Clan/Family Histories
- Stevenson / Stephenson / Stephen


Many of the clan/family reference books have ignored the name Stevenson, which is surprising as it is such a well known and frequently found surname. As a surname, especially in the form and spelling Stevenson (son of Steven), it is peculiarly Scottish. Perhaps the clan literature has ignored it because the name is widespread across the country and not focused on a particular geographic area. And there is no clan chief and other trappings of a clan. There is, however, at least one Stevenson tartan (see graphic). And it can be confidently assumed that Scotsmen with the name of Stevenson fought at the Battle of Bannockburn or at Culloden alongside the more well known clans and families.

Early Records
Stephen (which means 'crown' or 'wreath' or 'garland') has been a popular Christian name since the martyrdom of the saint of that name. The name was introduced into Britain by the Normans after 1066 and their influence spread into Scotland. Early records of the name include a deacon Stephen who witnessed a charter around 1150-71 and Ada, filius (son) of Stephani was a burgess of Elgin in 1286. Henricus Stepheni had a charter for land in Ayr in 1409 and a Nichol fitz Steven, chaplain of Scotland, had a license to take shipping between Scotland and London or Dover in England in 1372.

The name became frequent all over the Lowlands of Scotland, but in the Gaelic-speaking Highlands there is no 'Mac' (son of) name derived from Stephen.

Famous Stevensons
Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850) was a civil engineer, famed for designing and building lighthouses. His first and perhaps most important work was the Bell Rock Lighthouse, where the rock was covered by the sea except at low tide. It was regarded as one of the major engineering feats of the age. Stevenson served for nearly fifty years as engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board during which time he designed and oversaw the construction and later improvement on 15 lighthouses. He innovated in the choice of light sources, mountings, reflector design, the use of Fresnel lenses, and in rotation and shuttering systems providing lighthouses with individual signatures allowing them to be identified by seafarers. Three of Stevenson’s sons became engineers: David, Alan, and Thomas; he also had a daughter, who assisted in writing and illustrating an account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse construction.

George Stephenson (1781 – 1848) a civil engineer and mechanical engineer (born in England of Scottish parents) built the first public railway line in the world to use steam locomotives. Renowned as being the "Father of Railways", his rail gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches (1,435 mm), sometimes called "Stephenson gauge", is the world's standard gauge.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894), grandson of Robert Stevenson of lighthouse fame, was a novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, often known just by his initials "RLS". His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. His father (also a lighthouse builder) was disappointed when his son decided to concentrate instead on writing as a career. The statue of Stevenson in the graphic here is in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.
Further Information
In modern times Scottish septs are considered to be family names and name variants associated with a particular clan. In some instances, names are added to the list of clan septs by invitation of the Chief in honour of a valued friendship or marriage. In this manner, Stephenson/Stevenson was added to the Sept list for Clan MacTavish by Chief E.S. Dugald MacTavish in 1999. That's the MacTavish of Dunardry arms in the graphic here.

Stevenson was the 64th most frequent surname at the General Register Office in 1901, while the surname Stephen was 152nd. In the USA, Stevenson/Stephenson is the 56th most common Scottish surname.

Variant forms of Stevenson / Stephenson / Stephen include Stein, Steven, Stivinson, Stevinstoun, Steavensone, Stevenstoune, Stivinson, Stivensone, Stivenstoune.

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