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Name Origination for Carruthers

Research relating to the origin of a family, or as to the meaning of a surname, always involves some speculation and the Carruthers family provides no exception to this statement.  There is not a common agreement on origin of the Carruthers name, but speculation has boiled down to a few alternatives.  One alternative is Carruthers was derived from the Celtic "Caer-Ruthryis", which means the Fort of Rhydderch (also known as Ridderick or Ruther).  Another derivation is coming from "Cuir-Ruther", translated as the Fort of Assault or the Fort of Ruther.  While the translations differ, the meaning is generally the same - the Carruthers name is derived from the geographical region where there was a fort attributed to Rhydderch (also known as Ruther).  Many individuals in Britain, before the use of surnames, are known by multiple names, generally Celtic, Latin, and possibly Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, Anglicized or Norse versions. 

So, who was Rhydderch? Well, there were two Rhydderch's in Celtic history.  The 1st was Rhydderch Hen (or Hael), who was Chief of Cumbria and died in 603.  The 2nd Rhydderch was Chief of all of Strathclyde, living about 200 years later.  His great-grandson, King Run of Strathclyde, married the daughter of Kenneth I, King of the Picts and Scots.  Rhydderch was the 2nd cousin, seven times removed, of Rhydderch Hael.  Based on the earthwork around the the Carruthers estate, described below, it appears that the Rhydderch who had the "fort" near the Carruthers ancestral property, was Rhydderch Hael.

In the 6th Century, the Romanized Britons either were being gradually driven westward, or absorbed as serfs, by the Teutonic tribes which invaded British shores following the final departure of the Romans. At this period the British territory covered the country now comprised in the modern counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucester, Monmouth, Hereford, Shropshire, Cheshire, all the Welsh counties, Lan­cashire, Westmorland, Cumberland and the west-central portion of Southern Scotland, with the exception of the counties of Wigtown and Kirkcud­bright; the more northerly portion, extending from the Derwent (possibly Dunmail Raise was the boundary) to Dumbarton on the Clyde, being known as Strathclyde and embracing Cumbria, now the modern Cumberland.  The invasion had pushed back the Celtic tribes from the East Coast and in southern Lancashire had definitely severed the northern from the southern Celts.

Rhydderch Hael, called" the Liberal", figures prominently in the legends woven around St. Kentigern (or St. Mungo) and appears to have been the leader of a small section of the Britons of Strathclyde who still maintained Christian traditions, although, following the withdrawal of the Romans, the majority of the Celts had reverted to their original cults.  Cynderyn, known as St. Kentigern, was the Bishop of Strathclyde while Rhydderch Hael was the ruler.  They were distant cousins, as shown by the genealogy chart below.  (On a side note, Rhydderch Hael and King Arthur were contemporaries, both dieing in 603, and were also 2nd cousins, once removed.)  (According to Laurence Gardner, an internationally known sovereign genealogist, Rhydderch Hael was also the 17 great-grandson of Joseph of Arimathea (known from the Bible) and the 1st cousin 11 times removed of Emperor Constantine the Great of Rome).

In the year 573 a decisive battle was fought at Arthuret, near Longtown, between the Christian and non-Christian forces, resulting in a victory for the former with the result that the capital was removed from Carlisle to Alclyt, or Dumbarton, known to the Gaels as dun Bretann. The interest­ing feature of this engagement, however, lies in the fact that for some time before the conflict the Christian tribes, led by Rhydderch Hael, may have been established in the ancient earthwork on a hill, in the modern parish of Middlebie, which later became known as Caer-Ruthryis. (It is possible to trace the remains of an encampment on the hill above the farm of Carruthers at the present day.)

Tradition ascribes a Celtic origin to the Carruthers family, but decisive proof is lacking. In the centuries that immediately followed, Strathclyde was assailed by Saxons, Danes and Norsemen and these undoubtedly effected settlements, as is witnessed by place-names such as Denby, Middlebie, Mouswald, etc.  At a later date, Anglo-Norman Barons and Knights were, as elsewhere, granted lands in this district. The language, in spite of these various settlers, remained Celtic until its absorption into the Scottish kingdom about when the Saxon tongue with a Norse admixture gradually began to predominate.

At the time that surnames came into gradual use in Scotland, i.e. during the 12th and 13th Centuries, the family living at Carruthers undoubtedly adopted it as its surname and accordingly the race to which the "first Carruthers" belonged, cannot be ascertained.  It is interesting to notice that at a comparatively early date, the name is to be found in England in the counties of Cumberland, Durham and York­shire. While in Scotland the most common and usual spelling was Carruthers (with slight variations), in England it became disguised as Carrothers, Carrodus and Cruddas (in Yorkshire), Croudace (in Durham), &c.,  as in America where the spelling changed to Carothers, Caruthers, Carrothers, Cruthers, etc.  There were many other variations in the spelling. 

From where did the people originate who adopted the place name Carruthers?  The fleur-de-lis on the Carruthers coat-of-arms has always pointed to France, and therefore the Normans.  Being so closely attached to Robert the Bruce and the Bruce family (Brus in France), also points the answer to France.  The 3rd piece of evidence is the on-going DNA evidence described on another web page on this site.  The most prevalent haplotype group for Carruthers, I1a, is Norman, with perhaps a Norse origination before Norman.   

Map of Middlebie Parish

The Carruthers lived within Annandale, and were chiefly located at Mouswald and Holmains and numerous other adjacent places.  This district was situated in what was known as the West March of Scotland. Strathclyde extended on both sides of what is now known as the Border and the inhabitants spoke the same language. When Strathclyde became part of Scotland, the Scot­tish Border lay considerably to the south of its present position.  It was not until the reign of William II of England (1087-1100) that Carlisle was established as an English town.  For over 100 years thereafter the Scottish kings alternately possessed and were dispossessed of Cumberland and the adjacent counties of Northumberland and Durham, but these were finally lost to Scotland with the capture of William the Lion in the year II74. William the Lion vainly endeavoured to recover this territory from Richard I of England and his brother and successor, John, but without result.  This history takes us close to the 1st historical record of a Carruthers - William de Carruthers, who made a donation to the Abbey of Newbattle, during the reign of Alexander III, (1215-1245).  The Carruthers Parish represented much of the land that the original Carruthers family occupied.  However, in 1609, the ancient parish of Carruthers was united with Middlebie, along with the parish of Pennersaughs (Pennersax), which belonged to the Carlisles.

For several centuries there lay between the kingdoms of England and Scotland a stretch of ground known as the Debatable Lands. These lands came to be occupied by what were known as "broken men", i.e. men originally of good family, but who, owing to force of circumstances, had become little beyond common thieves. In 1552, after the invasion of Annandale, a Commission met and the contested territory was divided between the two countries, the northern part, Canonbie, being added to Scotland and the southern part, Kirkandrews, becoming part of England.


Portions of the above were excerpted from Records of the Carruthers Family, by A. Stanley Carruthers and R. C. Reid.  Supplements were added from other sources, including several books by Laurence Gardner.


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