Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,768 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

4,209 total views, 2 views today




About the study

The Hepburn One-Name study is mainly based on research of the line of the Hepburn family which has its roots in 18th Century Donegal, Ireland and stretches through eight generations. The story, which is still unfolding, is the result of more than fifteen years of research and the help of many people. The name was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies in 2007.

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are Heyburn, Hayburn and Hepbourn, although the name has been found written at least 27 different ways. The Heyburn and Hayburn variant of the surname Hepburn is found most frequently in the north of Ireland in the 18th & 19th Century.

Name origin

Hepburn is an Anglo-Scottish family name that is also associated with a variety of famous people, places, and things. Although a Scottish name its origins are widely suspected to lie south of the border in the north of England. Specifically, the name is thought to have derived from either the town of Hebron or Hebburn, both of which are in the Northumberland area of England. The origins of the name is thought to be from the Anglo-Saxon words heah, meaning high and byrgen, meaning burial place. Alternatively it could mean something along the lines of 'high place beside the water', as the word burn is a still widely used Scots word to mean river.

Historical occurrences of the name

There are a number of Hepburn's who have espoused greatness. Some of the most well known include:

  • Katharine Houghton Hepburn (1907 -€“ 2003) was an American actress of film, television and stage. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn, and Katharine Martha Houghton. Katherine holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins with four, from twelve nominations. Memorable films include; The Lion in Winter, Morning Glory, The Rainmaker, The African Queen, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond.
  • Audrey Hepburn (1929-€“1993) was an Academy Award- and Tony Award-winning Anglo-Dutch film and stage actress. In 1999, she was ranked as the third greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. She also served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work. Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Brussels, Belgium, the only child of the Englishman Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston and his second wife, Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch aristocrat. Audrey'€™s father later prepended the surname of his maternal grandmother, Kathleen Hepburn, to the family's and Audrey'€™s surname became Hepburn-Ruston.
  • James Hepburn, Duke of Orkney, 4th Earl of Bothwell (c. 1534 -€“ 1578) was Hereditary Lord High Admiral of Scotland. He is best known for his association with and subsequent marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, as her third husband. James was the grandson of Adam Hepburn, Lord Hailes of the Clan Hepburn of Hailes line.

Name frequency

The majority of Hepburns have historically been found in Scotland and continues to be a prominent surname in Midlothian (Edinburgh), the original seat of Clan Hepburn.

Between 1864 and 1959 there were 605 Hepburn and variant births registered with the General Register Offices in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

According to the Office of National Statistics database there are some 2692 Hepburn, 296 Heyburn and 92 Hayburn surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Mann as of September 2002.

Distribution of the name

The Scotch-Irish Hepburns in Northern Ireland trace their ancestry to Scotland descending from Scottish Lowland Presbyterians who were encouraged by the English government to migrate to Ulster in the seventeenth century. Economic pressures, including steadily increasing rents on their land, frequent crop failures, and the collapse of the linen trade, coupled with the belief in greater opportunity abroad, caused many of these Scotch-Irish Hepburns to leave for the American colonies during the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

In the Griffiths Valuation survey of Irish property ownership conducted by the Irelands Valuation office from 1848 to 1864 there were 63 Hepburns and variants recorded, predominantly in counties in the north of Ireland (1 Cork, 1 Wexford,1 Fermanagh, 2 Carlow, 2 Dublin, 6 Donegal, 6 Derry, 7 Tyrone, 10 Roscommon, 11 Down, 19 Armagh).


Information held on the Hepburn One-name study website ( includes:

  • All of the entries from the Irish General Records Office Index list for Hepburn Births 1864-1959;
  • Griffiths Valuation list of Hepburns and variants 1848-1864;
  • The one-name study also included numerous entries from 1901 Irish Census and individual biographies.