Select Nixon Surname Genealogy

Nick is a short form of Nicholas, itself derived from the Greek Nikolaos meaning “victory people.”  Nickson or more commonly Nixon is its patronymic form.  This surname appeared on both sides of the Scottish/English border.

Select Nixon Resources on The Internet

Select Nixon Ancestry

Scotland.  Nixons, sometimes Nicksouns, were Scottish border reivers, one of a number that ran rampage during the lawless times of the 16th century.  Their base was Liddesdale in Roxburghshire.  The earliest record of them was William Nycson occupying lands in Ermyldoune, Liddesdale in 1376.

The hey-day of the Nixons as border reivers was the early/mid 1500’s when they stole cattle, fought amongst themselves, and burnt villages across the border.  Fingerless Will Nixon was said to have got his nickname after one such a raid.

However, by 1603 the Government had stepped in with its pacification program.  Many of the border chiefs and their families were hunted down and killed.  Others were scattered, some being banished to the Scottish plantations in Ireland.  By the time of the 1881 census the Nixon name had pretty much disappeared from the Scottish borders.

  To the south of Liddesdale lay Cumberland and Nixons were to be found there at Bewcastle (which included the township of Nixons) near Carlisle.   Some outlawed Nixons were hanged in Carlisle Castle.  Other Nixons remained in the area.

There was a greater concentration of Nixons further south – around Cheshire, north Staffordshire, and extending into Lancashire.

John Nixon was born around 1467 at Over parish near the Vale Royal Abbey in Cheshire.   It was said that Robert Nixon, the famous prophesier of Cheshire, was his son, although no one really knows when he was born or lived.

John Nixon married Anne Pownall in Cheshire in 1604.  Two of their sons left as soldiers to Fermanagh in Ulster before the later departures of three brothers to America.  Their line was covered in Jean Cox’s 1970 book Nixon Family Memorials.

Among Nixons in north Staffordshire were:
  • in Leek.  William Nixon, born there in 1632, married Mary Tatton in 1663.  Joshua Nixon, a skinner, married Mary Challenor in 1705.  His son Jonathan emigrated to Maryland in 1738.
  • in Biddulph.  George Nixon was born in 1705 and a line of Nixons descended from him there.
The Nickson spelling was common in Lancashire.

John Nixon
, from a humble background, was three times mayor of Oxford in the 1630’s and 1640’s.

Ireland.   Nixons in Ulster
were initially to be found in county Fermanagh.  Three Nixons – Adam Nixon, John Nixon and Thomas Nixon – were among the twelve approved and registered inhabitants of Enniskillen in the early 1600’s.  In the 1719 History of Fermanagh it was reported:

“The Nixons are of antiquity in county Fermanagh since the reign of King James I.  Adam Nixon was a man of learning and sound judgment.  He was a Chancellor of the diocese of Clogher and a Justice of the Peace in the county.”

Their home was at Nixon Hall near Enniskillen until it burnt down in the late 1700’s.  Alexander Nixon had married Mary Montgomery in 1758, moved to county Monaghan and adopted the name of Montgomery.   Meanwhile the Rev. Andrew Nixon of this family had made his home at Nixon Lodge in Drumlane, Cavan.  The family story was narrated in Mark Nixon’s 2015 book The Grass Really Was Greener.

Many of the outlawed Nixons from the Scottish borders ended up in Fermanagh.  Some later emigrated to America.  At the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the mid-19th century, there were 93 Nixons recorded in Fermanagh versus 50 in Tyrone and 38 in Cavan.

.  There were some Nixons from England during the colonial era, such as Zachariah Nixon from Nottinghamshire who came to North Carolina in 1684 and Jonathan Nixon from Staffordshire who came to Maryland in 1738.  But the majority of the Nixon arrivals were from Ireland.

Some did well from the outset.  Richard Nixon, a shipping merchant from Wexford, made his base in Philadelphia and prospered there, owning Nixon’s Wharf on the Delaware river.  His son John took over the business after his death in 1756.   John became one of the leaders of the patriot cause in Philadelphia.  After the war he helped organize the Bank of North America and served as its first president. 

Another American patriot, this time from Leitrim, was Allan Nixon who had first arrived as a young boy in 1748.  After the war he made his home in Grimsby township, New Jersey where his uncle John from Fermanagh had earlier resided. 

Three Nixon brothers from Fermanagh had in fact arrived in America in the 1730’s, John settling in New Jersey, George in Virginia, and James in the Brandywine Hundred in Delaware.  James Nixon was the ancestor of Richard M. Nixon, the US President from 1968 to 1974.

Other Nixons who came to America from Fermanagh were:
  • George Nixon who settled in Hopewell township in Bedford county, Pennsylvania sometime in the 1760’s.
  • John Nixon from Macguiresbridge who arrived in New Orleans around the year 1804.  He made his mark as a lawyer in the city and later settled in Biloxi, Mississippi.
  • and William and Rachel Nixon, descended from the Nixons of Nixon Hall, who came with their family to New York in 1869.
Andrew Nixon came to America from county Tyrone in 1797, later settling in Adams county, Ohio.  He died in 1869.  His youngest son Andrew moved west, first to Iowa and then to California.  He drowned in Sunset Beach in 1877, aged 33.

Canada.  Allen Nixon
from Ireland who had served in the British army was a Loyalist who departed America for Canada in 1787.  He and his family were granted land in the Niagara peninsula where they settled.  His grandson Charles in 1853 built the Nixon homestead in South Dumfries which is still standing today.  Charles’s grandson Harry had a long political career, representing Brant from 1919 to 1961.  He was briefly in 1942 Premier of Ontario.

Also from Ireland much later came the Rev. Harpur Nixon, the son of an Anglican minister Alexander Nixon in Donegal.  A well-to-do gentleman, he came to British Columbia with his wife and acquired Twin Islands off the coast in 1912.  But he was only to live there for three years.  A blast mysteriously exploded in his face, severing part of his lower jaw, and he died soon after.

Australia and New Zealand. 
Religion and painting rang in the family of the Rev. Francis Nixon who came to Hobart from Kent in 1843 to be the first consecrated Anglican Bishop of Tasmania.  His father, the Rev. Richard Nixon, had been an enthusiastic amateur painter.  His son George, who grew up in their Runnymede family home in Hobart, was an accomplished artist and draughtsman.

The Ramilles which arrived in Auckland, New Zealand in 1847 was full of British soldiers and their families from the 47th Foot Regiment.  Included in their number was Adam Nixon from Cavan and his family.  Adam’s son Edward settled in Wanganui.

Another ex-soldier in New Zealand was Marmaduke Nixon who arrived in Auckland on the Cresswell from India in 1852.  He represented his local district in Parliament until his death in 1864 when he was killed in a skirmish against the Maoris during the New Zealand wars

Select Nixon Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Nixon Names

Fingerless Will Nixon was a leader of the Nixon border reivers in the early 1500’s.
John Nixon
was a patriot financier of the American Revolutionary War in Philadelphia.
David Nixon
was a stage magician and a popular personality on British TV in the 1950’s.
Richard M. Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, elected in 1968 and had to resign in 1974

Select Nixons Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in Northern Ireland)
  • 13,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page