quite a distance between Bremner and Brymer in the Old Parish Records Index (OPRI) index, and in the CD version available at the Family History Centers, the surnames are not grouped together (unlike the IGI). Note that the IGI lists the Bremmer and Bremner names and variations separately.
Creative spellings of the name also abound in the records of the late 19th century, where I've seen the name transcribed as both Brebaer and Bubner, although I suspect these are likely simple mistrancriptions and not actual variants. By the twentieth century, most family name spellings had become entrenched and 95% of the names are either Brebner,Bremner, Brimer, or Brymer.
In Canada, I've come across a Breadner variation, but I've yet to show that these families are part of the Scottish Brebner/Bremner groups. I have a feeling that they may be more Irish in origin.
While searching the name in census transcriptions, one must be open-minded about the spelling of the name. If your ancestors moved to another part of the country, it's quite likely that the spelling of the name changed.
E-mail John Brebner   © 2011 John A. Brebner