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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


The notable Vivian family arose among the Cornish People, a race with a rich Celtic heritage and an indomitable fighting spirit who inhabited the southwest of England. While surnames were well-known during the English medieval period, Cornish People originally used only a single name. The way in which hereditary surnames came into common use is interesting. As the population of medieval Europe multiplied, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Patronymic surnames were derived from given names and were the predominant type of surname among the Celtic peoples of Britain. However, the people of Cornwall provide a surprising exception to this rule, and patronymic surnames are less common among them than other people of Celtic stock, such as their Welsh neighbors. This is due to the greater influence of English bureaucracy and naming practices in Cornwall at the time that surnames first arose. This type of surname blended perfectly with the prevailing Feudal System. One feature that is occasionally found in Cornish surnames of this type is the suffix -oe or -ow; this is derived from the Cornish plural suffix -ow. is a patronymic surname that came from the ancient Latin given name Vivianus, which itself comes from the Latin word vivus, meaning alive. One source notes that the "Vyvians of Truro are derived by certain genealogists from one Vivianus Annius, a Roman general, son in law to Domitius Corbulo!" [1]

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The surname Vivian was first found in Cornwall where the family has held a large estate named Trelowarren in the village of Mawgan-in-Meneage since 1427. The Halliggye Fogou at Trelowarren is the largest fogou in Cornwall. Sir Richard Vyvyan referenced the fogou at Halligey, Trelowarren in his journals. In 1982, the site was excavated after routine ploughing of the field, breached the roof of the main chamber. This hole has since been turned into an entrance stairway for visitors. The first record of the surname was "Sir Vyel Vyvyan, Knight, who lived in the 13th century, and whose descendant John, having married an heiress of Ferrers, succeeded to the lordship of Trelowarren in the reign of Edward IV. " [2]

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Vivian, Vey, Vye, Vyse and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Vivian research. Another 221 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1772, 1545, 1610, 1601, 1601, 1607, 1575, 1635, 1613, 1665, 1640, 1665, 1613, 1724, 1681, 1736, 1660 and 1727 are included under the topic Early Vivian History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 223 words (16 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Vivian Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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A look at the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Vivian:

Vivian Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • John Vivian, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851

Vivian Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Richard Vivian was a planter of Careless Harbour, Newfoundland, in 1830
  • William Vivian settled in Twillingate, Newfoundland, in 1841
  • James Vivian settled at Smart's Island in Bona Vista Bay, Newfoundland, in 1871

Vivian Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Vivian, aged 30, arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Harry Lorrequer"
  • Thomas Vivian arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Harry Lorrequer" in 1849
  • Cathe. Vivian, aged 21, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Omega"
  • Thomas Vivian, aged 21, arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Magdalena"
  • John Vivian, aged 36, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Taymouth Castle"


Vivian Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • John Vivian, aged 28, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand aboard the ship "Accrington" in 1863
  • Elizabeth Vivian, aged 29, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand aboard the ship "Accrington" in 1863
  • Jacob Vivian, aged 27, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "City of Auckland" in 1872
  • Elizabeth Vivian, aged 24, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "City of Auckland" in 1872
  • Mary Vivian, aged 2, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "City of Auckland" in 1872


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  • Weston Edward Vivian (b. 1924), American Democrat politician, U.S. Representative from Michigan 2nd District, 1965-67; Defeated, 1966, 1968; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Michigan, 1976
  • Mark Vivian, American politician, Mayor of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, 2000-03
  • John R. Vivian, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Pennsylvania, 1964
  • John F. Vivian (1864-1954), American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Colorado, 1896 ; Candidate in primary for Governor of Colorado, 1926
  • John Charles Vivian (1889-1964), American politician, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, 1939-43; Governor of Colorado, 1943-47
  • Frank Vivian, American politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan 12th District, 1906
  • Arthur H. Vivian, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Indiana, 1956
  • John Charles Vivian (1889-1964), American attorney, journalist, and politician, Governor of Colorado (1943-1947)
  • Valentine Vivian (1886-1969), English Army Colonel, and late head of the MI6 counter-espionage unit
  • John Henry Vivian (1785-1855), English industrialist and politician, member of the UK Parliament from Swansea (1832-1855)

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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.

Other References

  1. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  3. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  4. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  5. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  6. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  8. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  9. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  10. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Vivian Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Vivian Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 19 February 2016 at 14:58.

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