The Stewart surname, often associated with Scotland, has deep roots in Ireland as well. The Scottish Stewarts were descendants of the FitzAlan family, who were originally Breton nobility. Some members of this family arrived in Ireland as part of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century, while others came during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.
Etymology and Meaning
The name Stewart is derived from the Old English word “stigweard,” which is a combination of “stig,” meaning “household,” and “weard,” meaning “guardian” or “steward”. Thus, the name refers to an administrative official of an estate or household, a steward.
Earliest Known Usage
The earliest known usage of the surname Stewart in Ireland can be traced back to the 13th century when some descendants of the Scottish Stewart monarchs settled in Ulster.
In present times, the Stewart surname has a widespread distribution, with bearers in countries around the world, including Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Original Geographic Location
In Ireland, the Stewart name was initially concentrated in the northern province of Ulster, particularly in County Donegal.
The migration patterns of the Stewart family are strongly influenced by historical events. Many Stewarts left Ireland during the 19th century due to the Great Famine, heading to North America, Australia, and other parts of the British Empire.
Involvement in Key Moments in History
Members of the Stewart family were among the Protestant settlers during the Plantation of Ulster, a significant event that reshaped the demographic and political landscape of Ireland.
Notable Irish Bearers of the Surname
One famous individual bearing the Stewart surname is Jackie Stewart, the former Formula One racing driver.
In the political sphere, Mervyn Stewart was a significant figure in Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Party in the late 20th century.
Variations of the Surname
There are several spelling variations of the surname Stewart, including Stuart, Steward, and Steuart, among others.
The form “Stuart,” although technically a variant, has been used by the royal family and is thus sometimes considered a distinct name.
Current Statistics and Distribution
Frequency and Global Distribution
Stewart is one of the most common surnames in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is also frequently found in Australia, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand.
Changes Over Time
Over time, due to migration and other factors, the Stewart surname has become well-distributed across the English-speaking world.
Family Coat of Arms
The Stewart family coat of arms is a heraldic design on a shield (or escutcheon), crest, and helmet. The traditional Scottish Stewart coat of arms features a blue and silver checkered diagonal band on a gold field, but different branches of the family may have different coats of arms. As with all heraldic symbols, the right to use these is subject to genealogical proof of descent from a legitimate armiger.