Show ContentsMcNiven History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

In ancient Scotland, McNiven was a Strathclyde-Briton name for someone who lived in Ayrshire. The surname McNiven was also regarded as derived from the Gaelic patronymic Mac Naoimhin, which is derived from the word "naomh," meaning "little saint." The name was a favorite personal name in Galloway and Ayrshire. [1] [2]

Another source claims the name "points to an early but forgotten personal name," [3] but the lion's share of sources point to the aforementioned "little saint" origin.

Early Origins of the McNiven family

The surname McNiven was first found in Ayrshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir), formerly a county in the southwestern Strathclyde region of Scotland, where the first record of the family appeared in the Latin form Nevinus, who was parson of Neveth and witnessed grant of a saltpan in Rosneath to the monks of Paisley, c. 1230. [1]

"Patrick filius Nevyn mentioned in 1284 is doubtless Patrick fiz John Nevyn or Neivin of Lanerkshire who rendered homage, 1296. Thomas filius Neuini served on an inquest in 1295, another Thomas filius Nyuini or Niuini was a tenant in Garvalde, 1376, and Crunyhatoun was leased to Robert filius Niuini in the same year." [1]

Some of the family ventured south into England where as a forename Neuyn filius Ade was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland in 1332 and Thomas filius Neuini was listed in 1295. [4]

Early History of the McNiven family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McNiven research. Another 372 words (27 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1230, 1400, 1296, 1386, 1538, 1590, 1635, 1635, 1675, 1793, 1539, 1594, 1680, 1715, 1700, 1639, 1684, 1686, 1744, 1686, 1634, 1703, 1725, 1695, 1707, 1711, 1720, 1721, 1722 and 1650 are included under the topic Early McNiven History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McNiven Spelling Variations

Prior to the first dictionaries, scribes spelled words according to sound. This, and the fact that Scottish names were repeatedly translated from Gaelic to English and back, contributed to the enormous number of spelling variations in Scottish names. McNiven has been spelled Niven, Nevin, Nevins, Nivens, Navin, Newin, Nevane, Niffen, Nifen, Niving, Neving, Newing, Neiven, Nivine, Nevison, Niveson and many more.

Early Notables of the McNiven family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was Kate McNiven (died 1715), also called Kate Nevin, a young nurse who served the House of Inchbrakie in the Parish of Monzie, near Crieff in Scotland in the early 1700s, she was one of the...
Another 43 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McNiven Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the McNiven family to Ireland

Some of the McNiven family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 221 words (16 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States McNiven migration to the United States +

In such difficult times, the difficulties of raising the money to cross the Atlantic to North America did not seem so large compared to the problems of keeping a family together in Scotland. It was a journey well worth the cost, since it was rewarded with land and freedom the Scots could not find at home. The American War of Independence solidified that freedom, and many of those settlers went on to play important parts in the forging of a great nation. Among them:

McNiven Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Catherine McNiven, who landed in New York in 1738 [5]
  • John McNiven, who arrived in New York, NY in 1738 [5]
  • Merran McNiven, who landed in New York in 1738 [5]
  • Rachel McNiven, who arrived in New York, NY in 1738 [5]
McNiven Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William McNiven, who landed in New York in 1848 [5]
  • John McNiven, aged 27, who landed in America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1893
McNiven Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Eliza McNiven, aged 40, who immigrated to the United States from Glasgow, in 1906
  • Hodge Wm. McNiven, aged 26, who settled in America from Montrose, Scotland, in 1909
  • Annie S. McNiven, aged 30, who landed in America from Longforgan, Scotland, in 1910
  • David McNiven, aged 12, who settled in America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1910
  • Maxwell McNiven, aged 7, who immigrated to the United States from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1910
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia McNiven migration to Australia +

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

McNiven Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Margaret McNiven, Scottish Convict who was convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland for 7 years, transported aboard the "Atwick" on 28 September 1837, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [6]

New Zealand McNiven 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:

McNiven Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Janet McNiven, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Weymouth" in 1866
  • Miss Janet McNiven, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Weymouth" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 3rd July 1866 [7]
  • Mr. Archibald McNiven, (b. 1851), aged 23, Scottish ship builder, from Lanark travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Oamaru" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 17th February 1875 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name McNiven (post 1700) +

  • Daniel "Big Dan" McNiven, Scottish football center forward who led the American Soccer League in scoring in 1922-1923
  • Julie McNiven (b. 1980), American actress, known for her work on Movie 43 (2013), Mad Men (2007) and The Babymoon
  • Jonathan McNiven, American Republican politician, Member of Montana State House of Representatives 44th District
  • J. H. McNiven (b. 1878), American politician, Member of Minnesota State House of Representatives 60th District, 1917-18
  • David Scott McNiven (b. 1955), Scottish retired footballer, member of the Scotland U21 National Team (1976-1977)
  • Edward McNiven (1827-1858), English lawyer and cricketer who played first-class cricket for Cambridge University and Surrey
  • Donald Alexander McNiven (1887-1961), Canadian politician, Member of Parliament for Regina City (1935-1944)
  • John Graham "Jock" McNiven (1900-1969), Canadian mine engineer, mine operator and politician from the Northwest Territories, 1st Mayor of Yellowknife (1953-1954)
  • Steven "Steve" McNiven (b. 1967), Canadian comic book artist
  • Scott Andrew McNiven (b. 1978), English-born, Scottish footballer
  • ... (Another 1 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The McNiven Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vivis sperandum
Motto Translation: Where there is life there is hope

  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. MacLysaght, Edward, Supplement to Irish Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Book Company, 1964. Print.
  3. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  4. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. 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)
  6. Convict Records of Australia. Retreived 23rd August 2020 from
  7. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from on Facebook