Bush Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Bush Surname Meaning

The surname Bush is a topographical one, coming from the Old English busc or buskr, describing someone who lived by a bushy area or thicket. The German equivalent is Busch and Bushes in America may have German or even possibly Dutch roots.

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Bush Surname Ancestry

England.  An early record of the surname was Richard de la Busce in the Yorkshire pipe rolls of 1181. The Bush name did seem to have appeared in Yorkshire first. Later it spread west and south and west. The 19th century distribution of the name shows one cluster in the west country around Somerset and Gloucestershire and another in London and East Anglia.

West of England.  Bushes in Bristol were recorded from around 1490. Paul Bush was the first Bishop of Bristol and his brother John purchased the Edington estate from church lands at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. It seems that these Bushes had come originally from Wiltshire.

East Anglia.  Reynold Bush was a yeoman farmer in Messing in north Essex who emigrated to America in the 1630’s. A William Bush was born in the village of Pebmarsh nearby in 1764. A later Bush of this village, a farm laborer of the early 1800’s, is believed to have been the ancestor of the singer Kate Bush. And Bushes from Wymondham and Attleborough in Norfolk date from the late 1600’s.

America. An early Bush in America was of Dutch descent. Jan Bosch immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam from Holland in 1662. These Bushes were for many years farmers in upstate New York. It was Rufus T. Bush who made the first family fortune in the late 19th century from oil refining.  His son Irving made a second fortune through the Bush terminal in Brooklyn and his real estate ventures in New York and London.

English Bushes.  Early arrivals in America were:

  • Reynold Bush who arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630’s from Messing in Essex. Samuel Bush of Westfield, Massachusetts was his grandson.
  • and William Bush who came to Maryland in 1671 and Richard Bush to Virginia around the same time, from possibly related families.

Although there were connections to Jonathan Fairbanks and Thomas Hinckley of the original Plymouth colony, the Richard Bush who came to Massachusetts in the early 1700’s was the first Bush of the line that extended via Obadiah Bush in the early 19th century to the President George W. Bush of today.

According to the book The Faith of George W. Bush:  “Obadiah left his home during the War of 1812, became a schoolmaster, then caught gold fever and left for California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Two years later he tried to return home to reclaim his family and take them west. He died in the attempt and was buried at sea, leaving his wife and seven children alone in Rochester, New York.”

So the Bushes stayed East and went to Yale instead. Samuel Bush was a close advisor to President Hoover; while Prescott Bush served as Governor of Connecticut, and both his son and grandson became American Presidents.

German Bushes.  Many more German Busches came to America than did English Bushes. Some like Adolphus Busch, the founder of the Anheuser Busch brewery, kept the Busch spelling. Others anglicized their name to Bush.

Among these Bushes were:

  • The line from Henrik Bosch, an early arrival in New York in 1661, which became Bush sometime in the 1730’s.
  • Johannes Busch who came to New Berks county, Pennsylvania in the 1730’s (his three brothers settled in Virginia). These Busches were Bushes by the time of the Revolutionary War.
  • Conradt Busch who arrived from Germany in 1775, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was Conrad Bush soon afterwards.
  • Mathias and his family who came to America in 1852 as Busches. By the time of the 1860 census for Dane county, Wisconsin, they were Bushes.

Isidor Busch (later Bush) left Vienna for New York after the failure of the 1848 Revolution. For a short while he published the first Jewish weekly newspaper in America before moving to St. Louis where he developed an interest in vineyards.


Australia. Two Bush brothers from Norfolk, Arthur and Jeremiah, came to NSW in 1835 and settled in Jerrawa Creek. Their descendants now number ten generations and they hold regular reunions. The family story was recounted in E.G. Hazell’s 1995 book Re-Generation: A Bush Family Genealogy.

Jacob Busch emigrated from Germany to Australia in 1855, arriving in Sydney on the Peru and settling in the Hunter Valley. He dropped the “c” from his surname prior to being naturalized in 1884.

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Bush Surname Miscellany

Paul Bush, Bishop of Bristol.  Paul Bush was born in Somerset “‘of honest and sufficient parents”‘ in 1490.  He was well-educated for his time and obtained royal favor during the reign of Henry VIII. He became the King’s chaplain around 1540.  The King, on the foundation of the bishopric of Bristol, selected Bush as the first bishop of the new see.  Paul Bush also secured at that time the manor of Buckland and a pension of £100 a year.

It was the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and the Bush family got their hands on the Edington estate near Westbury in Wiltshire.  John Ryve the vicar there had “the good fortune to die in 1638.”  So the seizure was undertaken without force.  It was Paul’s brother John who secured Edington at a knock-down price.

Paul Bush ran into trouble when Queen Mary ascended the throne in 1553.  He had married earlier in the year and proceedings were taken against him as a married priest (even though his wife had died by that time). The sentence of deprivation was then passed on him.  He retired to the rectory of Winterbourne near Bristol where he remained until his death in 1558, coincidentally a few days before the death of Queen Mary. 

Bushes in Westfield, Massachusetts.  For some time it has been suspected that Samuel Bush of Westfield, Jonathan Bush, and Abiel Bush were all brothers, being sons of John Bush and grandsons of the Reynold Bush who emigrated on the Lion from Messing in England to the Massachusetts colony around 1640.

There is evidence only that Abiel Bush was the son of John and thus the grandson of immigrant Reynold.  But the similarity of the DNA results for all six members of these Group A participants suggests that they all shared a common ancestor in the not too distant past. That would in fact be consistent with Samuel, Jonathan and Abiel being brothers as the circumstantial evidence has suggested.

Also among the Group A Bushes was Ebenezer Bush who inherited in 1709 what is now the oldest standing house in Westfield.  From then until the 1920’s the Bush family ran a farm on the land there. The house later underwent a restoration thanks to John and Emma Bush Collins, Emma being the seventh generation of the Bush family to live in the house.

There is a Bush family association of Westfield, Massachusetts.  Some have claimed that this Bush line also extended downwards to the Presidents Bush. But these Bushes are Group B2, not A.

Bushes in America.  Many more German Busches came to America than did English Bushes.

from:   Bush  Busch  Total
Britain (incl. Ireland)    248      –     248
German lands     99   1,113   1,212

Conrad Bush of Pompey, NY.  Conradt Busch came to America on the King of Prussia in 1775 and soon enlisted in the Continental Army, serving as a matross or driver.  He was present at Valley Forge, at many of the subsequent battles of the Revolutionary War, and at the taking of Cornwallis.

In 1790, for his services during the War, Conrad Bush was granted military lot 47 in the town of Pompey in upstate New York to settle.  It was said that when he arrived there he found a man and his nine grown-up sons living on that land and he ejected them. He and his wife Mary from Ireland raised twelve children there.

He lived a long life.  His age was given as 84 in 1840.  In 1848 he was listed as one of the few survivors of Colonel Lamb’s regiment in the War.  He died at 98 in 1854 and was buried in the Bush family cemetery in Pompey.

Rufus T. Bush the Slacker.  Rufus was known in his family as RT.  He was by repute a slacker.  He came from a family of farmers, but he couldn’t stand the hard work. He didn’t have any perseverance or “stick-to-it-iveness,” according to family relatives.

So when RT was old enough, he left his father’s farm, did this and that, even joined the circus, and went into a couple of hare-brained business deals.  Finally, the story went, he ended up in New York City of all places and, by some fluke of luck, built the Bush terminals.   The way they told the story – it was not that he succeeded but that he just couldn’t work hard at anything.

In fact Rufus T. Bush started in business in the 1850’s by selling sewing machines in Chicago. He then moved to New York and, after making some money from a number of business deals, invested in an oil refinery on the Brooklyn waterfront.  It was his son Irving, not Rufus, who built the Bush terminals.

The oil refining business gave Rufus the funds to build his famous yacht the Coronet.  Rufus and his family circumnavigated the globe on the Coronet in 1888, stopping off in Hawaii, Japan, India, and elsewhere.  The Coronet was sold before Rufus’s death in 1890.

Prescott Bush, the First of the Political Bushes.  James Smith Bush, the son of Obadiah and Hannah Bush, entered Yale University in 1841, starting what would become a long family tradition. He like succeeding Bushes down to President George W. Bush, were all Yale alumni and had all been members of the secretive and influential Skull and Bones student society.

His grandson Prescott Bush played varsity golf, football and baseball, and was president of the Yale Glee Club.  He was a 6ft 4inch charmer with a rich singing voice and was the founder of the Bush political dynasty.

In 1924, his father-in-law helped set him up in business in New York with Averill Harriman.   He and Harriman were directors of the Union Banking Corporation, an investment bank controlled by the German Thyssen family. This relationship later had him and the bank suspected of holding gold for the Nazis.

Prescott Bush survived these accusations and went on to become the Republican Senator for Connecticut in 1952.  He served there for ten years.

Under the Anheuser Bush.  Under the Anheuser Bush was a popular early-1900s song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewery.  The words were fairly simple:

  • “Come, come, come and make eyes with me
  • Under the Anheuser bush.
  • Come, come drink some ‘Budweis’ with me
  • Under the Anheuser bush.
  • Hear the old German band (at this point the band plays the first bar of Ach du lieber Augustin).
  • Just let me hold your hand – ja-a! 
  • Do, do come and have a stein or two
  • Under the Anheuser bush.”

The English version was Down at the Old Bull and Bush.

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Bush Names
  • Irving T. Bush was the real estate developer of the Bush terminal in Brooklyn, the Bush Tower skyscraper in New York, and Bush House in London.
  • George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States.
  • George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States.
  • Kate Bush has been a highly popular English singer/songwriter.
Bush Numbers Today
  • 16,000 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 28,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Bush and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

AdamsHardingKennedyRoosevelt
BuchananHarrisonLincolnTaft
BushHayesMadisonTruman
CarterHooverMonroeTyler
ClintonJacksonNixonVan Buren
FordJeffersonPolkWashington
GrantJohnsonReaganWilson

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