Prior to 1800 most Buists were located in Fife, Scotland. From there they gradually migrated to England (particularly London), then to Australia and New Zealand, and also to Canada and the USA. However, there were always more Buists in the Netherlands and there still are today (2014: NL 1,112 versus GB 933). So was the surname originally Scottish or Dutch and what is the link between the two?
The first of these questions is more difficult to answer than the second.
Surnames may be categorised as patronymic (Donaldson, Williamson, etc.), topographical (Wood, Milne (mill), etc.), occupational (Shepherd, Mason, Gow (smith), etc.), bynames (Little, White, Campbell (crooked-mouthed), etc.) or regional/ethnic names (Fleming, Scott, etc.). Buist doesn't fit into any of these Scottish surname categories.
However from the Dutch perspective "the family name of Buis/Buijs is a patronymic with an old Germanic name that formerly appeared in the forms Buso or Boso (and later as Buij and Buijser) and is still passed down in family names such as Bos, Buis, Bus, Buijsen and Buijssink. With respect to the etymology [the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning] of Boso/Buso, people are still in the dark. Place names such as Buizingen, near Brussels, were also derived from the old Germanic name. Subsequently, persons named after the place took the surname Van Buizingen but apparently this name could be shortened to Buis again."
As a side note, "buis" means pipe or tube in Dutch although this isn't believed to be the origin of the family name.
In our view, the population statistics and etymology point towards the Netherlands rather than Scotland as the origin of the family name but are not conclusive at this stage.
The second question regarding the connection between the two countries is somewhat easier to answer given the concentration of Buists in Fife. During the 16th and 17th centuries, ports on the east coast of Scotland predominantly traded with ports in the Netherlands and the Baltics. Leith (Edinburgh) was the country's main trading port but Kircaldy and Dysart in Fife were also important. In fact Dysart became known as "Little Holland" due to the strength of its salt and coal export trade with the Netherlands between 1570 and 1630.
In conclusion, we favour a Dutch origin for the family name and believe that the strong trade link between the two countries brought the family to Scotland. The logical next step would be to undertake a one-name study starting in Fife but we recognise that the probability of success is very low given the need to access the old parish records. Watch this space.