This unusual and interesting surname is English, sometimes Scottish and in post medieval times, French! It derives from the Old English pre 7th century personal name Coel-beort translating as "cool-bright". It is first recorded as Colbert in the famous Domesday Book of England in 1086, and in the counties of Devonshire, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire. The surname is early 13th Century (see below), and spellings of the surname include Colbert, Colebert, Coleberte, Colberd, Coleburt, Colburt, and in Scotland Colbert, Culbard, Colbaird, and Colbard. Early examples from surving church records include the christenings of Thomas Colbert, on October 23rd 1616 at St. Dunstan's in the East, Stepney, and Elizabeth Coleberte on June 25th 1620 also at St. Dunstan's. Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619 - 1683) was a French statesman whose family originated from Scotland. He was the chief minister to King Louis X1V, and was responsible for reforming the French navy and merchant fleet, as well as building roads and canals. A coat of arms granted to Count de Colbert of France, in 1723, has the blazon of a gold shield charged with a black snake, in pale. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Colbert. This was dated 1205, in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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