Stevenson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Stevenson/Stephenson Meaning
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.
Select Stevenson/Stephenson Resources on The Internet

Stevenson/Stephenson Ancestry

Stevenson and Stephenson are northern surnames
, Stephenson
so. It was hardly to be found south of Yorkshire and Lancashire
in the 19th century. Stevenson, by contrast, extended down into
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.

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

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.

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 –
Ben Stevenson – emigrated
to Canada,
one to Australia, while two of the daughters married and stayed home.

. 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
    getting there in 1809, the year that the Illinois territory was opened
    up. He served as the first Sheriff of
    county and died in Edwardsville in 1822. His
    house in Edwardsville has been preserved as the Colonel
    Stephenson House.
  • while Michael and Janet
    Stevenson arrived from Renfrewshire in Scotland in 1840, also settling
    Randolph county. A descendant recalled that their five grandsons
    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.


Stevenson/Stephenson Miscellany

Stevensons and Stephensons in 1891

Numbers (000’s) Stevenson Stephenson Total
Northumberland    0.3    1.5    1.8
Durham    0.4    3.7    4.1
Yorkshire    1.4    5.9    7.3
Lancashire    1.7    2.4    4.1
Nottinghamshire    1.2    0.1    1.3
Derbyshire    1.1    0.1    1.2
Staffordshire    0.9    0.1    1.0
Elsewhere    5.7    4.0    9.7
Total   12.7   17.8   30.5
Scotland    6.7    0.4    7.1

Stevensons and Stephensons Today.  Stevensons
outnumber Stephensons by roughly 60/40
today.  The table below shows the approximate numbers:

Numbers (000’s) Stevenson Stephenson Total
UK    45    31    76
Elsewhere    40    25    65
Total    85    56   141

The Stephensons of Balladoole on the Isle of Man.  The
of Balladoole in the parish of Arbory were among the oldest landed
families on
the Isle of Man.  Their name was first
mentioned in 1302 when Gilbert Makstephan Reginald MacStephan was
recorded in a
court case regarding a land dispute.  One
line traces from John Stevynson said to be living in Balladoole in 1336.  In 1417 Reginald Stevenson was recorded as a
member of the House of Keys and Thomas Steveson and John Stevenson were
as Corners in the Manorial roll of 1511.

Stevensons were supporters of the Stanleys in the 1600’s and
opponents of the Christians.  Richard
Stevenson was Deputy Governor of the Isle of Man in the late 1600’s.

Stevensons interchanged in name with
the Woods family.  For instance, William
Baring Woods was returned to the first elected House of Keys in 1867 as
Woods, but by the time of the next election in 1874 he had become W.B.
Stevenson.  Sons of his were William
Augustus Stevenson, also a member of the Keys, and Surgeon General
Wickham Stevenson who returned to the Isle of Man bearing the
decoration of
Companion of the Star of India.

John Stephenson, Newcastle Merchant, and His Family.  John Stephenson
and his wife Elizabeth raised three sons who all did well:

  • his eldest son
    Henry was called to the Bar.  But he then
    married his cousin Alice, daughter and co-heir of Sir William
    inherited much of his father’s wealth, and had no need to practice his
    profession.  His means enabled him to
    live in some style, with a London house in Park Lane and a country seat
    Berkshire and to eventually see his only daughter Elizabeth, one of the
    beauties of her day, marry John Saville, the second Earl of Mexborough.
  • his
    second son Matthew remained in
    Newcastle and was sheriff of Newcastle in 1759.  Later
    in life he purchased the Walworth castle and estate in
  • whilst
    the youngest son John went out to India
    where he amassed a large fortune.

Stevensons from Neilston Parish in Renfrewshire.  The
Lighthouse Stevensons came from Neilston parish
in Renfrewshire.  So did a number of
other Stevensons.

One line
began with Robert
Stevenson who married Christian Reid in Paisley in 1744 (his
descendants later
emigrated to America).   A Stevenson
this line married into a nearby Stevenson family of the same period –
family of James Stevenson, burgess of Paisley in 1753.
Then there was another Stevenson line
descended from James Stevenson who married Margaret Sproule in Neilston
in 1771; and Alexander Stevenson of Glasgow was born in this area
around 1770.

The Lighthouse Stevensons.  A romantic historical story full of adventure and invention, The Lighthouse Stevensons
is a unique account of how a single family virtually defined the
Scottish coast
by designing and building lighthouses in the 18th and 19th centuries.

For centuries the seas around Scotland were
notorious for shipwrecks.  Mariners’ only
aids were skill, luck, and a single coal-fire light on the east coast
which was
usually extinguished by rain.  In 1786
the Northern Lighthouse Trust was established, with Robert Stevenson
as chief engineer a few years later – the beginning of a partnership
almost two centuries and four generations of the same family, which
known as the “Lighthouse Stevensons.”

The family tradition was started with Edinburgh man Thomas Smith, who
installed his first light on Kinnaird Castle, near Fraserburgh, in
1787.  He passed the baton on to his
son-in-law (and
stepson) Robert Stevenson, who founded a dynasty of lighthouse
including sons, Allan, David and Thomas (father of RLS), and in turn
sons David Alan and Charles and finally Charles’s son, David Alan.

The Stevensons fought foul weather, jagged
coastlines, and certain opposition to build these lighthouses in some
of the
most remote and inhospitable locations on the Scottish coast and reefs.
They not only designed the lighthouses
to resist the gales of the North Sea but supervised the actual
under often desperate conditions and perfected a design of precisely
interlocking granite blocks that would withstand the enormous waves
that batter
these stone pillars.

The same Stevensons
also developed the lamps and lenses of the lights themselves, which
a gleam across the wave” and saved the lives of thousands of sailors
ships would otherwise have foundered on the headlands and hidden reefs
of  Scotland.

Ben Stevenson – from Orkney to British Columbia.  Ben
Stevenson was born in Orkney in 1870.  He began
training for a carrier in law but when he was seventeen years old he decided
that he would join his brothers, John and Stuart, and his sister
Margaret who
had immigrated to Canada and were farming at Elgin in British Columbia.

He reached New Westminster in June 1887.  But
Elgin was many miles from New
Westminster.  As there was no means of
transportation, the only way to get there was by walking and that is
what Ben
Stevenson did.  When he arrived at Elgin
he was welcomed by his brothers and sister and stayed with them,
working on
their farm.

In 1899 he was able to
purchase a 240 acre farm, known as the Eldorado Farm, at Mud Bay and
farming on his own.  Ben married there,
prospered, and became a leading member of his community.

Stevenson was a very
progressive and public spirited citizen.
Anything that was for the good of Surrey always got Stevenson
support.  It was through his efforts that
the first water was piped to Mud Bay.  He
donated the land for the first school at Ocean Park.
He had the first mail contract, carrying the
mail by horse and wagon from New Westminster to the Elgin Hotel at
Elgin.  Mr. Stevenson, together with Daniel
Dave McKee and John Oliver (later to become Premier of British
started the first Mutual Fire Insurance Company of B.C. to give the
farmers of
Surrey protection.”

Stevenson passed away in 1966 at the age of 96.  His
wife Amelia died in 1979, aged 95.


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 between 1972 and 1980.  His parents had been immigrants from the Anglophone island of St. Kitts.

Select Stevenson/Stephenson Numbers 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)


Select Stevenson and Like Surnames  

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “son” suffix is more common in northern England than in the south and in lowland Scotland.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.







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