Show ContentsAlison History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Alison comes from the ancient Dalriadan clans of Scotland's west coast and Hebrides islands. The name comes from the name for the son of "Ellis" or Ellis' son. Conversely, the surname could be is derived from "Alice" as in "the son of Alice." It is likely though that the name was derived from "Ellis" rather than the female personal name. [1] [2]

But Black goes on stating there is some dispute as to the origin: "On the other hand, with reference to Scottish Alison or Allison, Mr. L. A. Morrison in his The History of the Alison or Allison family in Europe and America, Boston, 1893, says that it is 'a fact beyond doubt that Alison comes from Alister or Alexander, and, further, that the Alisons are offshoots of the famous Clan of MacAlister" (p. 4), and that the origin of the name is due to two sons of Alexander MacAlister of Loupe who with some of their followers escaped to the parish of Avondale, Lanarkshire, during the War of Independence, and there later their name was changed from MacAlister to Alison (p. 18). He further states that 'the names Alison, Allison, Alinson, Allinson, and of Elison, Ellison, Elissen, Ellysen, are found thus spelled in the early history of some branches of the present Allison family. They are interchangeably mixed. The name was often spelled Ellison and Allison when referring to the same individual.' " [1]

Early Origins of the Alison family

The surname Alison was first found in the county of Lanarkshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Lannraig) a former county in the central Strathclyde region of Scotland, now divided into the Council Areas of North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, and the City of Glasgow, where they acquired some time before 1300 the territories of their family seat at Loupe. They were descended from Angus Mor MacDonnell, Lord of the Isles, their Gaelic name was MacAllister, and it is difficult through history to distinguish one name from the other.

One of the first clear records of the family was "Patrick Alissone del counte de Berewyk rendered homage, 1296." [1] This is an early record of Patrick's swearing allegiance to King Edward I of England, shortly after his invasion of Scotland.

Continuing, we found "Peter Alesoun was a witness in Brechin, 1490 (REB,, II, 134), Thomas Alesoun appears in Lochtoun, Scone, 1586 (Scon, p. 232), James Allasone was bailie of Ranfrew, 1688 (RPC., 3. ser. XIII, p. 243), and Gabriel Alason was bailie of the burgh of Dumfries, 1693." [1]

Early History of the Alison family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Alison research. Another 42 words (3 lines of text) covering the years 1296, 1314 and are included under the topic Early Alison History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Alison Spelling Variations

The translation of Gaelic names in the Middle Ages was not a task undertaken with great care. Records from that era show an enormous number of spelling variations, even in names referring to the same person. Over the years Alison has appeared as Allison, Alison, Alinson, Allinson, McAllister, MacAllister, Ellison and many more.

Early Notables of the Alison family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Alison Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Alison family to Ireland

Some of the Alison family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 57 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Alison migration to the United States +

Many of the ancestors of Dalriadan families who arrived in North America still live in communities along the east coast of Canada and the United States. In the American War of Independence many of the original settlers traveled north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the ancestors of many Scots began recovering their collective national heritage through Clan societies, highland games, and other patriotic events. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Alison or a variant listed above:

Alison Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Cohn Alison, who landed in New Jersey in 1685 [3]
Alison Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Francis Alison, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1735 [3]
  • Robert Alison, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1747 [3]
  • Georg Alison, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1770 [3]
Alison Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Alison, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851 [3]

Canada Alison migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Alison Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Alison, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Susan Alison, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Charlotte Alison, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1757
  • Gabriel Alison, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1757

Australia Alison migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Alison Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander Alison, Jr., Scottish convict who was convicted in Inverness, Scotland for 14 years for forgery, transported aboard the "Burrell" on 22nd July 1830, arriving in New South Wales [4]

New Zealand Alison migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Alison Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • A Alison, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1840
  • Mr. Thomas Alison, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Robert Henderson" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 3rd September 1860 [5]
  • James Alison, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cairngorm" in 1863
  • W. C. Alison, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "St. Leonards" in 1875

Contemporary Notables of the name Alison (post 1700) +

  • Major General John Richardson "Johnny" Alison (1912-2011), American combat ace of World War II
  • Jane Alison, Australian-born, American author and editor
  • John R. Alison, American fighter pilot and flying ace in the U.S. Army Air Forces, during World War II, credited with 8 aerial victories
  • William Pulteney Alison FRSE FRCPE FSA (1790-1859), Scottish physician, social reformer and philanthropist, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1836 to 1838) [6]
  • Sir Archibald Alison GCB FRSE (1792-1867), 1st Baronet, Scottish advocate and historian, born 29 Dec. 1792, at Kenley, Shropshire [6]
  • Archibald Alison FRS FRSE (1757-1839), Scottish Episcopalian priest and essayist, the son of Patrick Alison, provost of Edinburgh, a younger son of an Alison of Newhall, near Cupar Angus [6]
  • Mitch Alison (b. 1974), South African-born, Australian integrated writer, creative director and strategist
  • Michael James Hugh Alison (1926-2004), British Conservative Party politician
  • Ewen William Alison (1852-1945), Independent Conservative Member of Parliament in New Zealand
  • Dorothy Alison (1925-1992), Australian two-time BAFTA nominated stage, film and television actress
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  1. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 5th November 2020). Retrieved from
  5. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  6. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 17 Apr. 2019 on Facebook