Stewart Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Stewart Meaning
Stewart is generally thought of as
one of the leading families
of Scotland.  The root of the name is the Old English stigweard, meaning a household
guardian.  The title was used of an officer controlling the
domestic affairs of a household, particularly of a royal

Stewart Resources on

Select Stewart Ancestry

Scotland.  The
ancestral origins of the Stewart family in Scotland are a bit obscure.  What is known for certain is the family line
can be traced back to Alan FitzFlaad, a Breton who had come over to
sometime after the Norman Conquest.  As
FitzAlans, they established themselves as a prominent Anglo-Norman
family.  It was Alan’s great grandson
Walter FitzAlan
who became the
first hereditary High Steward of Scotland

His descendants founded the royal Stuart line
in Scotland (the French spelling as French has no “w”) after Walter
Stewart of this line married Marjorie, the daughter of King Robert the
They turned out to be an unlucky dynasty.  Of the fourteen crowned
monarchs between 1371 and 1714, four were murdered or executed, two
died in
battle and one in exile, while seven in succession came to the throne

King James II, who was deposed
in 1688, was their last ruling monarch, although the Stuarts, based in
did attempt a return.  James the
Old Pretender failed in 1715 and Bonnie Prince Charlie failed in 1745.  After the defeat at Culloden in 1746, the
Stuart hopes were finished.

There were a
number of other related but non-royal Stewart branches, notably:

  • the
    Stewarts of Appin in Argyllshire in the Scottish Highlands, descendants
    of Dugald Stewart in the 15th century.  The
    main sub-branches were those of Lorn and Ardsheal.
    These Stewarts, known as “the loyal clan,”
    and fell at Culloden.  
  • the
    Stewarts of
    Atholl in Perthshire, descendants of Alexander Stewart, the 14th
    “Wolf of  Badenoch.”  These Stewarts
    came to be known for their prowess in battle.  
  • the
    Stewarts of Balquhidder
    in Perthshire
    descended from a 15th century Stewart laird of Baldorran.
    Sir William Stewart was appointed the Royal
    Baillie at Balquhidder around the year 1485.
    This line also later included the Stewarts of Ardvorlich.
  • the
    Stuarts of Bute in Argyllshire, descended from the 14th century Sheriff
    of Bute
    and “black” Stewart.  They
    supported the British during the Jacobite uprisings and were ennobled
    as the
    Earls of Bute.  The third Earl was
    briefly British Prime Minister in 1762.  
  • and
    the Stewarts of Ochiltree and Dunduff in Ayrshire, the former descended
    from  Andrew Stuart, the Chancellor of
    Scotland in
    1460, and the latter from William Stewart, the Scottish ambassador to
    France in
    the early 1500’s.  Both branches established
    themselves in Ireland.  

distribution of Stewarts in the 1891 census showed that
most of them were living in
Scotland. But there were also sizeable numbers in Perthshire, Angus,

Many Stewarts from the Scottish Lowlands settled in Ulster in the 17th

Andrew Stewart, Lord
Ochiltree of Ayrshire, was one of the nine Scottish chief undertakers
of the
Plantation and was granted lands in Tyrone.  His grandson, after
Stewartstown in Tyrone was named, was made Lord Mountjoy in 1683.

The Stewarts of Dunduff in Ayrshire were
granted lands in Donegal and established their home at Ballylawn castle.  Alexander Stewart of this family made money
from the linen trade and acquired the Mount Stewart estate in county
Down in
1744.  His son became the Marguess of Londonderry.  A
descendant was Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh, who was
Foreign Secretary from 1812 until the conclusion of the war with
Napoleon.  This family remained a political
force in
Northern Ireland into the 20th century.

America.  Duncan
Stuart, later Stewart, was an
early Stewart in America.  He is believed
to have been captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and shipped to
England as
a prisoner of war.  His name appeared in
Ipswich, Massachusetts records as a shipwright and ship builder.  Alexander Stewart, possibly related, was a
tailor in Charlestown in 1662 when he married Hannah

James Stuart from Perthshire was in 1740 one
of the early settlers along the Cowpasture river in Augusta county,
Virginia.  He was captured by Pawnee
Indians in 1757 and
burned at the stake.  His son, James
Stewart, was present at his death but managed to escape.  There
were also other Stewart families in
Augusta county by this time.

A Steuart (sic)
family appeared in Maryland.  They too had
their origins in Perthshire, George Steuart arriving in Maryland around
and becoming a wealthy tobacco planter.
A Loyalist at the time of the Revolutionary War, he returned to
Scotland.  But his family remained.  Much of their property was confiscated after
the Civil War.  Dr. Richard Sprigg
Steuart was a pioneer in the treatment of mental illness.
The Spring Grove hospital in Maryland became
his life’s work.

Scots Irish Stewarts
came to America, including:

  • Robert
    Stewart, a member of a Scots Irish party who had come to Boston in 1718
    and, a
    year later, founded the township of Londonderry, New Hampshire.  The most remarkable Stewart of Londonderry,
    however, was not a descendant but a freed African American slave named
    Stewart who died there in 1868 at the reported age of 118.
  • Lazarus Stewart who arrived in 1729 and
    settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.  His
    son Captain Lazarus Stewart was a fighter on the
    frontier who was killed during an early skirmish of the Revolutionary
  • Samuel
    Stewart who came with his family from
    county Down six years later and also made for Lancaster county,
    which had by that time become a center for Scots Irish settlement.   
  • and
    Stewart of Tyrone
    , one of the many
    Jacobites vanquished at Culloden, who fled to America in 1760 and
    land in New Castle county, Delaware.  His
    descendants later moved to Tennessee.  Alexander
    Stewart was a general in the Confederate army during the Civil War. 

Canada.  Robert Stewart from
Campbeltown in Argyllshire
came to Prince Edward Island in 1770.  His
brother Peter followed him five years
later.  Peter became Chief Justice of the
new colony.  When he died in 1805 his
sons John, known as Hellfire Jack, and Charles, the
quieter one, came
to dominate Island politics.

John Stewart, Scots
Irish, had been impressed into the British Navy, but jumped ship in
in Nova
Scotia. There he married Elizabeth Laird
and their home, now styled the Stewart House, still functions today. Alexander Stewart, also Scots Irish, was an
early settler in Peterborough, Ontario in 1822.
He died there in 1847, survived by his wife whose letters back
Ireland, published in 1889, told much of their early Canadian


Stewart Miscellany

Stewart Origins in Scotland.  In the early 12th century, King David I of Scotland
rewarded one of his Norman knights, Sir Walter Fitz-Alan, by granting him the
office of High Steward of Scotland.  Sir Walter thereby became the second most powerful man in Scotland.  This office of High Steward became hereditary,
being passed on eventually for six generations through the line of
eldest sons.

By the 13th century, with the fourth
generation of High Stewards, the title had evolved into a family
surname.  In Gaelic the hard “d” sound was
pronounced more like the English “t” and thus the name became Stiubhaird in Gaelic (pronounced
“stchyoo-wayrst”) or Stewart in English.

In the late 13th century Walter Stewart, the
6th High Steward of Scotland, fought alongside Robert the Bruce in the
Wars of Independence and was rewarded for his loyalty by the hand of
Robert’s daughter

Walter and Marjorie had a son named
Robert.  Robert Stewart nearly didn’t
make it into this world.  His mother
Princess Marjorie was thrown from her horse while she was pregnant.  She died from her injuries and Robert was born
by an emergency Caesarean section.  When
Robert the Bruce’s son David II died without any male heir, then this
Stewart was the next in line for the throne. 

Baldorran and Balquhidder Stewarts.  Murdoch
Stewart and two of his sons were executed for treason
by King James I in 1425.  The youngest of
the sons, James Mhor or James the Fat, then led a short-lived
rebellion, taking the
town of Dumbarton before fleeing to Ireland.
A second attempt at rebellion in 1429 saw a fleet sail to
Ireland to
collect James “to convey him home that he might be king,” but he died
before the attempt could be made.

his illegitimate son James Beag Stewart somehow managed to
restore himself to royal favor and he was granted the lands of
Baldorran in
Stirlingshire.  It was Sir William
Stewart of the next generation who was the one most responsible for
this family to prosperity.  He was
appointed Royal Baillie of the Crown lands of Balquhidder in Perthshire
around 1485 and based himself there (the family sold their Baldorran
estates in
1524).  The tradition of illegitimacy
seems to have continued in the family in the 16th century.

Stewarts in the 1891 Scottish Census

Stewarts (000’s) Numbers Percent
Lanarkshire    8.7    29
Midlothian    3.5    12
Perthshire    3.5    12
Angus    3.4    11
Aberdeenshire    2.2     7
Elsewhere    8.7    29
Total   30.0   100

In terms of city concentration of the Stewart
name, Glasgow led and was followed by Dundee (in Angus), Edinburgh, and Aberdeen.  The Stewart name in Perthshire
was fairly widely spread.

Charles Stewart, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.  Charles
Stewart succeeded his half-brother, Lord
Castlereagh, as the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822.
He married twice.   His second
wife, whom he married in 1819,
was Lady Francis Vane.  She brought with
her a vast fortune and he took by royal license the name of Vane.

The family used their new-found wealth to
redecorate their main country seat in Ireland, Mount Stewart.  They also bought Holderness House on London’s
Park Lane, which they renamed Londonderry House.

the Londonderrys, while
spending £150,000 on the Mont Stewart refurbishment only gave £30 to
relief in Ireland in the 1840’s, despite the fact that the Londonderry
were directly affected by starvation.
This disparity probably illustrates the inhumanity that existed
Ireland at that time.

James Stewart in Delaware.  After the Jacobite
defeat at Culloden, James Stewart fled to America.

In 1760 he bought a tract of 94 acres in the Brandywine
hundred of New Castle county, Delaware.  This
land was located adjacent to his brother Samuel’s property along the
river and about a mile south of the Pennsylvania border.
He lived there for the remainder of his life as a farmer
until his death in 1788.  He
is buried in an unmarked grave next to his brother Samuel who had died
there fifteen
years earlier.

His son James fought at the battle of Brandywine.  A descendant wrote:

grandfather, James Stewart, although just a lad of 16 years of age,
joined the
American forces at the Battle of Brandywine, commanded by LaFayette, in
and carried a musket in the engagement.”

In 1791 James sold his large brick house in the hamlet of
Glasgow.  This house still survives and is
known as the James
Stewart House.  The
oldest section dates to the last half of the 18th century, with
additions made in
the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hellfire Jack Stewart.  The “Hellfire Jack” of Prince Edward Island politics, John Stewart gave clear evidence of his turbulent disposition early
on.  During his voyage to the Island as a
teen-age immigrant in 1775, he had been involved in a fight on board

in 1784 he had accosted Judge Thomas Wright on his way to the
castigating him on a case in which he, Stewart, was a party.   He
renewed the abuse on the judge’s way home and physically attacked those
tried to intervene.   He avoided
only on the intervention of his younger brother Charles who
appealed to the injured parties’ sense of chivalry by saying that the
assailant’s wife was “unwell and much alarmed.”

In 1789 Stewart had become the neighbor of
another turbulent Islander, John MacDonald of Glenaladale.
Their feud was to go on for years.   On one occasion in 1797 Stewart insulted
Glenaladale in the streets of Charlottetown and Glenaladale attacked
tormentor with a small dirk.  Stewart was
about to bring out his “prodigious long cut-and-thrust sword.”   As it was, the combatants were parted
any injury was done.

thing was that John Stewart was generally successful in the
rough-and-tumble of Prince Edward Island politics over a relatively
long period of time, from
1784 to 1830.  He died in 1834,
reportedly due to a surfeit of fat meat.



Stewart Names

  • Walter Stewart, the 3rd High Steward of Scotland, was the first use to
    use Stewart as a surname.
  • Robert Stewart, Lord Castlereagh,
    was British Foreign Secretary from 1822 to the conclusion of the war with Napoleon.
  • Jimmy Stewart was a popular American
    film actor of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
  • Jackie Stewart was the F1
    motor racing champion in the 1970’s.
  • Rod Stewart from Scotland has been, over many decades, a very popular pop singer.
  • Martha Stewart, an American homemaking advocate, is an author and somewhat controversial business magnate.

Select Stewart Numbers Today

  • 79,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 115,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 66,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Stewart is the #5 ranked surname in Scotland.


Select Stewart 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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