Davidson Surname Genealogy

Davidson is Anglo-Scottish, a patronym of the Hebrew name David meaning
“beloved of Jehovah.” The name became
popular among Christians throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. The two spellings of Davidson and Davison were
both to be found in northern England, mainly
in the counties bordering onto Scotland.  
Davidson in America may also have
Scandinavian (from Davidsson or Davidsen) or Jewish origins.

Davidson Resources on

Davidson Ancestry

Scotland. The Davidson name is
to be found in the Scottish
Highlands, but also in the Lowlands and Border areas.

Highlands. There have been different
accounts as to the Davidson
. As clan Dhai they were
associated with the
Chattan confederation and the proscribed Comyns around Badenoch. David Dubh of Invernhaven was the first known
bearer of the name. However, in the
Battle of North Inch against the Cameronsat Perth in 1396, these
Davidsons were
defeated badly.

the thirty warriors from each side selected to fight in single combat
only one
Davidson survived – by climbing the enclosure and swimming the river

The Davidsons dispersed and were never
again to reassemble as a proper clan.

One early Davidson sighting elsewhere was
Sir Robert Davidson, a collector and distributor of royal dues in
Aberdeen. He led a contingent to fight
at the Battle of Harlow in 1411 where he was killed.
The Davidsons were also associated from the
early 16th century with the estate of Davidston on the Black Isle in
Cromarty. Popular tradition has had the
Davidsons of Davidston linked with the later Davidsons of Tulloch

Davidsons were in place at Tulloch in Ross-shire from 1762 until 1917. It was Duncan Davidson who established the
family fortunes as a West India merchant in London.
His son Henry was in possession of eight
sugar plantations in the Caribbean by the time of his death in 1826.

his will of 1826, Henry Davidson left to his sons
four Jamaican plantations, the plantation of Mount Gay in Grenada, that
Highbury in Berbice, and that of L’Esperance in Surinam.
To his grandson he left in trust the
plantation of Mount Craven in Grenada.”

The largest
number of Davidsons today are in Aberdeenshire. The Davidson
family at Tarland
on Deeside was long-standing and extended in the 18th and 19th
centuries to
homes at Tillychetly, Dess and Inchmarlo. The Davidson connection with
went back to the early 1600’s when Alexander Davidson began
there. The Davidson name appeared
frequently there later as merchants, seamen, and fishermen.

Elsewhere. There was evidence of a
Davidson clan
grouping on the Scottish borders in the 16th century.
They were to be found at Oxnam in
Roxburghshire, just across the border from Northumberland.
And the Davidson name was also at that time
in Midlothian and Ayrshire. These
Davidsons were probably not related to the Highland Davidsons.

England. The Davidson name extended
across the border
into northern England where the name was either Davidson or, in
and Durham, more likely to be Davison. An
early Davison was William Davison, secretary to Queen Elizabeth, who
was blamed
for the 1587 execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
It was said that “his grandfather was out of the North.”

Among the later Davisons/Davidsons
of the north were:

  • Monkhouse
    Davison from Carlisle in Cumberland
    who came to London in the 1730’s and became one of the city’s leading
    grocers. It was his tea that was dumped in
    the sea
    during the Boston Tea Party.
  • Alexander Davison from Lanton in
    Northumberland who was a contemporary and close friend of Admiral
    Nelson. His business rise and fall was
  • John
    Davidson who was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1839 and
    resided at Ridley Hall on Bardon Hill.
  • while
    Thomas Davidson was a Victorian
    poet of the Scottish borders, born to parents from Northumberland.

Ireland. The Davison spelling has predominated in
Ireland. Most were of Scottish origin
and had settled in Ulster. A number of
them emigrated to America in the 18th century.

One line of Davisons dates from the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 after
which they were granted lands at Tandragee in county Antrim. Four generations of this family were
prominent in the linen industry
during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Irish from the Donegal sept of Mac
adopted the name of Davison in Donegal and in neighboring

America. The Davidsons in
America are mainly Scots or Scots Irish.
Most emigrated there, a few were forcibly taken there.

in the
latter category was David Davisson, a Scottish soldier captured in 1651
sent to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a prisoner of war in 1651. He made his home in Wenham, Essex county. His descendants later moved to New Jersey and
Virginia and then to various points west and south.

Robert Davidson came to Pennsylvania from Scotland
on the Deliverance of Glasgow in
1729. He died eight years later. His widow and children uprooted themselves
and resettled in Rowan county, North Carolina.
These Davidsons established their Rural Hill Farm in nearby
county in 1788 and became a prominent family of the plantation
community there.

Scots Irish in America
included two brothers, John and George Davidson, who arrived around
1740 and
later settled in Iredell county, North Carolina:

  • John
    was the father of Major
    William Davidson, Revolutionary soldier who subsequently made his home
    in Buncombe
  • while
    George was the father of General William Lee Davidson who died in
    the war in 1781. The General is
    commemorated in North Carolina by Davidson College, the town of
    Davidson, and
    Davidson county.

Davidson came
to Virginia from Ulster in the 1730’s.
His son George fought in the Revolutionary War and later moved
with his
family from Virginia to Kentucky
settled in Lincoln county.

A much later emigration involved Alexander Davidson
who departed with his family from Angus in Scotland in 1857, settling
Milwaukee. His grandsons Arthur, Walter
and William were three of the four founders of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company
in 1903.

Other Davidsons
. Some Davidsons in
America came from Scandinavia,
others were Jewish:

  • James
    Ole Davidson, for instance, arrived in America from
    Norway in 1872. He succeeded Robert La
    Follette as Wisconsin’s Governor in 1906.
  • while
    Gustav Davidson fled with his
    parents from the Jewish pogrom in Poland and arrived in New York in
    1907. He made his mark there as a poet,
    writer, and

Canada. Many of
the early Davidson settlers in Ontario were Scots Irish.

Samuel Davidson came with
his family from county Down in 1825 and was one of the first settlers
Mariposa township in the Kawartha Lakes region.
He subsequently served on the town council.
George and Rachel Davison arrived from
county Antrim in 1826. They settled in
Augusta township where George built himself a log cabin on the family
lot and
farmed. Their descendants have been

The 1840’s arrivals included Samuel Davidson who made his home at
Listowel in Perth county. James and
Sarah Davidson from county Antrim came to Westmeath township in 1845. This family suffered from a number of

  • their
    son Robert, born on
    the crossing to Canada, was born blind and was known as “Blind Bob.”
  • James
    himself died in 1861 at the age of 36 after a team of horses ran out of
    control. He subsequently died of blood
  • while
    his other son James lost his left arm in a horse-powered
    threshing machine and had to be fitted with a hook. James Davidson,
    would continue to take his threshing machine around at harvest time and
    was a
    popular member of the community.

Australia. The
early Davidsons in Australia were more Scottish than Scots Irish or

Walter Davidson from Inchmarlo
in Aberdeenshire arrived in Sydney in 1805.
Well-connected, he was granted large land holdings in the NSW
colony. Although he departed Australia
four years later, he retained his interest in his property which
developed into
a large sheep farm.

Alexander Davidson
was a carpenter from Aberdeen who came to Sydney with his employer Ben
Boyd, a
Scottish entrepreneur, in 1842. Boyd
launched numerous enterprises, all of which failed, and left the region. Davidson stayed on and built Kish House on
Kish Inlet, using salvaged timber from the shipwrecked Lawrence
. In the
1860’s he started a whaling operation on Twofold Bay.
This continued with his grandson “Fearless”
George Davidson until 1930.

Davidson, a blacksmith from St. Andrews in Fife, came with his family
to Sydney
in 1854. They were among the early
settlers of the New England or North Tablelands area of NSW.

Two descendants of the Davidsons of Tulloch
in Ross-shire also made their way south:

  • John
    Ewen Davidson came to Australia in 1865 and was a sugar planter in
  • while
    Hector Davidson, son of the fourth Davidson of Tulloch,
    departed for New Zealand in 1885 to breed sheep

Davidson Miscellany

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

Davidson Names

the senior partner of Davison, Newman and Co, one of the leading
grocers in 18th
century London.
Arthur Davidson
co-founded with William
Harley the Harley-Davidson Motor Cycle Company in Milwaukee in 1903.
Randall Davidson
was an Anglican bishop of Scottish origin
served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1903 to 1928.
Alan Davidson
was an
Australian cricket all-rounder of the 1950’s and 1960’s

Davidsons Today

  • 67,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Durham)
  • 42,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 44,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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