Houston Surname Meaning, History & Origin
is a Scottish clan name that originated with Hugh de Padvinan, a Norman
knight templar, sometime around 1160. His lands in Renfrewshire
came to be called Houston. This either means Hugh’s town or, more
likely, is a derivation from the Gaelic Uisdean.
Huston, or Houstoun. In Ireland there has been Hughston and
Huseton as well
as Houston and Huston. Today, the numbers are approximately 75
percent Houston and 25 percent Huston. There is also the rare Houfton
Yorkers say “How”-ston, Texans say “Hue”-ston. “How”ston Street
in New York was named after the aristocratic Scotsman William Houstoun;
the city of
“Hue”ston in Texas after the Scots-Irish Sam Houston who defeated
Mexico to deliver Texas to the United States.The American
physicist William “How”ston must have been confusing to his friends as
he lived in “Hue”ston for most of his life.
- Houstoun Genealogy.
Houstouns of Scotland and Georgia.
- John Huston, Emigrant Correspondent.
The letters of John Huston, a surveyor in Ontario.
- Houston-Huston DNA Project Houston/Huston DNA.
The first recorded Houston was Sir Finlay de Hustone who appeared on
the Ragman Roll in 1296 of those swearing fealty to the English
king. His family held Houston castle and the surrounding village
in Renfrewshire until 1740, after which time they based themselves in
Whitburn, West Lothian. However, a Houston branch which had set
themselves up nearby, the Houstons of Johnstone,
prospered through the coal mines and cotton mills on their
estate. Another branch in Wigtownshire, the Houstons of Cotreoch,
can be traced back to the early 1500’s.
The main line of Houstons were prominent in court affairs in the 16th
century, made baronets by Charles II in 1668, and subsequently
prospered in the 18th century from their American holdings (to such as
extent that, after the Revolutionary War, they renounced their Scottish
title in favor of their American position). Meanwhile, many other
Houstons had taken up the opportunities that had become available in
Some Houstons did remain. The
name spreads across Lanarkshire and into Ayrshire. Sir
Robert Houston of the Renfrew side of the family grew wealthy
from his shipping venture in Liverpool in the late 1800’s. In the
end, however, he was very much upstaged by his louder-than-life wife, Lady Lucy Houston.
Houstons came to Ireland in the 17th century as a result of the
Scottish plantations (of Protestant settlers), soldiers under Cromwell
who stayed, and, later, persecuted Covenanters. They settled
mainly in the Ulster counties of Antrim, Derry, Armagh, and Down.
An early arrival was Alexander Houston who operated a flax mill in
Broughshane, county Antrim. David Houston was a Covenant minister
who sought refuge in Ulster. He was present at the siege of
Londonderry in 1689 and lived out his last years in county
Antrim. John Holmes Houston was one of the founders of the
Belfast Bank that was established in 1808.
Not all Houstons were well-to-do. During the
early 1700’s many Houstons lost their tenancies and there began
an exodus out of Ireland to America.
America. The Scots Houstouns (“How”-stouns), as they
called themselves, were one of the wealthiest families in America at
the onset of the Revolutionary War. Sir Patrick Houstoun was an
early settler in Georgia, the owner of the Rosdue and Retreat
plantations. A Loyalist, he lost out after the War. But son
William took the American side and was elected a delegate to the
Continental Congress in New York. Another son John became the
Governor of Georgia in 1784. Their story is recounted in Edith
Johnston’s 1950 book The Houstouns
There was a Huston family in Wells, Maine dating back to the early
1700’s (as described in Philip Harris’s 1952 book Hustons of New England).
David Houston came to Londonderry, New Hampshire from Ulster around
1720. His son Samuel was a member of George Washington’s elite
Life Guard until about 1780.
Scots Irish Arrivals
However, the main Houston/Huston influx was of Scots Irish and they
headed further south, into Pennsylvania, Virginia and North
Carolina from the 1720’s to the 1740’s:
- John Houston arrived in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in the
1720’s and settled in the Pequea valley. The limestone house
which he built in Leacock township still stands.
- another John Houston arrived in the same county in 1734. A
Houston was one of the first settlers in Kansas.
- Samuel Huston was an early settler in Cumberland valley,
Pennsylvania in the 1730’s
- and David Houston was one of the
first land-holders in the western part of North Carolina at this time.
Then there was the John Houston who arrived in Virginia in
the 1740’s and whose family later migrated to Tennessee. The
grandson was a certain Sam Houston.
in the Shenandoah valley, he had run away in 1809 from the farm in
Tennessee that his family had moved to after his father’s death – to
live with the Cherokee Indians. He received little formal
education, less than six months he himself said later.”
Houston rose to become Governor of Tennessee, but departed
in acrimonious circumstances. He moved to Texas and improbably
led and won the war for Texas independence. The Rev. Samuel R.
Houston, the son of a first cousin to the Texas hero, published his
book Biographical Sketches of the
Houston Family in 1882.
Canada. John Huston captained a schooner which supplied
provisions to the British army at Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia in the
1750’s. He subsequently settled there and was an important figure
in the early history of the area (as farmer, merchant, and
Another John Huston had come to Ontario from Ireland
(via New York) sometime around 1818. He was a surveyor in the
Peterborough area and an active correspondent with relatives back in
Ireland. Much of this correspondence has been preserved. .
Charles Huston arrived in Quebec in the 1840’s. His descendants
later headed west to Manitoba. At the same time came Alexander
Huston, the forebear of some much more famous
Hustons from Ireland. This family was
to include the actor Walter Huston and his son, the film-maker John
Hugh de Padvinan. Hugo (or Hugh) de Padvinan was a Norman knight templar who followed
Walter Fitz-Allan and made his way to Scotland. According to the
historian Amelia Williams – as quoted in Cleburne
Huston’s 1968 book Bold Legacy: The
Story of the Houston-Huston Ancestors – Hugh led fifty of his men to the rescue of King Malcolm of Scotland
and bore him
to safety. For this act he was bestowed the rank of Scottish
knight and an estate in Renfrewshire.
Public records showed that land was transferred from Baldwin of Biggar,
viscount of Lanarkshire, to Hugh and that this came to be called the
parish of Houston. The earliest recorded documentation of Hugh was
circa 1160 – when he was a witness to the signature of Walter
Fitz-Allan, then holder of the lands of Strathgryffe in the valley
There is also literature that suggests that Hugh of Paduinan was the
son of Baldwin, the viscount of Lanarkshire. In his Sherifdoms of Lanark and Renfrew
(compiled circa 1710, printed in 1831), William Hamilton wrote of the
Houstons as follows: “This family is come from Baldwin de
Bigeris.” Baldwin’s landholdings included the parish of Kilpeter,
which was later deeded to Hugh.
The Houstons of Johnstone. The lands of Little Mains of Johnstone were purchased in the
1640’s by Sir Ludovick Houston of Houston, who gave them to his second
The latter’s namesake became the 4th Laird of Johnstone in
1757 at the age of 14 years. During his 58 years as Laird, he
extended Johnstone Castle, developed the extensive coal mines at
Quarrelton, and opened lime works at Floor Craig. In the late
18th century Quarrelton Colliery yielded 20,000 tons of coal per year
and employed 30-40 miners and 12 pit ponies. There were also
cotton mills on the Houston Estate.
In 1781 George began to sell land for housing near the Bridge
of Johnstone and to plan the layout of the new town of Johnstone.
He became a wealthy industrialist and was a partner in establishing the
Paisley Union Bank in 1788.
Reader Feedback – The Rare Houfton Surname. My surname is Houfton. This is extremely rare! In fact I am, as far as I can find out, the
last remaining male Houfton of my own family.
My earliest certain ancestor was John Houfton, born in 1785 in
Ibstock. My forbears mostly stem from
I have a theory that
when the old script letter “s” was written as an “f”
then my name could possibly have originally been Houston. Looking up Houftons almost always results in
find Houstons in Scotland and Ireland, but no more Houftons in the UK
Best wishes, Benjamin Houfton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
James Houston – The Marksman at the Siege of Londonderry. W.T. Latimer’s 1902 book A History
of the Irish Presbyterians
narrates the following:
“James Houston was the celebrated
marksman who killed the standard-bearer of King James as his Majesty
approached the walls of Londonderry during the siege of 1689. His
son Christopher, a boy of nine years old, was with him during the
siege. That boy afterwards became the father of three sons, one
of these being the grandfather of the Rev. James Houston of
Houston Place Names in America. The following places were named after famous Houstons:
|1788||Houston Street, New York||William Houstoun, delegate to
the Continental Congress
|1821||Houston county, Georgia||Governor John Houstoun of Georgia|
|1836||City of Houston, Texas||Sam Houston, first Governor of
|1837||Houston county, Texas||Sam Houston, first Governor of
|1903||Houston county, Alabama||Governor George Smith Houston of
Then there is Hustonville, Kentucky. In the late 1700’s, there
was a settlement in Kentucky at the junction of trials linking the
Kentucky River and Green Rivers and Stanford and the Falls of Ohio (now
Louisville). Because of this large intersection of highly travelled
trails, the settlement was known as “the Cross Roads.”
In 1826 Sam Huston opened a mercantile store and settled in the
village. During his time living there, he was able to convince
state officials to route the new state road through the village.
This became a landmark decision for the future of Hustonville.
Shortly thereafter, the residents of the village voted to change the
community’s name to Hustonville in honor of Sam Huston.
Sam Houston and Balleybolly in County Antrim. Born in 1793 at Timber Ridge Virginia, Sam Houston was the fifth child
of Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. His family had settled in
an area of the Shenandoah valley that was filling up with Ulster-Scot
farms from the 1730s. The Houstons moved to Tennessee in
1807 and it was there that Sam Houston would come into contact with the
His association with the state of Texas remains the most remembered
part of his life. It was after the defeat of Texan forces at the
Alamo that General Sam Houston would play a leading role. His
forces defeated the Mexican Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836
and thereby secured the independence of Texas. Sam Houston was to
become the first President of Texas and a folk hero.
Samuel Houston’s family are believed to have come from the
Ballyboley/Ballybracken area of county Antrim. It appears that a
Captain John Houston was granted land there during Cromwell’s
time. Today there is a General Sam
Houston plaque by the Ballyboley forest entrance. The plaque is
dedicated to “one whose roots lay in these hills whose ancestor John
Houston emigrated from this area.”
David Houston, A Kansas Pioneer. David Houston’s ancestry traced back to John Houston, the
founder of this branch of the Houston family in America, who had
emigrated to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in 1734. His son
William, a Revolutionary patriot, had fought at the battle of
Brandywine (where he was severely wounded, taken prisoner and thrust on
board a British prison ship in Philadelphia). His son John, born
in 1782, had married Grace McCall and moved to Ohio in 1800. Son
David was born there in 1827.
David, having studied law, arrived in Garnett, Kansas
in 1858 to practice as a lawyer. He had an active Civil War
before, as Colonel Houston, returning to become involved in
local politics. In 1873 he purchased the Daily Commercial of Leavenworth
which he edited two years before disposing of it. He was also one
of the pioneers in railroad building and for many years was a director
of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad.
The following tribute to him and his wife Mary appeared in
1912 in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of
“Colonel Houston has now reached
the advanced age of eighty-four years and can look back upon a career
full of years and honor, a career which for its activity and usefulness
has set an unusually high standard for the future citizens of this
state. He and his wife, in a beautiful and serene old age, are
still residing in Garnett in the old home, which is endeared to them by
nearly a half century of associations and there they command the
respect and esteem of all who know them.”
The Huston Family. Their story began in Ireland in 1840. It
was then that Alexander Hughston and his wife Margaret decided to leave
their home in Tobermore, Derry and emigrate to Canada. They
settled on a small parcel of land near Orangeville in Ontario, where
they changed the spelling of their family name to Huston. Eight
years later son Robert was born on the family farm. They remained
on the farm and had three more children, Anne in 1873, Alexander in
1875, and Margaret in 1877.
It must have been
rough going trying to feed four children and to eke out a living on
that seems to grow stones as readily as any other crop. Whatever
the reason, Robert gave up farming and moved his family to Toronto
where he was able to get work as a building contractor. The last
of his four children, Walter, was born there in 1884.
Walter Huston began
his Broadway acting career in the 1920’s and made many Hollywood movies
during the 1930’s. He is the father of the film director John
Huston and the grandfather of the actress Anjelica Huston and the actor
Lady Lucy Houston. She was born Lucy Radmall, the daughter of a
box-maker. She started out at the age of fifteen as a chorus
girl. A year later, in 1873, she eloped to Paris with an older
man who, on his death nine years later, set her up for life.
After a very active life and two marriages, she married in 1924 for the
third time at the age of sixty seven to the Scottish shipping magnate
Sir Robert Houston – a man described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
as “a hard, ruthless, unpleasant batchelor.” They lived as tax
exiles in Jersey.
When Sir Robert showed her his will, she reportedly tore it up.
She said that one million pounds (a huge sum in those days) was
insufficient. Sir Robert then suffered a series of mental
disorders. He believed that his food was being poisoned and he
would employ a food-taster on his yacht the Liberty. He did die in 1926,
leaving his widow £5.5 million.
Lucy returned to England with money to burn. Today she is best
known for her gifts in support of British aviation. At the time
she was known for her fascist leanings and for her admiration of
Mussolini. She is said to have paid for nine by-election meetings
of the National Government to be disrupted.
Her letters were usually written on colored paper with violet
ink. She was so upset by the Abdication Crisis of 1936 that she
stopped eating and soon died of a heart attack.
Select Houston Names
- Sam Houston who defeated the Mexican army in 1836 was the first Governor of the state of Texas. The city of
Houston was named after him.
- Charles W. Houston was the civil rights lawyer who did much to dismantle the Jim Crow laws and
paved the way for the historic 1954 Brown
vs. Board of Education decision.
- John Huston, of Scots-Irish and
Canadian roots, was the maker of many classic American films of the 1940’s and 1950’s – such as The
Maltese Falcon and The African Queen.
- Whitney Houston was a hugely
popular American singer in the 1990’s. Her cousin was Dionne Warwick and her godmother Aretha Franklin.
Select Houston Numbers Today
- 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 24,000 in America (most numerous
- 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).
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