Where my family comes from

I saw this Surname Profiler on BBC News yesterday, but it was down then — Ryan Morrison reminded me about it today.

I am amazed to find out that my surname, Stephen, exists only in Scotland! No wonder people often get my name wrong (doesn’t explain why Scots get it wrong though). It is especially concentrated in the north-east.

Stephen in 1881 Stephen in 1998

Add a little ‘s’ to the end of my name — as many people do — and all of a sudden we are all from South Wales, Cornwall and the south in general! Stephenson, meanwhile, is from the north east of England. So neither is a bastardisation of the others, because they all come from completely different places.

Potentially more interesting is my mother’s maiden name, Skirving. She is always telling me about how it’s apparently a Norwegian name. The map offers no clues on this front though. My mother says they were originally based in Haddington, and the map indeed tallys with this. The heaviest concentration is in the Lothians and Fife, with some more in Strathclyde — my mother was born in Glasgow. Skirvings migrate more as well; there are signs of life in England! However, a small number of Skirvings can make a huge difference on the map — there are only 216 of them (if it wasn’t for my granddad there would actually be fewer Skirvings today than in 1881 despite population growth).

Skirving in 1881 Skirving in 1998

Other names from my family — Besford and Deighton are both from the east (particularly north-east) of England; Logan is of course heavily concentrated in Scotland, particularly the south and west.

Just for fun, Duncan, although it isn’t my surname, also has its roots in north-east Scotland.


  1. The only problem with the surname profiler is that it nearly took BBC Radio Jersey off air this afternoon as almost every member of staff hit the site to trace their family names. 🙂

  2. I can’t get on it now due to traffic volume but from what I remember the other day the white areas aren’t where the name is absent, just where it’s below a certain density, so your surname may well exist in the rest of the country.

  3. Ohh this does look interesting. One to remember when the site recovers!

    BTW – I’m organising a blogmeet in Edinburgh (hence the sudden appearance in your comments). Details on the Scottish Blogs site.. it’s on Feb 18th. http://www.scottishblogs.co.uk (sorry, hope this isn’t considered spam!)

  4. I am living in the Midlands but my family are from Hartlepool and before that Newcastle. I’ve been trying to find a link to the Haddington Skirvings. The furthest I’ve got back is to Archibald Skirving who was baptisted in 1801, his father is George Skirving who on a later census is listed as being born in Scotland. I wondered if you could let me have any information on the Skirving family tree that you have got.

  5. Thats so interesting, thanks!! I could prossible assume that i am probably the only Stephen in South Africa other then my father and sister. We’ve always known that our great grandparents were of Scottish decent, but this proves it.

    I love my surname, but people always get confused between both my name and surname, not knowing wich is wich. Not to mention all the spelling errors. I’ve been called Steven, Stephenson, Stevens but the worst has to be Stephens.

    Still loving it though, Nice website. Keep it up,
    From sunny South Africa.

  6. Thanks for the comments.

    James, sorry I didn’t reply to you earlier. I haven’t researched into my family tree at all, so I probably wouldn’t be able to help you much I’m afraid.

  7. Hi , My mum’s name was Steven and I am trying to locate any of her family. She lived in Glenrothes, Kirkaldy when she passed away in1989. I am wondering if she has any bothers and sisters still living in the area. He first name was Sarah
    I live in Canada

  8. i can tell you that there are more than 216 skirvings worldwide 😀 there are olympic champions and a rugby player that has played for england, i am one of many that live in england