Select Livingston Surname Genealogy

The origins of the Livingston surname in Scotland are from the place-name Livingston in West Lothian, first founded by a man named Leving 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

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ScotlandLivingstons 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 found. 

  The line from Leving at Livingston in West Lothian descended: 
  • 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 whose heiress he had married. 

Sir James Livingston of Callendar was created Lord Livingston in 1458.  His descendant Alexander was a guardian to the young Mary Queen of Scots a century later and his daughter 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.

.  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 MacLeays 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 Stewarts from the battlefield and successfully returned it to Appin.  More noteworthy later was Dr. David Livingstone, the famed African explorer
.  There were many who emigrated.

Ireland.  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 the first stated minister of Ballynahinch after the year 1641. He supplied the 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 1600s and a ruling elder at Ballynahinch.

America.  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 Sullivan 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 included the US Minister to France who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and his son a Louisiana Senator.   
  • and though his nephew Robert Livingston the Younger who arrived in America in 1687 and later was the mayor of Albany.  His son John was a Montreal merchant.
Elsewhere.  There were of course other Livingstons in America. 

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 1750s.  Lucille Coones 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 1800s.

Andrew Livingston was Scots Irish from county Down.  He arrived in Pennsylvania sometime in the 1750s.  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 1760s and was the forebear of the Livingstons of Greene county, Georgia.  There are four different Livingston Bibles recording the 19th century descendants of this family.

CanadaMany 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 DOr on Boularderie island, in the early 1800s.  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 twice. 
  • but the definite connection has been with Davids older brother John who came to Lanark township, Ontario from Blantyre in the 1840s.  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 1800s.  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.

Select Livingston Miscellany

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

Select 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

Select Livingstons 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)

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