Select Boyd Surname Genealogy
Boyd is a Scottish surname – deriving from the Gaelic boid, the
root of Bute, the name of the island in the Firth of Clyde.
Boyd was also thought possibly to have come from the Gaelic buide, meaning “fair” or “yellow-haired.” That was probably not the case in Scotland, although it might have been on the Isle of Man where Boyd could have come from the Gaelic MacGiolla Buidhe, meaning “the yellow-haired youth’s son.”

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Scotland. The earliest record of a Boyd, Robertus de Boyd, was as a witness at Irvine in Ayrshire 1205. The Boyds were believed to have been vassals of the Norman de Morvilles. Their first chief was Sir Robert Boyd who fought with Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. His family’s loyalty to the cause earned them the nickname of Confido or “Trusty Boyds.” For this loyalty, the Boyds were rewarded with the barony of Kilmarnock in east Ayrshire, which became the family seat.

Construction on Kilmarnock Castle began soon after. In 1466 the Boyds of Kilmarnock reached the height of their power when Lord Boyd was appointed the guardian to King James III. Three years later, however, the new King grew tired of them and Robert Boyd, the first Lord Boyd, had to flee to England.

“James III’s biographer summed Boyd up as an unscrupulous political gambler and an inveterate optimist. To forcibly assume guardianship of an underage King was, indeed, a familiar path to power in medieval Scotland. But it was also a dangerous path. Boyd underestimated the dangers, overestimated his support, and made the fatal mistake of marrying his son to the King’s sister, an insult the King would not forgive.”

The Boyds came back into favor with Mary, Queen of Scots. Robert Lord Boyd  managed to keep that favor, despite various ups and downs, until his death in 1589. The Boyds were Royalist during the Civil War and supported the British Government in 1715 and 1745. However, Lord Boyd’s son William fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie and was captured and executed. The titles of the Boyd family were then forfeited.

The Boyd lines at Penkill and Trochrig in Ayrshire date from the 16th century. Penkill Castle had fallen into great disrepair before it was acquired by an American in 1978. Meanwhile many Boyds in Ayrshire had crossed the sea to Ireland at the time of the Scottish plantations. The Boyd history was covered in William P. Boyd’s 1884 book History of the Boyd Family.

Isle of Man
. Boyd is also a Manx name. It derived from earlier names such as Giolla Buide and Boddagh and first appeared as Boyd in Lezayre in 1755. William Boyde, a fisherman, held a public house license in Kirk German from 1792 to 1835. The name was sufficiently common at the time of World War II that a German-Jewish refugee, interned there, decided to change his name from Gerhard Biberstein to Gerhard Boyd.

Ireland. Sir Thomas Boyd of Bedlay was the first Boyd in Ulster, securing land in Strabane barony, Tyrone in 1610. He was probably instrumental in many Boyd settlers later making the crossing to Ireland.

A number of them settled in Antrim. The first Boyd presence in Antrim may have been the Rev. Thomas Boyd, a Presbyterian minister at the time of the siege of Londonderry in 1689. James Boyd came to Antrim in 1696. His family was later to be found at the Old Boyd Homestead at Knockavaddy near Dungannon in Tyrone. Colonel Hugh Boyd started an industrial enterprise based on coal production and shipment at Ballycastle on the coast in 1736. Boyd’s own home in Ballycastle and the Marine Hotel, which
he built, are still standing.

In 1716 a Boyd family bought the Crosspatrick estate near Killala in county Mayo. A branch of the family, including the doctor Sir
William Boyd, moved to Castlebar. The Boyd family of Australia
came from these Boyds.

France. There was a Boyd family from Scotland that came to France around the year 1600, settling first in La Rochelle and then in Bordeaux. They were prosperous merchants and were active in the wine trade. However, they were Protestant, an endangered species in France after 1685. The Huguenot Jean Boyd departed for the new colony of Charleston in America shortly afterwards. Some Boyds remained and Jacques Boyd began the Boyd vineyard, Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, in Bordeaux in 1754.

Caribbean. The 21 year old Augustus Boyd, a son of the Huguenot Boyds, set off for the Caribbean and St. Kitts in 1700. By 1720 he was in business as a planter and by his death in 1765 he was a rich man. His son John was able to lead the life of a country gentleman in England, building Danson House in Kent. But his plantations began to fail in the 1770’s and he died a poorer man.

The Boyds in Dominica date back to William Boyd, a merchant and trader on the islands of Dominica and Grenada from the late 1700’s.  He died in 1830. Among his distinguished descendants was Dr. Philip Boyd who was appointed the first head of the Caricom Health Desk in the 1950’s.

Panama. The Boyd presence in Panama began with Archibaldo Boyd who arrived about 1850 and started its first newspaper. His son Federico was one of the founding fathers of Panama. Three Boyd girls, triplets, were born in Panama in 1921. They grew up to be the Del Rubios, a variety act in America.

Boyds in America have been mainly Scots Irish and they started to arrive in the early 18th century. Captain William Boyd was instrumental in bringing many Scots Irish to America between 1718 and 1750. He himself settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Other Boyds who made the journey included:

  • Three Boyd brothers from Knockavaddy in Tyrone who came to Bristol, Maine in the 1720’s.
  • Thomas Boyd who arrived from Ulster with other Boyd families in 1729 and settled in Marsh Creek, Pennsylvania in what is now Adams county. William Boyd came at the same time and settled in Derry township, Lancaster county.
  • and James Boyd, a linen merchant from Antrim, who came to
    Bridgton, New Jersey around 1740.

Boyds in Anne Arundel county, Maryland date from about 1700. Thomas Boyd moved to Albemarle county, Virginia in the late 1700’s where he and his wife Mary ran Boyd’s Tavern. Their son Thomas Jefferson Boyd became known as “the father of Wytheville.” Their grandson David migrated south to Louisiana and served as the first President of Louisiana State University.

The Huguenot Boyds were in Charleston, South Carolina in the
1690’s. However, they didn’t stay. Scots Irish Boyds arrived later:

  • William Boyd came with his family from Antrim in 1772. His
    nephew Robert followed in 1790.
  • James Boyd came with two brothers from Lough Neagh in mid-Ulster sometime in the 1780’s. He settled in Buncombe county, North Carolina.
  • and William Boyd arrived with his family from Knockaviddy in Tyrone in 1795. Later Boyds of this family settled in Lumpkin county, Georgia and then in Hartville and Ozark, Missouri.

Oklahoma boasted two famous Boyds, William from Tulsa born in 1895 and Sam from Enid born in 1910. William Boyd the actor was
famous for his portrayal of Hopalong Cassidy, while Sam Boyd became a legend in the gaming industry in Las Vegas.

. The Boyds were one of the early names of Hawaii. Robert Boyd may have come there from the Caribbean (his origins are not certain), and he established himself as the king’s shipbuilder in the 1820’s. His son Edwin
made his fortune as a merchant and cattle rancher and served many political posts in the King’s legislature. The Boyds were considered among the most prominent families of Hawaii and their residence at Maunawili was often frequented by Hawaiian royalty and visiting foreign dignitaries.

Canada. Mossom Boyd was born in India, the son of a Bengal army officer from Derry. After his parents died in a cholera epidemic, he decided to emigrate to Canada and came to the Sturgeon Lake region of Ontario in 1834. He developed a large timber operation there which his son expanded into cattle, steamboats and railway development.

Australia. The Boyd family have been an Australian artistic dynasty. Members of the family established themselves over several generations as painters, artists, illustrators, sculptors, potters, ceramists, writers, architects, graphic designers and musicians.

The forebear of this remarkable family was Alexander Boyd from county Mayo who arrived in Tasmania on army duty in 1845. The family fortunes were established in Melbourne by his son Theo who eloped with a rich cattleman’s daughter in 1857. The artistic dynasty can be said to have started with the marriage of his son Arthur and Minnie, both painters, in 1886. The family story was narrated in Brenda Niall’s 2002 book The Boyds.

Benjamin Boyd, a Scotsman of “an imposing personal appearance, fluent oratory, aristocratic connections, and a fair share of commercial acuteness,” came to Sydney on his schooner the Wanderer in 1842. However, his business ventures crumbled after a while and he departed on the Wanderer for the California goldfields. He was unsuccessful there too and lost his life when his vessel was wrecked in a storm off the Australian coast.

Select Boyd Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

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Robert Boyd, the first Lord Boyd, became the most powerful man in Scotland as guardian of the young King in 1466. But he soon lost his position and had to flee the country.
Robert Lopaka Boyd was shipbuilder to the King of Hawaii in the 1820’s.
Federico Boyd is considered one of the founding fathers of Panama.
Sam Boyd was one of the pioneers of the Las Vegas hotel and casino business.

Select Boyds Today

  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 50,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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