Select Irvine Surname Genealogy

The surname Irvine 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; and clans of Bonshaw in Dumfriesshire and of Drum in Aberdeenshire.   These Irvines and Irvings may have been related - through possibly a connection at the time of Robert the Bruce.  But the relationship is not proven.

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

Select Irvine Resources on The Internet

Select Irvine Ancestry

Scotland.  William de Irwyne, a soldier, was granted the Forest of Drum in Aberdeenshire for his service from Robert the Bruce in 1323.  He is considered the forebear to the Irvine Drum line. 

Drum castle was their stronghold.  Their early history was mainly clan feuds.  Sir Alexander de Irwine in fact engaged in single combat with the chief of clan MacLean and, after a legendary struggle, both died of the wounds inflicted on each other. 

There followed a period of stability and prosperity under Alexander Irvine the Ninth Laird in the early 1600's.  But these Irvines were Royalist against the Covenanters in the Civil War.  Drum castle was looted and sacked no fewer than three times during the 1640's.  They were Jacobite supporters against the English in 1715 and again in 1745. 

After Culloden, the Laird of Drum only escaped capture by hiding in his castle and then fleeing to France.  Alexander Irvine spent some years in exile in Paris before being allowed to return home to Drum where, it was said, "he died after a tedious illness, universally loved."

The other main Irvine branch, the Irvines of Bonshaw, were lairds in Dumfriesshire.  

Ireland.  There were Scots Irish Irvines in Ulster, some of whose descendants later emigrated.  The earliest sightings were in Glenoe in county Antrim.  These Irvines in Antrim often intermarried with the McDowells. They manufactured linen in a linen mill along the Ballywallog river in Glenoe from 1584 until declining business prompted their emigration to America in the 1720's.

Then came Sir Christopher Irvine, a Bonshaw lawyer, was granted lands in Fermanagh and built himself Castle Irvine.  He survived the Irish uprising of 1641 and from his line came the Irvines of Enniskillen and Rockfield. Meanwhile a penniless James Irvine left county Down in the 1840's for California where he was to make his fortune. 

America.  Early Irvines in America have been Scots Irish, such as Christopher and David Irvine who came to Virginia around 1740.  Christopher moved onto Georgia and David later settled in Kentucky.  

William Irvine came in the 1760's from Fermanagh along with his two brothers and settled in Pennsylvania.  He had been a physician with the British army.; but during the Revolutionary War he fought on the American side and rose to be a Brigadier General.  Thomas Irvine, also from Fermanagh, came over in 1797.  The various Irvines in America at this time were covered in Lucinda Boyd's 1908 book The Irvines and Their Kin.

Later, James Irvine fled Ireland during the potato famine and ended up in California during the Gold Rush.  He subsequently bought into property and in 1868 built the Irvine ranch in southern California, at the time one of the largest private ranches in the United States.  The Irvine family became one of the largest landowners in California and the town of Irvine was named after them.

Australia.  John Irvine, convicted of larceny in Lincoln in 1784, was on the First Fleet to Australia in 1788.  He died only seven years later but his wife and son lived on. 

In 1820 came one of the first free settlers, Captain Francis Irvine of the Bengal Native Infantry with his family.  His son Francis later emigrated to New Zealand.  Charles Irvine, an elderly widower, came from Fermanagh with three of his children in 1853.  William Irvine then departed county Down later in 1879.  He became the Premier of Victoria in 1904.    

Select Irvine Miscellany

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

Select Irvine Names

William de Irwyne
, who was granted lands in Drum in 1323, is considered the forebear of the Irvine clan.
James Irvine was the immigrant from Ireland who established a real estate empire in California.
Robert Irvine, born in England, is an American celebrity chef.

Select Irvines Today
  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Fermanagh)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page