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: Cheese

This Surname Saturday article has been moved to the Digging History Magazine site. This blog has been converted and is being published as a monthly digital magazine (PDF), available by individual purchase or subscription and emailed each month to your inbox.  The magazine is packed with informative articles focusing on history and genealogy, colorful graphics and between 60-75 pages in length with a comfortable reading font. NOTE:  Check the “Special Offers” page for contests, giveaways and discount codes. Magazine samples (a few selected pages) are also available.  Want to try a full issue?  Go to the Digging History Magazine web site and find the “Subscribe to Blog Via Email” section (at the bottom of all pages).  Provide your email and become a follower and look for your free...

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...

Surname Saturday: Whale

The Whale surname was derived from a nickname for (no surprise) a person of large girth who “rolled” as they walked, according to the Internet Surname Database.  Charles Bardsley, author of A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, wrote a bit more poetically:  “probably affixed like Oliphant, i.e., the elephant, on account of the ponderous and ungainly build of the bearer.” House of Names links the surname to a family that lived in Berwickshire at Le Whele after migrating to England following the Norman Conquest of 1066.  Interestingly, they link the occurrence of the name as perhaps being derived from someone who lived in Wales. During the Middle Ages, “whal” was used to describe any large fish such as a whale, porpoise, walrus or grampus (all fish who “roll” through the water).  Thus, someone of large girth who waddled as they walked might have received the nickname of “Whal” or “Whale”.  Not at all unusual, since many surnames were originally derived from nicknames. Early records show Hugh le Whal in 1249 on a tax assessment list in County Essex; John Whal in London in 1305; Anne Whale married Edwarde Watt in 1554.  Today this surname is more prevalent in England than elsewhere.  Spelling variations include Whale, Whele, Whaill and others. An Early American Whale Perhaps the earliest Whale to immigrate to America was Philemon Whale who landed in Boston in the 1640’s it appears.  He was born on May 27, 1599 to parents Reverend Philemon and Agnes Ann (Norwood) Whale of County Essex (perhaps related to 1249 Hugh le Whal?).  Family historians believe Philemon married his first wife Elizabeth...