• 460 members

About us

Surnames first began to be used by noblemen in the 11th and 12th Centuries. Ordinary folks only began to use surnames with frequency in the 17th and 18th Centuries. These surnames reflected a person's place of origin, his occupation, or the name of one of his prominent ancestors.

All the surnames of interest to this project are related to Livingstons (or similar in one way or another). One source of the name is the place - a town in West Lothian near Ednburgh. In turn the town's name is derived from a man named (in Latin) "Levingus" who lived in the early 12th Century, and gave his name to "Villa Leving" or "Leving's Town".

Some believe that Leving was an Anglo-Saxon or continental European who came to Scotland with Queen Margaret after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. But the sound "Levin" can be a name in many languages, and more traditionally it was believed that Levingus had Gaelic Highland roots in the Clan Donn Sleibhe (Don Levy, MacOnlea or MacLea). A diminutive form of the personal name Donn Sleibhe (brown of the hill), is "Leibhin", pronounced "levin", thus "Leibhin's Town". The Gaelic name of Livingston now is "Baile Dhun Leibhe" (the town of Dunlevin) and many members of the clan Maclea eventually took the surname Livingstone up, as if it were an English translation of their Gaelic name.

It is said that both lowland and highland families believed there was a link between them until well into the 18th century.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that there is absolutely no relationship between the Lowland Livingstons who originated in Lothian and the Highland Livingston who only adopted the surname beginning in the early 1700s. One of the primary goals of this Project is to determine if there is a genetic relationship between the highlanders and the lowlanders.

There are alternative theories regarding the meaning of the Gaelic surnames MacLea, MacOnlea, MacOlleif, etc.

Besides being derived from a person named Donn Sliebhe, it has often been suggested that they are derived from an occupation. "Mac an Leaha" means 'son of the physician'. "Mac an Olleif" means 'son of the poet', an etymology also associated with the surname MacAnally. The name of the MacCloys of Arran and Bute is said to come from "Mac Lewie" after a Lewis Fullarton who came from Galloway.

More generally there may be multiple origins for many Scottish surnames. Hopefully, this Project will help to shed some light on these questions.