Irving Surname Genealogy

surname Irving is Scottish. Its root is
uncertain. One explanation is that the name came from a
Celtic word irfon, meaning
“green water;” another is that it originated with the word erinviene, meaning “from the west,”
and described men from Ireland who had settled on the west coast of
Scotland around Dumfries.
Its first recorded use was in the 12th century when Gilchrist, son of Eruini, witnessed a charter in Galloway.  There followed the place-names of Irving in Dumfriesshire and Irvine in north Ayrshire; the Irving clan of Bonshaw in Dumfriesshire;  and the Irvine clan of Drum in Aberdeenshire.  These Irvings and Irvines may have been related through a connection at the time of Robert the Bruce. But the relationship is not proven.

Irving exists as a surname today, as does Irvine, Ervine, Erwin and Irwin.

Resources on

Irving Ancestry

Scotland. The Irvings
were one of the Border reivers, a family clan who, through raiding and
clan feuding, rose to prominence during the lawless times on the
English/Scottish border in the 16th century. Their fortress and
base was Bonshaw
in Annandale.

The principal allies of the Irvings were the Johnstons, their
principal foes the Maxwells and the English Wardens who sought to
police the border. Clan chief Christopher Irving pf Bonshaw was
fighting the English at Flodden in 1513. His son Edward pursued
clan feuds, as did his son Christopher known as “Black
Christie.” The Irvings and the Johnstons combined to
inflict a
heavy defeat on the Maxwell forces at Dryfe Sands in 1593, which was in
fact the last clan battle to be fought in Scotland.

By this time there were the Whitehill Irvings (first known as the dukes
of Hoddom) and the Gribton and Kirkconnel Irvings as well. From
the Whitehill Irvings came Jock O’Milk, a well-known raider of his day
who is commemorated in the old Border ballad Duke of Milk. The overall
history is documented in Colonel J.B. Irving’s 1907
book The Book of the Irvings.

After the Border pacification of the early 1600’s, the Irving chiefs
less dangerous lives. Some became
involved in Dumfries municipal affairs, others – such as Paulus
Aemillius Irving – joined the army. Although many Irvings left
area, most within Scotland were and are still
to be found in the family stamping grounds of Dumfriesshire. Their
numbers included the
controversial early 19th century preacher the Rev. Edward Irving.
He was born in Annan and there is a statue of him in the old parish
church there.

Orkneys The Irving
name has also
appeared in the Orkney isles off
Scotland. William Irving was the first recorded there in
1425. He was said to have been
the son of William de Irvin, the secretary and armour-bearer of Robert
. His descendants, starting with Criste Irving, were
Irvings of Sabay, one of the chief landed families of the islands at
the time.

first appeared in parish records
in 1639. William
Irving, born on the isle of Shapinsay in 1740, served in the
Navy and moved to New York in 1763.

England. Irvings crossed
the border into England. By
the late 19th century there were more Irvings in England than
there were in

Cumbria The
largest numbers were and are in Cumbria. Irving is in
fact today the fourth most common surname in Cumbria. The first
stopping place was probably Kirklinton, just ten miles from the
Scottish border. Robert Irving, born there in 1723, was the
forebear of a family of surgeons. Another family traced itself
back to Joseph Irving,
there in 1771.

“The Kirklinton church records from the
early 1600’s show a complex network of families, originally Urwin then
becoming Irving and Irwin, sometimes switching names from one
generation to the next. Consequently it is difficult to be 100 percent
sure of the actual connections.”

The descendants of Matthew Irvin, born in Cleator in 1778, was shown by
DNA testing to
have Bonshaw Irving genes.

Irvings were later to be found in Wigton and Carlisle and along the
coast at
Workington and Maryport (where there were Irving shipowners and
mariners in the early 19th century). The huntsman Willie Irving,
the founder of the Lakeland terrier breed, was born in Ennerdale in

Ireland. The Scottiish
plantations brought Irvines and Irvings to Ulster in the 17th
century. It was the Irvine name that predominated. The
Irwing name cropped up in Roscommon and the Irvings of Donoughmore in
county Donegal (of English border origin) date from 1796.

There were Irvings in America from the Orkney isles. William Irving, who had arrived in New York
in 1763, was the father of the famous writer Washington Irving.
Another Orkney line led in the 20th century to
Burroughs Irving
, a Professor of English at the University
Pennsylvania and an expert on Beowulf

West Coast.
William Irving was a sea captain who left his
native Annan in Dumfriesshire for Boston in 1841 at the age of twenty
five. Eight years later he was on the Oregon Trail to the West
Coast where he started a coastal steamship business. He was one
of the first pioneers of steamer travel in the Pacific Northwest and is
remembered as one of the most successful and popular captains of his
era. His son Captain John Irving carried on
his father’s work up the coast in British Columbia.

Another Irving from Dumfriesshire to make his mark on the West Coast
was Andrew K. Irving. A shipwright by profession, he had moved to
San Francisco in 1868 and started the first shipbuilding yard on the
West Coast. The Irvings evacuated San Francisco at the time of
the 1906 earthquake and his son Samuel became mayor of neighboring

The Jules Irving who founded the San Francisco
Actor’s Workshop with
his wife in the 1950’s was in fact born Jules Israel in New York.
He was the father of director David Irving and actress Amy Irving.

There are twice
as many Irvings in Canada as there are in the United States, and many
of them in the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick. New Brunswick had three Irving arrivals in the early

  • George Irving and his wife Jane from Dumfriesshire
  • another George Irving from Dumfriesshire, this time married to
  • and two brothers, John and Henry Irving, from Ulster.

The first George had a son Kenneth
Colin and, two generations later, a Kenneth Colin Irving was born in
1899 in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. Known as KC Irving, he went on
to found the Irving industrial empire, one of Canada’s largest, which
remains New Brunswick based, privately-owned, and run by the family
(through his three sons – James, Arthur, and Jack – and their children).

Irvings in Canada generally came from Scotland and Ulster in
Ireland. The Irish Irvings might have come as Irvings or
subsequently changed their name from Irvine to Irving.

Australia and New Zealand.
John Irving, born in Parramatta in 1796, was the son of John Irving and
his common law convict wife Ann Marsh
. His father,
sadly, died four months before he was born. John was the forebear
of a growing Irving family, first in Australia and then in New Zealand.

Irving Miscellany

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

Select Irving Names

Edward Irving of Bonshaw was the
Irving clan chief for fifty years during the lawless times on the
Scottish borders in the
16th century.
Washington Irving was an early
century American writer, the author of stories such as Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Sir Henry Irving was the
leading stage actor in England during Victorian times. He was
born John Henry Brodribb.
KC Irving, from his base in New
Brunswick, became one of Canada’s foremost industrialsts of the 20th
John Irving is an American
writer, the author of such novels as The
World According to Garp
. His surname came from his

Select Irvings

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Cumbria)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous
    in California)
  • 13,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).


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