Hepburn Surname Genealogy

The surname Hepburn is thought to have come from Hebron or Hebburn,
small villages in Northumberland in the north of England. But it
could alternatively have a Scottish origin, meaning something like the
“house beside the water” as burn
is a widely used Scots word to mean river.

Hepburn Resources on

Hepburn Ancestry

main Hepburn branch in Scotland originated in East Lothian.

Hepburn was said to have been granted land there in 1343 for having
saved the Earl of
March from a
horse that had lost control. These Hepburns
became one of the great barons of Scotland. Patrick Hepburn was
Lord of Hailes in 1451 and his grandson Patrick Lord High Admiral of
Scotland in 1488 and ennobled as the
Earl of Bothwell. But the family is probably best remembered for James Hepburn,
4th Earl of Bothwell
who married Mary Queen of Scots and
then fled to the Continent
with blood on his hands.

There were also Hepburn families in East
Lothian at Waughton, Beanston and Athelstaneford, and branches at Keith
and Smeaton. Smeaton Hall stayed with the Hepburn
family until 1934. Today, Robin
Hepburn runs his Waughton financial communications company in London.

Hepburns were as well at Fowlis Wester in Perthshire and,
increasingly in the 19th century, in and around Aberdeen and
Glasgow. One family in Biggar traces itself back to John Hepburn,
a veteran of the battle of Waterloo and the town jailer in
Lanark. Charles Hepburn co-founded the Hepburn and Ross whisky
firm in Glasgow in 1920. The business made him exceedingly rich
and he became a noted art collector and benefactor in the town.

England. The spelling in
Durham was sometimes Hebron. Not all Hepburns
were well-to-do. Thomas Hepburn was a Durham
miner who tried to unionize his colliery in the 1830’s, but with little
success. One Hepburn line in the East End of London dates
from the 18th century. Another Hepburn line starts with a docker
on the Clyde
who moved there in the late 19th century.

Ireland. There were also
Hepburns in Ireland who had moved there from Scotland in the
1700’s. A Donegal family started out in Raphoe as masons.

America. Some Scots
Hepburns migrated to America. Samuel Hepburn, a Covenanter,
decamped to Ireland and then followed his sons to America in
1773. He suffered the
loss of his wife and a daughter on the voyage:

“The vessel, the Faithful Steward on which they
sailed, was lost somewhere on the American coast and mother and
daughter were drowned while trying to get ashore on a small boat.”

The family settled along the Susquehanna river in Northumberland,
Pennsylvania. Samuel himself died there in 1797 at the grand old
97. Son James was a prominent merchant in Northumberland. James Curtis
, a Presbyterian missionary to Japan, was a later
descendant. The family line was covered in John Meginness’s 1894
book The Hepburn Family of the

An earlier arrival was James Hepborn from Scotland, transported to
Maryland in 1655. His descendants were small farmers in Kent
county on Maryland’s eastern shore for many generations. The Rev.
Sewell Hepburn
changed the family name from Hepborn to
Hepburn in
1879. From this line came the actress Katharine Hepburn.

Other Hepburn lines can be found in Canada and the

Australia. Robert
of the Royal Navy was a pioneer settler on the east
coast of
Tasmania, arriving with his wife and eight children in the early
1830’s. He set up a whaling station on Great Oyster Bay.
His Swanwick homestead was in Swansea.

captain, John Hepburn, came to Hobart in 1835 and then moved onto
Victoria. He too was a pioneer of the country, being the first
European settler in the Daylesford region of Victoria. He named
his homestead Smeaton House after the Smeaton back home in
Scotland. Also settling in Victoria were two Hepburn brothers,
Donald and Angus, who arrived from Inverness in 1851.

Select Hepburn Miscellany

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

Hepburn Names

John Hepburn from Athelstaneford was a distinguished soldier for
Sweden and France in their wars in the early 17th century.
Katharine Hepburn
was a celebrated American actress.
Audrey Hepburn, another
celebrated actress, took her Hepburn name from her maternal
grandmother, Kathleen Hepburn.

Select Hepburns Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply