Show ContentsSterling History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Sterling family were part of an ancient Scottish tribe called the Picts. They lived in the town of Stirling in the county of the same name. Stirling was a royal residence from 1226.

Early Origins of the Sterling family

The surname Sterling was first found in Stirlingshire, where they held a family seat at Stirling from very early times, some say, well before the Norman Conquest. The name was anciently spelt Stryvelin, and one of the first references was of Gilbertus de Striuelin who witnessed the donation of Perdeyc by King David to the church of Glasgow in 1136 and Walter de Stryvelin witnessing a deed by Prince Henry, son of King David 1st of Scotland in the same year.

Peter de Striuelin was witness to the donation of the church of Karreden to the abbey of Hollyrood around 1158. Thomas de Stervlen was witness to a charter made by King Alexander II in 1224 and was Archdeacon of Glasgow in 1228. Sir Gilbert de Striuelyng witnessed legal proceedings in Aberdeen around 1250. Sir John Stirling of Moray swore fealty in 1291, and Andreu de Strivelyn and Henry de Strivelyn both swore an oath of allegiance to King Edward I of England during the latter's short conquest of Scotland in 1296. The Stirlings of Keir, where the Clan seat resides, claim to have an unbroken line of chiefs that stretches from 1160 to 1677. Sir Alexander de Strivelyn, the fifth Laird of Cadder died in 1304. [1]

Early History of the Sterling family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Sterling research. Another 135 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1524, 1621, 1640, 1669, 1678, 1666, 1692, 1770, 1790, 1878 and are included under the topic Early Sterling History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Sterling Spelling Variations

Prior to the invention of the printing press in the last hundred years, documents were basically unique. Names were written according to sound, and often appeared differently each time they were recorded. Spelling variations of the name Sterling include Stirling, Sterling, Sturling, Strivelynd and others.

Early Notables of the Sterling family (pre 1700)

Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Sterling Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Sterling Ranking

In the United States, the name Sterling is the 1,260th most popular surname with an estimated 24,870 people with that name. [2]

Ireland Migration of the Sterling family to Ireland

Some of the Sterling family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 89 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Sterling migration to the United States +

The freedom of the North American colonies was enticing, and many Scots left to make the great crossing. It was a long and hard journey, but its reward was a place where there was more land than people and tolerance was far easier to come by. Many of these people came together to fight for a new nation in the American War of Independence, while others remained loyal to the old order as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of Scots in North America have recovered much of this heritage in the 20th century through Clan societies and other such organizations. A search of immigration and passenger lists revealed many important and early immigrants to North America bearing the name of Sterling:

Sterling Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • David and John Sterling who settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1651
  • David Sterling, who landed in America in 1652 [3]
  • John Sterling, who arrived in America in 1652 [3]
  • Thomas Sterling, who settled in Virginia in 1655
  • William Sterling, who settled in Virginia in 1656
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Sterling Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Philippe Sterling, who landed in Louisiana in 1719 [3]
  • Will Sterling, who settled in Georgia in 1734
  • Letitia Sterling, who settled in New Jersey in 1773
Sterling Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Guillermo Sterling, aged 23, who landed in Puerto Rico in 1803 [3]
  • Joseph Sterling, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1807 [3]
  • Hugh Sterling, who landed in America in 1807 [3]
  • Robert Sterling, who arrived in New York, NY in 1811 [3]
  • Alexander Sterling, who arrived in Louisiana in 1813 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Sterling migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Sterling Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Capt. Jonathan Sterling U.E., (Stirling) (b. 1750) born in Maryland, USA who settled in Saint Marys, York County, New Brunswick c. 1784 he served in the Maryland Loyalists, he survived the sinking of the ship "Martha", died in 1826 [4]
Sterling Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Henry Sterling, who arrived in Canada in 1833
  • Catherine Sterling, aged 27, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Eweretta" in 1833

Australia Sterling migration to Australia +

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

Sterling Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Sterling, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1837 [5]
  • Robert Sterling, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Bolton" in 1849 [6]
  • Cornelius Sterling, aged 25, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "General Hewett"

New Zealand Sterling 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:

Sterling Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • William Sterling, who landed in The Bluff, New Zealand in 1839
  • Miss Agnes Sterling, (b. 1957), aged 19, Scottish settler travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Pomona" arriving in Bluff, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 14th April 1876 [7]

West Indies Sterling migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [8]
Sterling Settlers in West Indies in the 18th Century
  • Robert Sterling, who settled in Dominica in 1774

Contemporary Notables of the name Sterling (post 1700) +

  • Barry Evan Sterling (1943-2014), American businessman and politician, Member of the Tennessee House of Representatives
  • Ross S. Sterling (1875-1949), American politician
  • Thomas Sterling (1851-1930), American politician
  • John Sterling (b. 1948), American radio broadcaster
  • John William Sterling (1844-1918), American philanthropist, corporate attorney, and benefactor to Yale University
  • Jan Sterling (1921-2004), award-winning American actress
  • Antoinette Sterling (1850-1904), Anglo-American vocalist
  • Wallace Sterling (1906-1985), Canadian-born American university president
  • Annette Sterling (b. 1942), American soul singer
  • Andrew B Sterling (1874-1955), American songwriter
  • ... (Another 12 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMAS Sydney II

The Sterling 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: Gang forward
Motto Translation: Go forward.

  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. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  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. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  5. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) NAVARINO 1837. Retrieved from
  6. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The BOLTON 1849. Retrieved from
  7. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  9. HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from on Facebook