Livingston Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Livingston Meaning
The origins
of the Livingston surname in Scotland are from
the place-name Livingston in West Lothian, first founded by a man named
in the 12th century.
Early Livingston spellings were various. Livingston
and Livingstone
are the main variants today.
Livingston prevails in America. But
Livingstone outnumbers Livingston in
Scotland and elsewhere.

Livingston Resources on

Livingston Ancestry

Scotland. Livingstons in
Scotland divide into Lowland and Highland Livingstons. Both Lowland and
Highland Livingstons have believed that there was some linkage between
the two
groups. But none has really been

Lowland. The line from Leving at Livingston in West Lothian

  • to Alexander Livingston, the first around
    1250 to take the name of Livingston
  • to his
    grandson William Livingston, the first of the Livingstons of Livingston
  • and to Sir Bartholomew Livingston, the last
    of these Livingstons, who died at the
    Battle of Flodden Field in 1513.

However, another line
had sprung from
Sir William Livingston who had accompanied King
David II on his expedition to England in 1346.
Afterwards he acquired the barony of Callendar in Stirlingshire
heiress he had married.

Sir James Livingston of Callendar was created Lord
Livingston in 1458. His descendant
was a guardian to the young Mary Queen of Scots a century later and his
Mary was one of the four Marys in her retinue.
A later Alexander Livingston became the Earl of Linlithgow in
1600, a
title that was then forfeited when his descendant James Livingston came
out on
the Jacobite side in the Rising of 1715. This
Livingston dynasty ended
conclusively with the second Jacobite
defeat in
1746. The family story was told in Edwin
Livingston’s 1920 book The
Livingstons of Callendar

Subsidiary branches of the line
were those at Kilsyth, Dunipace and Westquarter. One line led to
the Rev. John Livingston at Jedbergh on the Scottish Borders and to his
son Robert who founded the Livingston family in New York.

Highland. These Livingstons
originated from the Isle of
Lismore and the districts of Lorn and Appin in Argyllshire on the
Scottish west
coast. Their original Gaelic name was
MacLeay from Mac an Leigh, meaning
“son of the physician.”

In 1641 James Livingston of Stirling, Baron of Biel, was
granted a lease of the lands and the rights of the bishopric of Argyll
and the
Isles. In this capacity he resided for a
while at Achandu castle at Lismore. It was probably then that the
adopted the name of Livingston.

They became the hereditary keepers of the
crozier of the Bishops of Lismore (from St. Moluag who had died in 592)
and granted
the title of the Baron of Bachuil.
But they
were never a clan of much wealth or power, being
always dependent on more prosperous neighbors to lease or croft them
land to farm
or graze their cattle.

Of descendants, Donald Livingstone was one of a
contingent of Livingstones guarding Charles Stewart, the Laird of
Ardsheal, at
the Battle of Culloden in 1746. He rescued the white banner of the
from the battlefield and successfully returned it to Appin. More noteworthy later was Dr. David Livingstone, the
African explorer. There were many who emigrated.

The Livingstons in Ireland were a Scottish implant.
One family arrived in county Down from
Ayrshire as early as 1607 as part of the Ulster plantation. Others came from Stirlingshire.
The Rev. Henry Livingston was the
long-serving minister of the Ballynahinch Presbyterian church.

“This Henry Livingston was
first stated minister of Ballynahinch after the year 1641. He supplied
congregations of Drumbo, Ballynahinch and Drumcaw. To this most
laborious office
he was ordained in the year 1655; and he discharged its duties for the
space of
forty two years with great diligence and fidelity.”

William Livingston was a Lisburn merchant in the
late 1600’s and a ruling elder at Ballynahinch

The Livingstons were one of
the prominent families of early America.

New York. Robert
Livingston from Scotland, exiled to Holland for religious
reasons, set sail for New York in 1674 and – with his Dutch connections
– soon
established his presence in its business and political circles.

He was to be the forebear of the
Livingston family
that would remain
pre-eminent in New York through the colonial era and beyond. His line ran:

  • through his elder son Philip
    Livingston who inherited the family estate of Livingston Manor in
    county. His descendants included a
    signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Governor of New Jersey,
    and a US
    Supreme Court Justice.
  • through his younger son Robert Livingston who made his home at Clermont in
    nearby Columbia county. His descendants
    the US Minister to
    France who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and his son a Louisiana
  • and though his nephew Robert
    Livingston the Younger who arrived in America in 1687 and later was the
    of Albany. His son John was a Montreal

There were of course other Livingstons in

John Livingston came to the
Poropotank Creek area in Virginia from Scotland in 1651.
Later Livingstones – brothers William, John
and George – were plantation owners in King and Queen county in the
1750’s. Lucille Coone’s 1990 book The Livingstons of Virginia covered this
line. There was another Virginia line of Livingstons from
Botetourt county that migrated to Alabama in the early 1800’s

Andrew Livingston was Scots Irish
from county Down. He arrived in
Pennsylvania sometime in the 1750’s. His
son George settled in Fayette county and later Livingstons moved to Ohio.
Adam Aaron Livingston was also Scots Irish.
He came to Virginia in the 1760’s and was the forebear of the
Livingstons of Greene county, Georgia.
There are four different Livingston Bibles recording the 19th
descendants of this family

Canada. Many of the Livingstons coming to Canada were
Highland Livingstons from Argyllshire.
Daniel Livingston arrived in Nova Scotia with the British army
in 1757
and stayed. He was later to be found in
Leeds county, Ontario where he was killed by a falling tree in 1793.

There were Livingstones in Canada who had or claimed a
kinship with the explorer David Livingstone:

  • Angus Livingston was a pioneer
    settler in Cape Breton, at Big Bras D’Or on Boularderie island, in the
    1800’s. He was a boat-builder
    there. Eleven Livingstones – great
    grandsons of Angus – fought in World War One and have been commemorated
    in the
    local Presbyterian church. Their numbers
    included “Wild Bill” Livingston who was awarded the Military Cross
  • but the definite connection has been with David’s
    older brother John who came to Lanark township, Ontario from Blantyre
    in the
    1840’s. He later moved to Listowel in
    Perth county where he died in 1899

James Livingston grew up in East Kilbride
near Blantyre in Lanarkshire, the son of a weaver.
He departed for Waterloo county, Ontario in
1856. There he prospered in the flax
industry. His former home in Wilmot
township, Castle
Kilbride, has been designated a Canadian National Historic Site.

Australia and New Zealand. A number of Livingstons had worked in the slate
quarries of Balachuilish in western Argyllshire in the early/mid 1800’s. James Ban Livingston from Glencoe set off for
Australia with his wife Isabelle on the
Marco Polo
in 1852. Charles
Livingston emigrated to New Zealand with his wife Dorothy in 1860. They settled in Forest Hill, Southland


Livingston Miscellany

Livingston Origins.  The source of the Livingston name is the place – a town in West Lothian near
Edinburgh.  The town’s name was derived
from a man named
(in Latin) Levingus who lived in the
early 12th century and gave his name to Villa
or Leving’s Town.

Some believe that Leving was an Anglo-Saxon or
continental European, possibly from Hungary, who came to Scotland with
Queen Margaret after the
Conquest of England in 1066.  But the
sound “Levin” can be a name in many languages.

More traditionally it
was believed that Levingus had Gaelic Highland roots in the clan Donn Sleibhe (Dunsleeve, Don Levy,
MacOnlea or MacLea).  A diminutive form
of the personal name Donn Sleibhe
(brown of the hill), is Leibhin,
pronounced levin, thus Leibhin’s

The Gaelic name of Livingston now is Baile
Dhun Leibhe
(the town of Dunlevin).
Many members of the clan Maclea eventually took the surname
up, as if it were an English translation of their Gaelic name.

Livingston and Livingstone.  The early spellings were
various.  Turstanus Leuig was the son of
Leving who had founded the town of Livingston (then spelt Leuiggestun) in West
Lothian.  Other early recordings included
William Levestone who had witnessed a grant by the Earl of Levenax.  In 1296 Sir Archibald de Levingestoune
rendered homage to the English king in the Ragman’s Rolls.
And it was James Leyffingstoun as spelt who was
appointed the Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1456.

By then Livingston was generally the main
spelling, although Livingstone with the addition of the “e” was
evident by the 16th century.  The
Livingstone spelling preference became noticeable during the 19th
thanks perhaps to the popularity of Dr. David Livingstone the famous
African explorer.

Scottish Census Numbers Livingston Livingstone Total
1841    2,651 (85%) 483 (15%)    3,134
1881    2,268 (55%)    1,827 (45%)    4,095
1911    1,756 (35%)    3,266 (65%) 5,022

Today the Livingstone
numbers are larger, except in America.

Numbers (000’s) Livingston Livingstone Total
UK     2     8    10
America    16     1    17
Elsewhere 4     7    11
Total    22    16 38

The End of the Livingston Dynasty at Callendar.  In 1721 Lady Ann Livingston, daughter of the exiled James Livingston, had been allowed to rent
the house and lands formerly held by her family.  She
had earlier married William Boyd, Earl of
Kilmarnock, and he now took up residence at Callendar House.

Both she and her
husband supported Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, when he
in Scotland in 1745.  Things began well
enough.  Bonnie Prince Charlie passed the night in Callendar House
September of that year on his way to a triumph at Prestonpans and a
reception in Edinburgh.

But the failed march south to Derby and the retreat back
to Scotland signalled the beginning of the end of the Stewart
cause.  At
Culloden in April came final defeat and with it the capture and
execution of
Lord Kilmarnock.  Lady Ann left Falkirk and the Livingston dynasty
there effectively came to an end.

David Livingstone’s Ancestry.  David Livingstone
was born in 1813 in the Lanarkshire mill town of Blantyre.
At the age of ten he was working twelve-hour
days with his brother John as a piecer in the cotton mill.

From these unpromising beginnings he was able
to attend medical school and be accepted as a Christian missionary. He made his first visit to Africa in 1840 and
was to spend the rest of his life there as a missionary and explorer.  He was lost and then found by Henry Stanley
in their famous meeting on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871.

What were his
origins?  An 1891 letter from his older
brother John Livingstone in Canada stated that their grandfather Neil
Livingstone and his wife Mary Morrison left the island of Ulva with
family around 1792 and settled in Blantyre.

There is no information that
survives regarding the grandfather Neil Livingston’s baptismal date,
there is an assumption by some that he was born about 1745.  This is nothing more than an educated guess
based upon the notion that Dr. Livingstone’s great grandfather Neil was
in 1746 at the Battle of Culloden when his grandfather was a young

account has this Neil as the youngest son of the Baron of Bachuil who
lived on
the island of Lismore.  He was said to
have enlisted as a Jacobite soldier during the Rebellion, survived the
of Culloden, and then made his way back home.
He was unable to safely return to Lismore, so he eventually
ended up on

Today the tradition continues in Mull that the old
Livingstone family of
Dr. Livingstone lived at a croft on the southern shores of Ulva. The
reality of Ulva, as elsewhere in western Argyll, is that the island was
to clearances in the early 1800’s.
By the time Dr. Livingstone arrived by yacht in 1864 looking for
relatives there were no traces of Livingstone kin to be found.

The Baron of Bachuil at Lismore.  Niall Livingstone, Baron of Bachuil and the chief of Clan MacLea, is the only person other than the Queen
whose passport and title (which precedes the kingdom of Scotland) are
“by the Grace of God.”  His family has
lived on the island of Lismore in the Inner Hebrides for 1,500 years.

He is also the Abbot of Lismore and the holder
of the oldest existing church office in Britain – as the keeper of
Bachuil Mor (St. Moluag’s staff) which is renowned for having
miraculous powers.

But in 2017 the Baron put
his home on the island, Bachuil House, up for sale, before later
agreeing to a
community buyout.  The Baron said:

“If this becomes the first step to creating what I call the Lismore dream, it
really could be the best thing to happen to the island since the
arrival of St. Moluag in 562.“

Lismore has 185
residents today and a high proportion of older people.
The Community Trust sees it as important to
make improvements that would encourage more young families to live there.

The New York Livingston Family

Rev. John Livingston in Scotland (1603-1672) m. Janet Fleming

Robert Livingston the Elder
(1654-1728), immigrated in 1674, m. Alida Schuyler

— Philip Livingston of Livingston Manor (1686-1749), merchant, m. Catharine Ten Brugh

— a. Robert Livingston of Livingston Manor (1708-1790) m. Mary Thong

—- Walter Livingston of Clermont (1740-1797), merchant and NY politician, m. Cornelia Schuyler

—– Henry Livingston (1768-1810), judge and NY politician, m. Mary Allen

—- John Livingston of Oak Hill (1750-1822) m. Mary Ann LeRoy

— b. Peter Van Brugh Livingston (1710-1792), merchant, m. Mary Alexander

—- Philip Livingston (1740-1810), NY politician, m. Cornelia Van Horne

—- William Livingston (1757-1780), killed in a duel.

— c. Philip Livingston (1718-1801), signed the Declaration of Independence, m. Christina Ten Broeck

—- Philip Livingston (1741-1787) m. Sara Johnson

—– Edward Livingston of Clermont (1779-1843), Lieut. Governor of New York, m. Elizabeth Livingston

— d. William Livingston (1723-1790), Governor of New Jersey m. Susannah French

—- Henry Livingston (1757-1823), US Supreme Court


— Robert Livingston of Clermont (1688-1775) m. Margaret Howarden

— Judge Robert Livingston (1718-1775), NY politician, m. Margaret Beekman

—- Robert Livingston the Chancellor (1746-1813), US Minister to France, m. Mary Stevens

—- Edward Livingston (1764-1836), Louisiana Senator and US Secretary of State, m. Louise Davezac


– James Livingston (1646-1673)

Robert Livingston the Younger (1663-1725), immigrated in 1687, mayor of Albany, m. Margarita Schuyler

— John Livingston (1709-1791), Montreal trader, m. Catharina Van Broeck

—- James Livingston (1747-1832), fought in Revolutionary War and afterwards NY politician, m. Elizabeth Simpson.

Robert Livingston of Clermont.  His grandson Edward described Robert Livingston of Clermont in 1772 at the age of eighty four as follows:

“He was a gentleman – tall and somewhat bent, but not
emaciated by
age which had marked but not disfigured a face once remarkable for its
beauty of features, and still beaming with the benevolence and
that had always illuminated it.

He marked the epoch at which he retired from the
world by preserving its costume: the flowing wool powered wig, the
bright brown
coat, with large cuffs and square shirts, the cut velvet waistcoat,
with ample
flaps and the breeches scarcely covering the knee, the silk stocking,
over them with embroidered clocks, and shining square-toed shoes,
fastened near
the ankle and small embossed gold buckles.

These were retained in his
not to affect a singularity, but because he thought it ridiculous at
his time
of life to follow the quick succession of fashion.

He always rose at five and
read until breakfast.  The year before
his death, he took up the study of German and spoke it fluently.

The patriarch
of Clermont was in many ways the spoiled younger son of the self-made
man.  A failure in the law, in business,
and in the
eyes of his own parents, he nonetheless entered his final years with
satisfaction that he had not only maintained the estate passed on to
him by his
father, but had increased it 40-fold through his speculation in
Mountain lands.”

Angus Livingstone on Cape Breton.  Angus Livingstone was the progenitor of the Boularderie Livingstones on Cape Breton.

Born in Argyllshire
around the year 1773, he had served in the Navy aboard the Royal
during the Napoleonic Wars.  By his own account he
arrived in Cape Breton in 1819 and made his first petition for land on
the west
side of Boularderie in 1820. The grant was named Kilninian, which was
the name of
the parish and the town on the isle of Mull from which Angus probably

There is a family tradition that Angus was one of three brothers who
together and landed at Pictou.  In a search for better land, they
built an open
boat and set off from there.  Malcolm settled at Cape George in
Antigonish county
(at a place now called Livingstone Cove), while Angus
and George continued to Cape Breton. They
had their boat hauled over the strip of land separating the Strait of
Canso from
the Bras d’Or Lakes at St. Peter’s.  Angus chose to settle on the
west side
of Boularderie island and George sailed on to Low Point near
present-day Victoria Mines at the mouth of Sydney Harbor.

While it might be
nice to believe in the tale, its credibility is questioned by the
petition for
land at Low Point by John Livingstone (maybe Angus’s son) in 1817, in
which he
stated that he has been a resident of Cape Breton for ten years.  This would have preceded by a considerable
time Angus’s reported arrival date at Boularderie.

Another account does have Angus
arriving much earlier at Pictou, in 1791.
Donald Livingstone and his family from Mull came to Prince
Edward Island
in 1806 on the Rambler.

The claim that
Angus was an uncle of the famous Dr. David Livingstone of Africa has
not been supported
by the evidence.



Livingston Names

  • Alexander Livingston was the first of his line to assume the name of Livingston around the year 1250. 
  • Sir James Livingston of Callendar was appointed Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1453. 
  • Robert Livingston from the Scottish Borders came to America in 1674 and was the forebear of
    a powerful New York family. 
  • David Livingstone was a Scottish
    missionary and explorer in Africa and one of the most popular British heroes of the late 19th century. 
  • Ken Livingstone has been a prominent left-wing
    London leader, serving as its mayor from 2000 to 2008

Livingston Numbers Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Livingston and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.



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