History of the surname Leyva

Exploring the Rich History and Significance of Leyva.


Where does the name Leyva originate?

It was back in the north central Spanish town of Castile that the surname Leyva first emerged. Today, both Spain and Portugal are recognized as forming the Iberian Peninsula after the Iberians had crossed here from Africa, probably around 3000BC. The Iberians travelled to the northern regions in the peninsula via its vast network of rivers. Then in the 14th century, Celtic tribes from the north descended into the regions of the North West, where today we find Galicia and Portugal.

It was during the 16th century that the Phoenicians made contact with the Celts and began to build small coastal towns and villages where trading would regularly take place. Many of these small established trading posts still exist today in the form of quaint harborside villages and fishing ports. The Phoenicians built lighthouses and expanded their knowledge by building towns which grew into cities.

The name Castile derives from the sheer number of castles found in this region, many of which had been built as protection after the 8th century invasions by the Muslims from Africa. The Spanish brought the Jews back to the country to help build and work in the peninsula, while protecting them from attack from the Muslims.

The name is allegedly of Sephardic origin, and the Sephardic people were descendants of Jewish settlers. Which is one of the reasons why there are great variations in the spelling of the name:

  • Levi
  • Leiva
  • Leiba
  • Leyva

Those that had any of those names were originally part of the Tribe of Levi and were from Israel. But the Tribe of Levi had been scattered following the history of what happened in Spain with the Catholic Church and the Jews. During this time the Jews had mixed with the Spanish as well as the Portuguese and Italians too.



What does Leyva truly mean?

The name Leyva means:

to put forth the law
and refers to the Christian law reforms indoctrinated during the battles against the Muslims in Spain and when the Indian tribes in Latin America were colonized by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers, it was said that only those bearing the name Leyva were allowed to divulge the word of god. The earlier generations of the Leyva name were said to have created the Canon Law for the Catholic Church.

However, the Christians from the north began a concerted resistance that would see the peninsula retaken after some 800 years. Castile became independent and formed alliances and fought battles that would see the frontier pushed further southwards. The Leyva Family led the Christian Conquests of Spain, taking land back that had been seized by the Muslims.

Thus the family branched out to Southern Spain, becoming established in Seville and Cordoba among other centers, and eventually Granada. The first settler was Francisco Leiva who settled in America in 1528. His records are found in the Catalogue de Pasajeros a Indias and arrived almost a century before the Mayflower.


The Great Migration

Where can we find Leyvas?

When Granada fell on January 2, 1492, the Spanish Crown turned its attentions to building and expanding the empire. Ferdinand and Isabella supported Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the west, which began an era of exploration and conquest that would take the Spaniards and their language and culture across the globe. The settlers built upon these foundations of the “Spanish Empire” and included members of the Leyva Family.

Many of the early settlers in the Caribbean and Latin America bore the surname and it is still found today in many parts of Latin America and the Philippines.
The name is also found prevalent in the USA including Florida, New Mexico, Southern California and Texas.

For more information and the coat of arms in high quality, you should buy the Extended History on House of Names.


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