Niven History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The roots of the name Niven are found among the Strathclyde-Briton people of the ancient Scottish/English Borderlands. Niven was originally found in Ayrshire. The surname Niven 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 Niven family

The surname Niven 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 Niven family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Niven 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 Niven History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Niven Spelling Variations

In the era before dictionaries, there were no rules governing the spelling or translation of names or any other words. Consequently, there are an enormous number of spelling variations in Medieval Scottish names. Niven has appeared as Niven, Nevin, Nevins, Nivens, Navin, Newin, Nevane, Niffen, Nifen, Niving, Neving, Newing, Neiven, Nivine, Nevison, Niveson and many more.

Early Notables of the Niven 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 Niven Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Niven Ranking

In the United States, the name Niven is the 17,217th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [5]

Ireland Migration of the Niven family to Ireland

Some of the Niven 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 Niven migration to the United States +

The freedom, opportunity, and land of the North American colonies beckoned. There, Scots found a place where they were generally free from persecution and where they could go on to become important players in the birth of new nations. Some fought in the American War of Independence, while others went north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of all of these Scottish settlers have been able to recover their lost national heritage in the last century through highland games and Clan societies in North America. Among them:

Niven Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Alexander Niven, who arrived in New Jersey in 1685 [6]
  • William Niven, who arrived in New Jersey in 1685 [6]
  • William Niven, who settled in New Jersey in 1686
Niven Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Patrick Niven, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [6]
  • Francis Niven, who arrived in New York in 1820 [6]
  • Benjamin Niven, who arrived in New York in 1820 [6]
  • R Niven, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850 [6]
  • George Niven, who landed in New York in 1853 [6]

Canada Niven migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Niven Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Niven, aged 40, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1834
  • Thomas Niven, aged 8, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1834
  • Patrick Niven, aged 5, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1834
  • John Niven, aged 4, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1834
  • Mary Niven, aged under 1, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Neptune" in 1834
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Niven migration to Australia +

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

Niven Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Niven, aged 29, who arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Olivia" [7]
  • Thomas Niven, aged 28, a coach painter, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "Lady Ann"

New Zealand Niven 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:

Niven Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Dugald Niven, aged 38, a labourer, who arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • Christina Niven, aged 37, who arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • Mary Niven, aged 13, who arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • William Niven, aged 2, who arrived in Otago aboard the ship "Philip Laing" in 1848
  • Mr. Robert Niven, Scottish settler travelling from Greenock aboard the ship "Philip Laing" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 15th April 1848 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Niven (post 1700) +

  • James "David" Graham Niven (1910-1983), British Oscar Award winning, two-time winning Golden Globe Award winning, two-time Emmy nominated actor and novelist, best known for his role Sir Charles Lytton in The Pink Panther (1963)
  • Laurence van Cott Niven (1938-1970), American science fiction author, best-known for work Ringworld (1970)
  • Ivan Morton Niven (1915-1999), Canadian-born, American mathematician, eponym of Niven's constant, Niven numbers, Niven's theorem and the asteroid 12513 Niven
  • Bryan Robert Niven (b. 1979), American artist and photographer
  • Archibald Campbell Niven (1803-1882), American politician, U.S. Representative from New York
  • William R. Niven, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Ohio 8th District, 1902, 1908; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Ohio, 1904 [9]
  • Pearl L. Niven, American Republican politician, Candidate for New Hampshire State House of Representatives from Manchester 8th Ward, 1938 [9]
  • Archibald Campbell Niven (1803-1882), American Democratic Party politician, U.S. Representative from New York 9th District, 1845-47; Member of New York State Senate 9th District, 1864-65 [9]
  • William Niven (1850-1937), Scottish mineralogist and archeologist
  • John Niven (1921-2011), Scottish footballer
  • ... (Another 6 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


The Niven 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. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ South Australian Register Tuesday 15 November 1853. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Olivia 1857. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/olivia1853.shtml.
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  9. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 19) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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