National Records of Scotland

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David Livingstone (1813-1873)

David Livingstone (1813-1873)

Explorer and missionary

David Livingstone was sent to Africa by the London Missionary Society in 1840. He married Mary Moffat there in 1845 - she was the daughter of Robert Moffat, a fellow Scot, who ran the mission station at Kuruman in the Kalahari Region. David Livingstone was the first European to cross the continent from west to east and to discover the Zambesi River, the Victoria Falls and several major central African lakes. His publications about these explorations and the slave trade brought great fame. He was commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society to find the source of the river Nile in 1865. There was no contact for several years and The New York Times sent the journalist, H M Stanley, to find him. When they finally met on 10 November 1871 Stanley greeted him with the now famous words "Dr Livingstone, I presume?". David Livingstone died on 4 May 1873. His heart was buried where he died, at Ulala, and his body and papers were carried on an epic journey to the coast and on to Britain, where he was interred in Westminster Abbey.

The David Livingstone Centre based in the tenement building where he grew up is a museum to his life and work. Livingstone online brings together digital copies of his manuscripts held by London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland and other organisations.

Birth in 1813

David Livingstone was born on 19 March 1813, the son of Niel Livingston, tailor at Blantyre Works and Agnes Hunter. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Blantye gives the family surname as Livingston.

Baptism entry for David Livingstone

Baptism entry for David Livingstone in the OPR for Blantyre (27 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 624/1, page 174

Portrait of David Livingstone

An undated photograph, held in our gift and deposit collection - the papers of the Loch Family of Drylaw (National Records of Scotland, GD268/1045/30b) - can be seen in the Image Gallery entry for David Livingstone.

Testament of David Livingstone

National Records of Scotland, SC36/48/74 pp 705-707

David Livingstone didn't leave a will, and his testament, recorded by Glasgow Sheriff Court on 15 September 1874, consists of an inventory of the money in his British bank accounts. His chief executor, his eldest son Thomas Steele Livingstone, living in Hamilton, attested that he had no knowledge of the extent of his father's estate, if any, abroad. As Mary Livingstone had died in Africa in 1862, the estate was divided equally among their children.

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