Just stumbled across this site by accident. Glad I did.
I have heard two, possibly conflicting explanations of the Nobes name. The first was similar to the French origin mentioned earlier. The name may have originated from old Norse, "knabbe", similar to English "knave", meaning servant or young boy. The name supposedly made its way down the coast of Western Europe (leading possibly to the French connection - pun intended), and then across the channel. The channel crossing supposedly occurred about the time of Billy of Orange.
The other explanation ties in with the German origins theory. The name can be traced to a pair of merchant brothers, named Nobis, in the 1540's.
Both explanations have problems. Using the search engine of the Mormon site (who are obsessed with ancestry), I find references to Nobes in England as early as the mid- 1500's. Adam was, I think, the earliest name I found, but lots of females. Then a big gap, until a resurgence of the name in the 1700's. So there may be something to both theories.
Myself, I have been trying to track the origins of my great-grandparents, who left England for Toronto in the late 1800's, but their origins in England are unclear. We left Canada for NZ some years ago, and found there were already Nobes's here. I saw a young woman on TV here who was a double for my cousin in Southern Ontario.
Any replies would be welcomed. As well as any other theories on the origin of the name. This is fun stuff.