Stevenson

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Stevenson/Stephenson Surname Genealogy

It could be Stevenson, it could be Stephenson – being “son of Steven” and “son of Stephen,” a personal name from the Greek Stephanos meaning “crown.” It was a popular name in the early Middle Ages, having been borne by the first Christian martyr. Stevensons outnumber Stephensons by roughly 60/40 today.
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Stevenson/Stephenson Ancestry

England.
Both
Stevenson and Stephenson are northern surnames
, Stephenson
more
so. It was hardly to be found south of Yorkshire and Lancashire
in the 19th century. Stevenson, by contrast, extended down into
the
west Midlands (the largest numbers are in Nottinghamshire today) and
there have also been increasing numbers further south.

John Stephenson
was recorded as a freeman of York in 1395. But the best-known
Stephenson is probably George Stephenson, the man who built the
first public railway line from Stockton to Darlington. He was
born in 1781 to illiterate parents in a small
village north of Newcastle. He worked in the mines nearby and
was soon an expert in steam-driven machinery. He built his
first prototype locomotive in 1814 and the first line on the Stephenson
gauge began in 1825.

From
Alston in Cumbria came two
brothers, William and John Stephenson, who were to do well for
themselves. William made his way to
London, became a
successful brewer there, was knighted and made Lord Mayor of London in
1764. His brother John Stephenson headed to
Newcastle where he became a wine merchant,
directing in the north his brother’s speculation in hops down south. John was sheriff of Newcastle in 1728 and its
mayor in 1750.

There was a line of Stevensons at Balladoole on the Isle of Man from the 14th century. Many of them emigrated in the 19th century, primarily to Canada.

Scotland.  Stevenson but not Stephenson extended as a surname into Scotland.  The writer Robert Louis Stevenson suspected a Highland origin for his Stevensons. But most see Stevensons as having their origins in the Lowlands, in the counties of Lanark, Renfrew and Ayr. One early Stevenson family came from Bothwell near Motherwell in Lanarkshire.

Neilston parish near Paisley in Renfrewshire was a source of many Stevensons. John James Stevenson was a tenant farmer there in the 1650’s.  The family later moved to Glasgow and prospered as merchants. Robert Stevenson, the famous lighthouse engineer, was born there in 1772. Robert Louis Stevenson was his grandson. Bella Bathurst’s 1999 book The Lighthouse Stevensons narrated this family story.

“Bathurst tells how four generations of
Robert Louis Stevenson’s family designed and built the 97 manned
lighthouses that speckle the Scottish coast. A reluctant engineer
turned writer, RLS transmuted his lighthouse-building expeditions into Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but he rebelled against
his quarrelsome father Thomas who tried to corral him into the family
business.”

RLS spent his final years in the South Pacific.

James Stevenson of humble Lanarkshire origins moved to Paisley in the
1750’s to profit from the house building boom there. His eldest
son James became a textile merchant in Glasgow before moving south in
the 1840’s to work on Tyneside. One of his sons became a local MP
there, another a well-known architect; while his two daughters were
active in women’s causes and educational reform. Their family
story is told in Hew Stevenson’s 2009 book Jobs for the Boys.

A
Stevenson
line in the Orkneys can be traced back to the 1740’s on the island of
Westray. However, the agricultural
depression in the 1870’s saw emigration.
From a Stevenson family there at that time, eight Stevensons –
including
Ben Stevenson – emigrated
to Canada,
one to Australia, while two of the daughters married and stayed home.


America
. Thomas Stevenson, an Englishman, arrived in Dutch New
York from London
around the year 1643. He settled in
Southhold, Long Island. The lines from
his sons Edward and Thomas, Quakers, led to Hunterdon county, New
Jersey and
Bucks county, Pennsylvania
.

Illinois. The
Stevenson family of Illinois were prominent
politicians in the American Democratic party for almost a hundred years
– from Adlai Stevenson I, the American Vice President in the 1890’s, to
Adlai Stevenson II, the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1952 and
1956, and to Adlai Stevenson III, the Illinois Senator in the 1970’s.

These Stevensons were originally Scots Irish. William Stevenson
had arrived from Ulster in 1748, settling first in Pennsylvania and
then in North Carolina. The family moved to Kentucky in 1813 and,
after the Civil War, to Bloomington, Illinois which was where the first
Adlai Stevenson grew up.

Two other Stevenson families
arrived in Illinois sometime earlier:

  • Benjamin Stevenson came via Pennsylvania, Virginia, and
    Kentucky,
    getting there in 1809, the year that the Illinois territory was opened
    up. He served as the first Sheriff of
    Randolph
    county and died in Edwardsville in 1822. His
    house in Edwardsville has been preserved as the Colonel
    Benjamin
    Stephenson House.
  • while Michael and Janet
    Stevenson arrived from Renfrewshire in Scotland in 1840, also settling
    in
    Randolph county. A descendant recalled that their five grandsons
    played
    in the Stevenson Boy’s Band in southern Illinois in the late 1800’s
    .

Australia. George
Stevenson, a wanderer from his early days in Berwick, ended up in South
Australia in 1836 where he produced the first newspaper of the
colony. Stevenson was an enthusiastic horticulturist and his
garden and orchard were among the best in early Adelaide.

Four years earlier Joseph Stevenson had left his home in Banff in NE
Scotland to seek his fortune in Australia. He worked first in the
timber trade in Tasmania and then moved to Victoria with his family and
eventually homesteaded on Kangaroo Ground at what became known as
Stevenson’s Creek. Towards the
end of his life this aged pioneer handed over his vineyard to his son
Robert, preferring instead to live out his years in the solitude of the
Australian bush.

Select
Stevenson/Stephenson Miscellany

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

Select
Stevenson/Stephenson Names

Robert Stevenson was
a Scottish civil engineer and a famed builder of lighthouses in the
early 1800’s.
George Stephenson built the
first public railway line in 1825 to use steam locomotives. He is
known as the father of railways.
John Stephenson, a coachbuilder
from Ireland, patented in 1832 the first streetcar to run on rails in
the United States.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a
highly popular Scottish novelist, the author of children’s classics
such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped. He was the
grandson of lighthouse builder Robert Stevenson.
Adlai Stevenson, a Governor of
Illinois, was defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Presidential race
in 1952 and again in 1956.
Teofilo Stevenson was a Cuban
boxer who won three Olympic gold medals betewwen 1972 and 1980.
His parents had been immigrants from the Anglophone island of St. Kitts.

Select Stevensons/Stephensons Today

  • 76,000 in the UK (60% Stevenson,
    40% Stephenson)
  • 43,000 in America (58% Stevenson, 42% Stephenson)
  • 29,000 elsewhere (65% Stevenson, 35% Stephenson)

 

 

 

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