Surname Saturday: Renfrew

I haven’t done a Surname Saturday in awhile and today seemed a good day to highlight this particular surname after stumbling across an interesting story this week – and possibly a link to my own family history.  The name I actually ran across while working on an ancestry research project was Renfro (Renfrow or Rentfrow).  As it turns out, these are all variations of Renfrew, and as I suspected the name has Scottish origins. The name originates from a town of the same name in Renfrewshire.  Perhaps the earliest instance of the name was seen in the late thirteenth century when the name Adam de Reynfru was recorded in Edeneburk County.  Early in the following century a Scottish prisoner of war by the name of Robert Reynfreu was imprisoned at the Old Sarum Castle between 1304 and 1307. In 1408 the name Galfridus Renfrew was recorded in Aberdeen and later in the century the name of Bartholomew Renfrew appeared in Glasgow records in 1481.  Later the name appeared in English records with various spellings like Rentfrow, Rentfree, Renfree, Renfro and more. As I alluded to above, while working on a research project I came across an unusual name which I’ve placed on the list of future Tombstone Tuesday articles: June Victory “Queen Victoria” Rentfrow Parrish.  While attempting to find out more about “Queen Victoria” I came across others with the Rentfrow surname who might have been related to her. I was startled, however, when I came across two records, one at Ancestry.com and another the Find-A-Grave entry of Thomas Jefferson Rentfrow.  When I saw the Ancestry.com record, I thought...

Surname Saturday: Rainwater

There are several theories as to the origins of this surname, one source referring to it as a very rare surname.  Perhaps most plausible is the theory the name was brought to England following the Norman Conquest in 1066, since the English word “rain” was originally derived from the French word “reyn” in the early Middle Ages. Rainwater family researchers have their own theories, however, including the French derivation.  A web site called “The Rainwater Collection” notes that a number of old English records show several English names which may have described where a person got his drinking water (Atwater, Bywater, Passwater, Drinkwater, and so on).  The Rainwater surname, they theorize, may have described a poor family without access to water, meaning they depended on collected rainwater.1 Some records show the name “Rainworter”, which as the web site points out, is hard to avoid rendering it as “Rainwater”.  That seems to be both a simple and logical explanation. Some sources, including Ancestry.com, indicate the name may be of German, or possibly Jewish origin as Reggenwasser.  Others believe the name has Dutch origins and point to the name “van Regenmorter”.  Early English records show evidence of either “Rainmorter” or “Rainworter”.  It’s also possible that “Rainworter” was difficult to pronounce and “Rainwater” was a more natural rendering, albeit a mispronunciation – stranger things have happened.  Interestingly, the singular word “worter” meant “bucket”.  Rainwater, although unusual and rare, seems a better alternative than “Rainbucket”, however. The first person bearing this surname to immigrate to America, Robert Rainwater, arrived in the Virginia Colony in 1706 as an indentured servant to John Hurt.  As...

Surname Saturday: Rupe/Rupp/Roop

Today’s surname is a family name – my great grandmother Maude Hall was a Rupe.  She was quite a character (more on that later).  The name is mostly likely of Germanic origins although there are various theories as to its exact meaning and derivation: 4Crests: A baptismal name for “son of Robert” and derived from a Germanic personal name (HROD and BERHT).  Following the Norman Conquest the name was occasionally seen in England as well.  In Germany the “o” in Robert became a “u” and the “b” was replaced by “p” – Rupert. Ancestry.com: From the Middle Low German word “rupe” which means “caterpillar” and thus a nickname for a gardener.  Sometimes spelled Rupp or Ruppe. Internet Surname Database: Rupp (a spelling variation) has been recorded in over seventy spellings (Robert, Robart, Robb, Rupert, Rops, Ruppertz and so on).  This source agrees the name “Hrodbeorht” morphed into the Rupe/Rupp/Rupert surname, with “hrod” meaning renown and “beorht” meaning bright or famous. Wikipedia: This is an interesting theory, citing the closest German surname as Ruprecht, which in German was used to describe St. Nicholas’ (Knecht Ruprecht) or Santa’s helper. House of Names: Citing the Germanic name Rupp which was first found in Hamburg, the family gaining a “significant reputation for its contributions to the emerging medieval society.”  Spelling variations include Krupp, Krup, Krupe, Crup, Crupp, Crupe, Cruppe, Kroupe, Crop, Cropp, and many more. I’m still working on the Rupe line, its origins and who exactly was the “gateway ancestor” who first immigrated to America.  There seems to be a lot of conflicting information as to just who that was, and to...

Surname Saturday: Bumpus

This surname has French origins and appeared in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066.  Perhaps a French nickname it derived from the French phrase “bon pas” which means “fast pace”, a swift walker, runner or perhaps someone who was a messenger.  One source suggests that it may have been a localized name for one who dwelt in an alley or passageway. Spelling variations are many, including Bumpus, Bonpas, Bumpasse, Bompase, Bompasse, Bumpuss, Bumpusse, Bump and many more. America’s First Bumpus? Quite likely the first person to come to America bearing this surname was Edouad (Edward) Bompasse or Bumpasse who arrived in Massachusetts on November 10, 1621 on the Fortune, just about a year after the first Pilgrims arrived in November of 1620. No one knows his exact birth date, although it is usually estimated to have been 1605 in the St. Bartholomew Parish of London.  Family researchers surmise that he may have been a member of the group of Protestants (and perhaps descended from French Huguenots) who fled to Leyden, Holland to avoid religious persecution.  If the 1605 date is correct, then Edward would have been around sixteen years old when he arrived and possibly assigned (or indentured) to live with Isaac Allerton upon his arrival. Around the age of eighteen (1623) he received an allotment of land and four years later a share of cattle.  In 1628 he married a woman named Hannah with whom he had at least twelve or thirteen children).  That same year he purchased twenty acres on Duxbury and built a house.  In 1634 or 1635 he sold the land and house to...

Surname Saturday: Cheese

The Cheese surname, like the Cakebread and Whitebread surnames (see recent articles here and here), is among one of the oldest, dating back to pre-seventh century Olde English.  Both the Olde English word “cese” and the Saxon word “cyse” mean cheese and refer to someone who makes cheese, making it an occupational surname. Like the “bread” occupational surnames, a cheesemaker was one of the oldest recorded trades, and therefore the Cheese surname was prominent.  As the Internet Surname Database suggests, the Cheese coat of arms featured a golden lion on a blue field which may have suggested nobility or close royal association. The first record of the name was Ailwin Chese as a member of the St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London in 1150.  Other early records show John Chese on the 1279 Hundreds Rolls in Huntingdon, the name Walter Le Cheser was recorded in Hereford in 1376 and Mary Chese was christened in Canterbury in 1572. Phebe Cheese married Nicholas Moleny on October 11, 1646, perhaps the first time that spelling variation was seen in records.  Spellings variations include Cheese, Chese, Chuse, Chouse, Cheser, Chesse and more.  According to the Internet Surname Database, “the more usual surname form is Cheeseman, although strictly speaking Cheeseman refers to the servant or manager of the cheese making, whilst ‘Cheese’ is the big cheese himself!” Early American records show that members of the Cheese family served during the Revolutionary War.  A 1783 Continental Congress record shows a Negro woman named Ann Cheese on an Inspection Roll of Negroes, also called the “Book of Negroes”. The book consisted of over two hundred pages which...

Surname Saturday: Whitebread

A couple of weeks ago the Cakebread surname was featured with an interesting story – this week it’s Whitebread.  These two surnames appear to share similar origins dating back to pre-seventh century Olde English.  The Old English word “hwit” meant white, “hwaete” meant wheat, and as the Internet Surname Database points out, “bread” is one of a few words that has retained its original spelling for at least fifteen centuries. Like Cakebread, the Whitebread surname was an occupational name for a baker of bread.  One name seen in medieval times, Whytbredson, could have been someone who was the son of a baker, or who perhaps was a baker like his father.  A 1221 record, one of the oldest, shows William Witbred on the Suffolk Subsidy Tax Rolls, in 1254 Roger Wythbred was listed in Huntingdonshire church records and Robert Whetbred appeared on the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Sussex in 1327.  Spelling variations include Witbread, Whytebread, Whatebread, Wyteberd, Witberd, Whitberd, Whiteberd and more. John Whitebread arrived in Virginia in 1713 and according to an indexed record, his name appears amongst references to land patented by French refugees, likely the Protestants (Hugenots) who fled France after Louis XIV revoked the 1685 Edict of Nantes which had guaranteed freedom of religious worship. Another Whitebread immigrant, Henry, arrived in 1773 and appears in an index of records from a comprehensive list from the Corporation of Lond Records Office, including Royal Pardons (1662-1693) and Transportation Bonds (1661-1772).  Eleven years later another man came to America and became what I would call an “accidental Whitebread.” Henry the “Accidental” Whitebread Johann Heinrich Weisbrod was born on...