Cummings Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Cummings Meaning

Cumming and Cummings, originally Comyn, is thought to have derived:

  • from the town of Comines near Lille in France where the Comyn
    family might have originated
  • or from a Breton/Celtic name which had the cam element, meaning “bent” or
    “crooked,” in it.

According to one early account, Robert of Comines with 700 horse from
William the Conqueror seized Durham in 1069 and held it for 48
hours. But the people rose up against him and he perished in the
flames at the burning of the Bishop’s Palace. His nephew William
made it to Scotland and became Chancellor of Scotland in 1133.


The English Cummings spelling predominates today. Cumming rather
than Cummings
has persisted as the spelling in Scotland;
while Cummins is common in Ireland and there are other less
common variants.

Select Cummings Resources on The Internet

Cummings Ancestry

Richard Comyn the nephew of William Comyn, chancellor to King
Henry I of England, was the man who established the Comyn family in
Scotland. From their seat of power at Ruthven castle in the
central Highlands, these Comyns were for a brief time in the 13th
century under
John “the Black” Comyn the most powerful family in

But then they were defeated by their rival to the Scottish
throne, Robert the Bruce. The Comyn chief, the Red Comyn,

“In 1306 Bruce and Comyn quarrelled and
the old antagonism burst out again between these two high-spirited
men. Comyn seized Bruce by the throat and Bruce stabbed Comyn,
who was either mortally injured or killed later by Bruce’s supporters.”

Bruce subsequently stamped out
the Comyns of Buchan in Aberdeenshire.

the 15th century, the Cumming – as their clan came to be known –
had become just another Highland clan, although still of some
significance in the wild mountainous countryside around Badenoch in SW

England. The Cummings
name was relatively frequent
in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire in the 12th and 13th centuries,
perhaps as a result of Breton immigration. The early spelling was
again Comyn. Sir John Comyn held Ulceby manor in Lincolnshire
from the early 14th century (his widow Lady Maud being recorded as
having two brass pots stolen in 1332). There were Comyn merchants
in London
. Stephen Comyn, the son of a London
merchant, was an English
naval chaplain who
served with Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of

Later there was a
northward shift in the Comyns/Cummings population, perhaps as a result
Scottish Cummings crossing the border. A Comyn family was
recorded as living in Hilderstone near Lancaster in the
1450’s. They were still there by the 1800’s, but had become
first Cumming and then Cummings. One family history started with
, a Sedbergh farmer in Cumberland who was born in

Ireland. Cummings or
Cummins in Ireland could be an English or Scottish import or an
anglicization of an old Irish name. Cummings is mainly to be found
mainly in county Antrim and Dublin, Cummins in Cork and
Tipperary. One Cummins family were prominent doctors in the city
of Cork from the mid 18th through the 19th century. Willie
Cummins was part of a
Cork family hurling dynasty which lasted from the 1930’s to the

The Irish form of the name was MacCoimin
or O’Coimin – a
descendant of Coimin, a
personal name derived from the diminutive of cam meaning “crooked.” There
were MacCoimins in Armagh and O’Coimins in Mayo and later in
Cork. Cormac O’Coimin was one of the well-known blind bards and
shanachies of the 18th century.

America. Isaac
Cummings arrived in Ipswich,
Massachusetts in 1638. He was, according to tradition, of ancient
Scottish Comyn descent. But he appears to have come from East
Anglia in England, on the Essex/Suffolk border. Later Cummings
settled in Cornish, New Hampshire. His line in
America was traced in George Mooar’s 1903 book The Cummings Memorial.  

Nicholas Cummins had come to the Virginia colony from London on the Gift in 1622. His descendants
were to be found in Northumberland county, Virginia. Some moved
to Kentucky in the early 1800’s. Others migrated to North
Carolina and, from 1829, to Henry county,
Indiana. It was here that Clessie Cummins, a rural Indiana
boy, started his entrepreneurial life. He pioneered diesel
engines and founded the Cummins Engine Company.

William Cumming came to Annapolis, Maryland in 1717. He was a
planter and a lawyer. His son William, also a lawyer, was a
delegate to the Continental Congress for North Carolina in 1785.
After the Revolutionary War, the Cummings moved to Augusta, Georgia
where Thomas served as the town’s first mayor in 1798 and his family
were prominent cotton planters. Alfred Cumming was governor of
Utah territory in 1858, replacing
Brigham Young.

Overall, the
Cumming and Cummings arrivals in America
were more likely
to have come from Ireland. In 1811 William Cumming, a cotton
agent from Armagh, came with his wife
Mary to Baltimore where his relatives had settled. Their life can
be recaptured as Mary Cumming’s letters home have
been preserved (they were
published in 1982). Arthur Cummins from county Carlow arrived in
America with his family in 1855, first staying in New Jersey and later
moving onto Louisville, Kentucky.

Canada. Robert Cummins of
Maryland was one of the first English settlers of Nova Scotia in
1765. But he then returned to Baltimore, building his Monckton
Mills estate there. Samuel Cummings and his family were Loyalists
from New Hampshire who moved to Annapolis, Nova Scotia in 1782.
Much later in the 1820’s came Andrew Cummings from county Carlow in
David and Beatrice were Lithuanian Jews who had adopted the Cummings
name in the 1890’s on their arrival in St. John, New Brunswick – where
the two eldest sons, Nathan and Maxwell, were later born.

“It was pure chance that they were born
Canadian. Their parents had disembarked at St. John, the first
port of call, assuming that it was their destination, New York City.”

Nathan pursued a business career in the United States, founding
Consolidated Foods. Maxwell went to Montreal with his
family in 1911 and began there a hugely successful career in real
estate brokerage and

Australia. John and
Ann Cumming left Aberdeen in Scotland for Australia in 1833 and started
Cumming’s brewery in Melbourne six years later. Their son John
became a large sheep farmer and his son Thomas founded the Australian
Sheepbreeders Association in 1877. Also coming to Melbourne, in
1840, were Ewen and Elizabeth Cumming and their family from the
Scottish Highlands.

Thomas Cummins (later Cummings) and his wife Anne arrived in South
Australia from Ireland in 1853. It was their son James who
started the family into horse racing. He died in 1911 after
falling from his horse. However, the mantle was later taken up by the
father and son pairing of Jim and Bart Cummings. Bart Cummings
has had twelve winners of the Melbourne Cup since he started out in


Cummings Miscellany

The Murder of the Red Comyn.  John the
Red Comyn was murdered by Robert the Bruce’s associates at Greyfriar’s
on February 10, 1306.  The following
modern poem by Ricky Pittman described this treachery:

“John the Red and Robert the Bruce

Met on a cold day in Dumfries

The victory at Roslyn forgotten,

Because of pride and jealousy.

Bruce forged a plan of murder,

Of betrayal fed by greed,

With his brothers he conspired,

To commit the bloody deed.

An argument broke out,

It doesn’t matter why,

The Red’s blood darkened the soil,

As his soul rose to the sky.

Comyn land was divided

Among Bruce’s chosen few,

The clan was forced to flee,

To a land foreign, strange, and new.

A leader died at the church that day

And never would return,

The victors write the history,

As the Cumming clan would learn.”.

Not all bemoaned the fall of
the Comyns, however.  Carrick in his life
of Wallace said the following:

the Scots in the low country cried out against the ‘fause Cumyn’s kyn,’
vassals in Badenoch and Lochaber re-echoed the charge till the very
name became
cognominal with deceit: – so much so that, in those parts of the
where their influence extended, there was a Gaelic proverb, the English
which was, that “while there are trees in a wood, there will be deceit
in a Comyn.”

Sir Alexander Cumming’s Schemes.  In 1729, in consequence of a dream by Lady Cumming, Sir
Alexander Cumming of Culter undertook
a voyage to America for the purpose of
visiting the Cherokee nations.  The next
year, at a general meeting of the Indian chiefs in the mountains, he
crowned commander and chief ruler of the Cherokees.
He returned to England with six of their
Indian chiefs and presented them to King George the Second at Windsor.

he devised plans for establishing
British provincial banks in America and, through his interpretation of
Scriptures, establishing a homeland for the Jews by settling three
Jewish families in the Cherokee mountains.
These schemes came to naught, as did his experiments in alchemy.  He ended his life in debt, needing the
financial support of his friends.

Cumming and Cummings.  Cumming rather than Cummings
persisted as the spelling in Scotland.
The following were the Cumming and Cummings numbers in the 1891
in England and Scotland.

Numbers in 1891 (000’s) Cumming Cummings
Scotland 3.5    0.4
England   1.5    3.9

Comyns, London Silversmiths.  Started by
William Comyns in 1645 in London, Comyns is one of the oldest makers of
sterling silver in the world.  In the
early days, the company specialized in decorative dressing tableware
and later,
it became known for its interpretative works, particularly those of
de-Lamerie, a well-known 18th century English silversmith.
The company was acquired by the Royal
Selangor Group of Malaysia in 1993.

another William Comyns started his silversmith business in a London
basement in
1858.  He soon retired and it was his
sons, Charles and Richard, who made it very successful in the 1880’s,
silver pieces for stores like Tiffany.

Reader Feedback – Edward Cummings of Sedbergh.  Edward Cummings was born in 1758 in the village of Whittington in
Lancashire.  His family moved to Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmorland,
when Edward was a child.  Edward moved to Dent near Sedbergh after
his marriage in 1791.  He and his wife and family moved to
Sedbergh in 1805 and he died in Sedbergh in 1841.

Carol Foreman (

Mary Cumming’s Letters Home.  In 1811,
at the age of twenty, Mary Craig of Lisburn in county Antrim married
Cumming in a service conducted by William’s elder brother, the Rev.
Cumming.  William Cumming, formerly of
Armagh, and his younger brother, James, had already emigrated to
Petersburg in
Virginia where they acted as agents for their cousin Alex Brown of

Mary’s letters consisted of some thirty
letters written home from America between 1811 and 1815, most of them
to her
sister Margaret Craig.

Petersburg lay in the fever-infested North American east coastal plain
Mary’s health began to suffer.   It
became clear to her that she was going to die.
Her farewell letters to her sisters and absent husband are
moving in the
extreme.  She died in April 1815, not yet
four years wed.  William immediately
sailed back alone to Ireland and visited Mary’s father and sisters.  But within months of his return to Petersburg
he too died, probably struck down by the same fatal fever that had
claimed his wife.

Cumming and Cummings in America.  Overall, the Cumming and Cummings
arrivals in America were more likely to have come from Ireland.

Arrivals – by Point of Origin Cumming Cummings Total Percent
Ireland 223   539 762    49
England   166   291   457    29
Scotland   229   109   338    22

Clessie Cummins’ Early Years.  Clessie Cummins
was an Indiana farm boy.  His business
adventures started in 1904 when he quit school in the eighth grade and
“I want to be a machinist and make things.”

According to his son Lyle Cummins’ book The Diesel Odyssey
of Clessie Cummins
, he
worked for a short time around central Indiana in four early
industries before settling at Nordyke and Marmon which produced the
car.  He was also on the pit crew of the
first winner of the Indianapolis 500 mile race, Ray Harroun, who drove
a Marmon
Wasp to victory in 1911.

He then went to
work for a banker named William Irwin in Columbus, Indiana as his
chauffeur and
mechanic. In 1919 the Cummins Engine
Company was incorporated by Clessie and Irwin, with Irwin investing a
deal of money in Cummins’ company.  Clessie’s
first two diesel patents were applied for in 1921 and
production of the Cummins model F engine commenced in 1925.

Irwin owned a controlling interest in the
Purity Supreme supermarket chain in California and Cummins convinced
him to
install diesel engines in his fleet of trucks used to deliver food and
to the stores. The diesel trucks were
far better at managing the California mountains than the gasoline
engines of the
time and were much more durable and economical to run.
The success at Purity Supreme attracted
considerable attention and the over-the-road diesel truck industry as a
came into being.



Select Cummings Names

John Comyn, known as the Black Comyn, was Guardian of Scotland
and one of the competitors for the Scottish throne in the 13th century.
was the Scottish watchmaker who patented the flush
toilet in 1775.
Clessie Cummins was the founder
of the Cummins Engine Co. in Indiana in 1919.
E.E. Cummings was the American
poet renowned for his lower-case style.
Samuel Cummings was an
American arms dealer whose company came to dominate global small arms
sales in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Select Cummings Numbers Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lincolnshire)
  • 27,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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