Rudd Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Rudd Surname Meaning

Rudd is an old English surname of uncertain origin. 

It is either the name of a person who lived by a rood or cross; or, coming from the Old English rudig meaning “red” or “ruddy,” would be a nickname for someone with red hair or with a ruddy complexion.  Alternatively, it has been suggested that the Rudd name has Danish origins. This may be the more likely explanation

Rudd Surname Resources on The Internet

Rudd Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire)
  • to Ireland, America, Australia and New Zealand

EnglandHenry Guppy is his 1890 work Homes of Family Names in Great Britain described Rudd as follows:  

“Rudd is an ancient English name which is now represented as such in Shropshire and Norfolk, and by Rood in Somerset. In the 13th century Rud was a Derbyshire name; Rudde occurred in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and Leicestershire, Rude in Shropshire, and De Rude in Wiltshire.”

But the main early Rudds were in Yorkshire.

Yorkshire.  Early sightings of the Rudd name in Yorkshire were in the East Riding and in nearby areas of north Yorkshire:

  • the first recorded was Gerald Rudd in 1189 at Moreby located south of York on the river Ouse.
  • by 1257 the name had appeared further south to Snaith near Goole on the lower banks of the Ouse.  Humphrey Rudd, possibly one of the early Rudds in Yorkshire with an Irish/Welsh pedigree, settled at Hassle nearby.
  • and by 1278 the name was recorded further north at Burton Fleming near Bridlington and subsequently at Danby in Glaisdale near Scarborough.

Later there were Rudds further west at Killinghall and Slaidburn, close by the border with Lancashire.   John Rudd, the clergyman in Tudor times who bent with the political wind, came from this area; as did John Rudd the Virginia sea captain a century or so later.

Rudds also extended into Swaledale and Wensleydale.  Thomas Rudd operated the Preston Moor colliery in Wensleydale in the 1620’s.

One line of Rudd vicars began with James Rudd at Kilham in the East Riding in the 1740’s, continued with his son James at Newton Kyme, and then with his grandson Eric at Thorn near Doncaster.  George Rudd lived at Worsall Hall near Yarm in the early 1800’s and was the vicar at Sockburn. His passion was beetles and his collection can be found at the Yorkshire Museum at York.

Rudds in Yorkshire were extensively covered in Mary Amelia Rudd’s 1920 book Records of the Rudd Family.

Elsewhere.  There was one old Rudd pedigree outside of Yorkshire, that of the Rudds recorded at Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire from the mid-15th century:

  • Captain Thomas Rudd of this family, a distinguished engineer and mathematician, was made Chief Engineer to King Charles I in 1640.
  • while a cousin of his, Anthony Rudd, was appointed Bishop of St. David’s in Wales and from him came four Rudd baronets.

By the time of the 1881 census, the Rudd name had spread across the country, but did show a distinctly eastern bias – suggesting that maybe the Danish or Viking origin had some credibility.

Norfolk had by then overtaken Yorkshire as the county with the largest number of Rudds.

Richard Rudde was a mercer in Norwich who died in 1562. His line continued as Alderman Rudd was recorded there in 1632 granting bread to the poor on Ash Wednesday.  In 1728 Burlingham Rudd from the nearby market town of Holt was convicted of stealing a horse and transported to South Carolina.

Later on, the name cropped up in villages around King’s Lynn such as Grimston.  The forebears of the former Tory Cabinet Minister Amber Rudd were from this village.

Hugh Rudd came from a family wine merchant’s in Norwich, established by his grandfather there in 1851.  After World War One he moved to London and joined as a partner the famous London wine merchants Berry Bros in 1920.  Berry Bros subsequently became Berry Bros & Rudd.  Two Rudd generations later Lizzy Rudd is the chairman of the company today.

There was also a Rudd outpost in Lancashire, mainly concentrated in Wigan and its suburbs Aspull and Ince-in-Makerfield. The first record appears to be Mary Rudd who married Edmund Atherton in Wigan around 1605. Joseph Rudd was reported at Ince-in-Makerfield in 1737.

Jewish.  Samuel and Esther Rudnitsky fled Russia for London’s East End in the early 1900’s.  Their son David, born in 1915, changed his surname to Rudd to improve his emploability.  A descendant is the Hollywood actor Paul Rudd.

Ireland.  The Rudds in Ireland generally came from England.

The most notable of them were the Rudds of Clone House in Wexford, dating all the way back to an Elizabethan soldier of fortune from Yorkshire, Anthony Rudd, who secured leases on the land there in 1593.  These Rudds became powerful and influential landowners in the area.  

“The difference in wealth and social standing the family held to others is reflected in their final resting place, being the only enclosed grave.  It is also the only boxed tomb within the graveyard, another attempt to distinguish themselves from others, even after death.”  

Richard Rudd of the family fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and later involved himself in the South American Wars of Independence. Anthony Rudd, a farmer, departed Wexford for Canada in 1816.  A Rudd family remained at Clone House until the early 1900’s.

The Rudd name was also to be found in Dublin and in Roscrea and Templemore in Tipperary. Norman Rudd’s 1992 book An Irish Rudd Family covered the various Rudds in Ireland.

America.  There were three main early Rudd lines, from:

  • Jonathan Rudd in Connecticut  
  • John Rudd in Virginia  
  • and Burlingham Rudd in South Carolina.

Jonathan Rudd was probably in Connecticut by the year 1640. There is no record on what ship he arrived, nor from where he came in England.  This is unfortunate in that he was perhaps the progenitor of the largest number of Rudds in America.

Jonathan, according to court records, was a bit of a lad in his early years before his marriage in Connecticut in 1647.  He was from then until his death in 1658 a man of some substance in Saybrook.  His descendants settled in either New London or Windham, Connecticut in the early 1700’s before moving away at the time of the Revolutionary War or after:

  • Zebulon Rudd had moved to Dutchess county, New York by the 1770’s.  Descended from him was William B. Rudd, a general during the Civil War. He was appointed Quartermaster of New York in 1889.
  • Joseph Rudd had moved to Bennington, Vermont also by that time.  His family were prominent farmers there.
  • Jonathan Rudd went to Cherry Valley in New York after the war was over.  Later Rudds were to be found in Albany where William P. Rudd started the law firm of Harris & Rudd in 1877.  
  • while David Rudd from Becket in Massachusetts was a pioneer settler in Willoughby, Ohio in the 1820’s.  He moved further west with his family to Wisconsin in 1854.  

There is confusion about the Rudd line in Virginia. It is known that John Rudd was a sea captain from Yorkshire who first arrived in Virginia in 1663 and became master of the Hopewell which traded between Virginia and England.  He does not appear to have settled in Virginia.

A second John Rudd, thought to have been his son (although there is no proof of this), came to Virginia in 1701 with his wife Avis as indentured servants.  This John Rudd, a weaver by trade, was the progenitor of the Rudds of Henrico and Chesterfield counties.

There is more clarity about Burlingham Rudd.  It is known where he came from, Norfolk, and when he arrived as a young man in South Carolina, which was 1728.  However, he had been transported there as a convict.

“Unlike most of the more than 50,000 who were sentenced to transportation to the colonies, he did not change his name and disappear into the frontier once he had completed his punishment for his crime.  He kept his name, married, and raised a family.  The name Burlingham or Burrel was in fact passed down to the third and fourth generations.”   

He made his home in what became Anson county, South Carolina. There were later Rudd lines in Barnwell county, South Carolina and Coffee county, Alabama.

Australia.  For stealing a bag of sugar Thomas Rudd was transported from London to Australia in 1801.  Thomas is the fourth great-grandfather of the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. 

New Zealand.  George Rudd, a Primitive Methodist from Yorkshire, brought his family on the Victory to New Zealand in 1866.  He began farming a year later in the Greendale district of Canterbury, SI and continued farming there until his death at eighty-one in 1897.  He left a grown-up family of three sons and one daughter.

Kevin Rudd’s Family Ancestry

Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has a convict past (now treasured) and later generations who were content to live in a farm environment away from the big cities.

Just click below if you want to read more about this history:

Rudd Surname Miscellany

Rudd’s Possible Danish Origins.  Mary Amelia Rudd in her 1920 book Records of the Rudd Family reported as follows:

“The Scandinavians planted near the graves of their great men and warriors large upright stones called Beanta stones and it seems probable that the huge monolith in Rudston churchyard in Yorkshire may be one of these.

An ancient saga still preserved at Copenhagen states that a Viking called Rudd died and was buried in the Yorkshire Wolds; and that afterwards his Beanta stone was sent over from Denmark and erected at his place of sepulchre, which ever after was called Rudston, having before borne another name.

I endeavored to confirm the tradition by searching for the saga at Copenhagen.  But Sigfus Blondal, the sub-librarian of the royal library there, was unable to find one on that subject.

He thought the name Rudd sounded decidedly Scandinavian and stated that in Icelandic it would be Rutr and that in the latter part of the tenth century there was a famous Icelandic chief of that name, one of the principal persons in the Laxadala Saga and in the first part of the Story of the Burnt Nial.  The brother of that chief was married to the daughter of an Irish king. Some people have thought that the name was of Saxon origin and, in allusion to this, possibly the crest which the Lincolnshire and Cumberland Rudds assumed was a “rood or cross bottone.”

One does not, however, find any connection with any Saxon part of the country in early times. In fact. the Rudds have always been settled in the north of England chiefly and in Yorkshire in particular.”

Rudston is a small village in the East Riding of Yorkshire, not far from the coastal town of Bridlington.  The place-name was first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086 and meant ‘rood’ or ‘cross’ stone, referring to the monolith.  However, the name rud derived from the Old Norse ruð, meaning a clearing or pasture. So the place-name could be Ruðstane, a stone in the clearing.    Nearby place-names indicate Norse Viking rather than Anglo-Saxon origins here.

Some Early Rudds in Yorkshire.  One early pedigree, of uncertain validity, runs as follows:

  • William Rudd, Lord of Meath in Ireland in 1076
  • John Rudd, Lord of Meath
  • Robert Rudd, Lord of Meath
  • Sir John Rudd who married Tanglwist, daughter of Rees, Prince of South Wales, went on the Crusades,  and died in 1192.
  • Robert Rudd who married Eleanor, daughter of the Lord of the Brinne in Lancashire.
  • Anthony Rudd who married Joan, daughter of Lord Lucy, and came to Yorkshire.
  • and Robert Rudd the ancestor of the main Yorkshire line.

John Rudd the Clergyman who Bent with the Political Wind.  John Rudd from Killinghall in west Yorkshire was ordained as a clergyman during the reign of the Protestant-leaning Edward VI.  In 1550 he was able to obtain two Prebends and in 1551 he married Isabel Weldon.

The accession of Queen Mary in 1553 swiftly brought deprivation of both of his Prebends on account of this marriage, as this implied a conversion to Protestantism.

His punishment wrought in him a speedy repentance of the step he had taken. The next year he appeared at the pulpit of Paul’s Cross and “took the opportunity of making a frank profession of his change of sentiments and particularly of telling the people how greatly he repented having taken a wife.”

During Queen Mary’s reign Rudd joined in the religious persecutions of Protestants and was present at the trial of Latimer, as recorded by Foxe who noted that Rudd was “preaching and barking against him.”

With the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 came a return to the open expression of his former opinions and his discarded wife returned to her home.  1n 1559 John Rudd was restored to his stall at Durham Cathedral and held the curacy of Riston in Yorkshire.  He died in 1578 and was buried at Durham Cathedral.

Jonathan Rudd’s Strange Connecticut Marriage in 1647.  Jonathan Rudd was married in the winter of 1647 by John Winthrop, of New London who was acting under a Massachusetts commission.  The name of his bride was not given, but the circumstances attending the marriage were recorded as follows:

“The wedding day was fixed and a magistrate from upriver engaged to perform the ceremony as there was not anyone in Saybrook qualified to officiate. But there falling out at that time a great deal of snow, the magistrate intended to go down thither was hindered by the depth of the snow.

But the nuptials could not be delayed. So application was made to Mr. Winthrop to come to Saybrook to perform the ceremony. But he, deriving his authority from Massachusetts, had no legal right to officiate in Connecticut.  He then agreed if the parties would meet at a brook designated and he would there perform the ceremony as that was Massachusetts territory. The offer was accepted.

On the brink of this little stream, the boundary between two colonies, the parties met – Winthrop and his friends from Pequot and the bridal train from Saybrook.  Here the ceremony was performed under the shelter of no roof, by no hospitable fireside, without any accommodation but those furnished by the snow-covered earth, the overarching heavens and perchance the sheltering side of a forest of pines or cedars. Never perhaps was the rite performed in a situation so wild and solitary and under circumstances so interesting and peculiar.

The impressive group stood around wrapped in their frosty mantles with heads reverently bowed. At the given sign the two plighted hands came forth from among the furs and were clasped in token of a lifelong affectionate trust.”

The stream from that time forth received the name of Bride Brook.

George Rudd in New Zealand.  George Rudd took up his residence in the Greendale district of Canterbury in 1867.  That October he and his son set out to the land selected on the banks of the Hawkins river.  They had horses, plough, dray, dog, not forgetting some loaves of bread which his wife had baked for their use.  The basket containing these loaves was placed in a hole dug out of the tussocks, for they had to last a fortnight.

Son James later wrote:

“Well do I remember the first time we got the horses into the plough.  I was very anxious to steam ahead but father, not forgetting that the blessing of the Lord rested upon those who acknowledge Him in their ways, said, ‘Now, Jim, my lad, we must ask the blessing of God on our labours.’

The horses were started a few yards, the first sod was turned up, and then we knelt down by the plough and father told the Lord how we had come to this new country and invoked His blessing upon our labours.

And who shall say that God was not present? We were a lonely pair upon that lonely plain.  Yet God was surely there and heard our petition.  Our first crop was put in and proved the goodness of our Father in giving us a plenteous harvest.” 

Rudds in the 1881 Census

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Eastern England
Durham    0.2     4
Yorkshire    0.6    13
Lincolnshire    0.1     1
Norfolk    0.9    19
Suffolk    0.1     3
Sub-Total    1.9    40
Rest of England
Lancashire    0.5    12
London    0.6    10
Elsewhere    1.7    38
Total    4.7   100

Amber Rudd’s Colorful Ancestry.  Amber Rudd was a Cabinet Minister in Theresa May’s Conservative Government.

On her mother’s side she has royal blood.  Her mother Ethne Fitzgerald was descended, eight generations removed, from King Charles II and his mistress Barbara Palmer.  Barbara was known for her beauty, promiscuity and foul temper. She bore the King five children before she was usurped in the King’s affections by Nell Gwynn.

On her father’s side, the Rudd name went back to the Norfolk village of Grimston near King’s Lynn.  Samuel Rudd, Amber’s great great grandfather, was recorded in the 1851 and 1861 census as a lime burner there.  His son Samuel was described in 1871 as the landlord of the Jolly Farmers public house and his son Frederick was born in Grimston in 1874 before moving later on to London.

Tony Rudd, Amber’s father, was born in London in 1924.  But there was something improbable about his birth certificate.  At that time Frederick and his wife Grace had been married for twenty years with no children and Grace was nearly fifty. Frederick had become a commercial traveller, spending some time in South Africa.

Was it possible for Grace to have given birth to Tony? Well, no it wasn’t, as Tony made clear in his memoir One Boy’s War.  He explained how Grace had brought him up and referred to her as an aunt.  He mentioned a mother in South Africa, although he didn’t say who she was and didn’t mention his father.  The identity of Tony’s mother was only revealed by Grace’s petition for divorce, or at least partly revealed – she was referred to only as Miss Maguire.

Amber herself married the writer and critic A.A. Gill in 1990 and they had two children.  They separated in 1995 after she discovered that her husband was having an affair with a journalist. They subsequently divorced.

Rudd Names

  • Captain Thomas Rudd, a distinguished engineer and mathematician of his time, was made Chief Engineer to King Charles I in 1640. 
  • Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010. 
  • Amber Rudd was a UK Cabinet Minister in Theresa May’s Conservative Government.
  • Paul Rudd from an Anglo-Jewish family is a successful actor, screenwriter and producer in America.

Rudd Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Norfolk)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Rudd and Like Surnames

Many surnames have come from Yorkshire.  These are some of the noteworthy surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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