The Rushing Surname's Origins

The surname Rushing is a British surname of ancient Irish Gaelic origin with the two common British derivative spellings Rushen and Rushin along with many other spellings still present in England and America. The Rushing spelling is most common in America. These are the ancient origins, by the seventeenth century the surname was mainly British and all but gone from Ireland, Mann and Normandy. The accepted British meaning for Rushing is "Rush bed or rushes" it is a "locality" name about where people lived (Rushes are reeds that only grow near or in water).

The name is a Gaelic diminutive of Ros, which was a common masculine personal name. The word ros in Old Irish meant a wood. The diminutive of Ros is Ruisin (pronounced "rusheen") which is anglicized as Rushing. Other examples of how similar Irish Gaelic names anglicized are O'Duinin, which became Downing and O'Cuisin when it became Cushing. The reasons the surnames were anglicized was because of laws that prevented Irish people from owning land or holding public office in England. The solution was simple, change the sound or spelling of your Irish sounding name. Note: Some examples of the surname in Ireland are Rusheen the town in County Sligo, Rusheen Bay in Galway, Rusheen in County Donegal, The County Cork archaeological site: "Ruisin an Uisce", ect (there are many more).

The origin of the surname Rushing was discovered by Celtic philologists (those who study Historical Linguistics). The Rushing surname from County Monaghan is from the same word form as the surname "Ross". The American Rushings share the twelve surname genetic DNA markers with a Ross family in Canada according to the Family Tree DNA web site. Interestingly a homonym of Ros in old Irish means Promitory or Peninsula jutting into the water (a headland).

The Rush clan of County Mayo were a sept of the Ui Fiachra (O'Feery) and had translated their name from O'Luachra (luachair is Irish for "rush" - the plant). O'Luachra is the Irish name that became the British O'Feeny and translated to Rush, the plant that grows by the water, (Anglicized so they could own land and hold public office in Britain). So far we cannot find any commonality between the surnames Rush and Rushing, either historically, with records or genetically. This connection was speculated by Halberts a company that sold Coats-of-arms and surname histories in the 1960s and 70s.

So did our surname come from descendants of a Ross family in ancient Ireland or were we named after people who lived near Rushes in Middle England? Maybe both or neither, in The United States we descend from a family that simply turned up in Virginia records about 1661 during the British colonization of the new world, before the Palatine migration or the Irish emigration. Genetic (DNA) genealogy has proven that the USA Rushings share a common ancestor within a genealogical (recent - 99.96% within 29 generations) time frame and that at least one Rushen line from England shares that common ancestor.

Early American Rushings

Mathew Rushen, John Rushen and William Rushin were brothers (19) and sons of William Rushen of Clare, Suffolk County, England in the 1630s. (11)  They were Christened with slightly different surname spellings, including Rushing, as were their other brothers and sisters. After 1660 our surname begins to appear with different spellings in Virginia records, but not in any of the Virginia Charters, or Crown Censuses. Mysterious was how could there suddenly be multiple progenitors of the Rushing family with no records of possible antecedents so early in America's history. The Russhins, Rushens and Rushings must have all arrived in Virginia in the 1660's. The descendants of these 1660's Virginia progenitors become the Rushings of the Carolinas (Anson County, NC and Cheraws district, SC). When you see the surname Rushing in the genealogies, often you will find a spelling variation in the actual record. (5) This area of research is wide open, so little has been done about how our Rushing ancestors get from England to Virginia.

James Rushen came to America in the late 1640's landing first in Barbados probably to farm cotton or tobacco. These crops did not do well in the climate and soil of the island while sugar did. The land of the small farmers was forcefully taken over by the very few extremely rich sugar plantation owners called "Sugar Barons". This skirmish was called the "Sugar Revolution" and rather than work for these "Barons" most of the original 40,000 British settlers moved on to Virginia, Georgia the Carolinas and some of the other colonies. (12)  James Rushen got married and had three children in Barbados. When his trail ends there, it begins in Virginia records, concurrent with Mathew and William.

The West Indies were part of the original Virginia Charter. "The early citizens of the coastal Carolina Colony were descendants of English families that immigrated to Barbados between 1630 and 1670. During the years of revolution in England, 1640 - 1660, many "Loyalists" found refuge in Barbados, including several of the men that would become the Lord Proprietors of the Carolina Colony in 1663." (21)  Also a Richard Russin is listed as a land owner in Barbados in 1638.   Richard died in Barbados in 1661 when his will was probated. He had family ties to both Virginia and England.

In the book "Able Men of Suffolk"[Banks, Charles Edward 1638 Vol. I. Members of the Anglo-American Records Foundation, Inc., © 1981], William & John Rushen were militiamen for Clare in the Hundred of Risbridge in the year 1638. In 1648 Colchester was put under siege by the Roundheads. On August 28th the Royalists surrendered and the prisoners were marched to the south coast ports, put on boats and sent as slaves to the West Indies. (19) Barbados, West Indies was part of the first three original Virginia Charters. If anyone can add information to this collection of disconnected facts about the Rushings please write us NOW. Later in 1749 Jane Rushing was sentenced to be transported to the colonies from Middlesex, England and Thomas Ruskin of Enfield, England was sentenced in Middlesex to be transported to Virginia for stealing a gate. He arrived in Virginia in Jan.-Apr. 1741 On the Ship Harpooner.[Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775, ed. Peter Wilson Coldham (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988).]

The Other Theories

In Ireland There is a Rushen Slieve (hill), where the electric windmill farm is located.  The Manx stories of our surname's origin comes from the Castle Rushen (2) and Rushen Abbey (6) located on that Island (The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea).

In England Rushen is the most common variation of the spelling. Records of several variations exist in birth, death, Christening and marriage records. The IGI records show the surname is in the British records since 1573. (1)  There is a Rushen Manor in Herfordshire. Rushing has since all but died out in England. Only a few Rushins and Rushens still live in England, but Rushing has flourished in the United States. [statistics below]

The German story for the surname comes from the record of a Mathys Reisin of the Palatine emigration, but these Reisin descendants still use the original surname or spelling variation Riesin or Reisen, these Palatine surnames were not translated. Queen Anne hoped to spread the Protestant faith by sending the Palatine refugees first to Ireland then later to the Americas.   This theory appeared in the "Rushing Past" newsletter. II, March 1980, the story gained favor because it provided documentation for our first U.S. Rushing's origin. (4)  Modern "Rushings" in Germany trace their ancestry to Gaelic Normandy and not to the German Holiday (the festival of Rusching)or the Palatine region (Reisin).

Archived Statistic Totals

Thanks to John T. Rushing, who supplied  the old statistics, notes that Rushing or it's variants do not occur in three books on surnames of the British Isles. Yet the name is present from at least 1573 in England up to the current phone book search (Rushen is most common but rare in the British population). [ John T. Rushing of San Diego, CA and Peter Rushen of England have been great guides and mentors in this ongoing search.]

SOURCE:  International Genealogical Index, version 4.00, disk 7.
British Isles - Parish records: christenings.
Between 1573 and 1837 the following name listings were found: Rushen 456, Rushin 190, Rushon 107, Rushing 46, Russhen 26, Rushan 11, Russion 11, Russian 9, Russhin 6, Rushion 4, Rushien 3, Roshan 3, Rushinn 1, Russhun 1, and Roushan 1.

Current U.S. Census Statistics

The US Census population estimate as of 24 July 2000 is 275,314,980;  .008  percent of the population is covered by the surname Rushing. There are 1487 surnames more common than Rushing. Other spellings have been included in the five listed below by the U.S. Census Bureau. (13)

RUSHING       0.008        48.260             1488
RUSHIN          0.001        77.291             18469
RUSKIN          0.000        83.968             39363
RUSSIAN        0.000        83.967             39360
RUSHEN         0.000        86.627             54553

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