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The Cushing Family

Name Spelling Viking Origins Data and Sources

Cushing Origins

Our known genealogy only goes back a few hundred years: to the early 1800s for most of our branches, to the early 1600s for some.  While searching for Cushings in Ireland, I've browsed several books that either claim to know or speculate about the origin of the name and how Cushings came to be in Ireland. The one thing they all agree on is that Cushing is not a native Irish name.  I've included some of the different origin theories on the Cushing page of my genealogy web site.  The one most interesting to me, though I have not found any research to support the specific link to the Cushing family, is that Cussen (and like names) is derived from "Cu's son", Cu having been a Viking land owner in the vicinity of Galbally.  On the other hand, the most widely accepted theory is that an English knight with a name like Cousins came to the Cork area during the Norman Invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century.  [While the primary invasions occured in 1169 (eastern Ireland) and 1171 (eastern and southern Ireland), the influx of people from Normandy continued through about 1190.  All of this is considered the Norman Invasion.]  Over the centuries, they were "hibernicized", losing their foreign identity and becoming "Irish".  They had estates in the Cork area, until these were taken away and given to the Bowen family (Bowens Court) in about 1662 as part of the policy begun by Cromwell to replace the Irish with English. This once prominent family is taken to be the source of the Cushen and related families in Munster province (southern Ireland).

Cushing Viking
Rendering of what a Viking Cushing may have looked like 8-)

Recently, I was reading through the introduction to a well know Cushing genealogy, The Genealogy of the Cushing Family, An Account of the Ancestors and Descendants of Matthew Cushing, Who Came to America in 1638, the 1905 updated edition by James S. Cushing. In it he presents research that says that a great Viking warrior, son of the Viking conqueror of Norway, was exiled from Norway in about 900 C.E. He and his large group of followers eventually landed in what is now France, taking and settling a territory that came to be known as Normandy. (Norsemen, from Norway, conquered Normandy, ...)  Skipping 150 years of genealogy, descendants of these Vikings included William the Conqueror and his nobles, who conquered England in 1066 CE and issued lands and titles to his kinsmen, including one who had adopted the surname Cusyn.  So skip ahead another 120 years or so to a Cusyn descendant that took land in southern Ireland and established the Cushens of Munster Province. (By the way, descendants in England became the Cousins and Cushings and related of England, one of whose families was the subject of this Cushing genealogy book and to whom most of the Cushings in North America can trace their roots.)

The irony, then, is that whether you accept Cu, the Viking who conquered land in southern Ireland in the 9th or 10th century CE, or a Cousin nobleman who arrived during the Norman Invasion, a descendant of Vikings who conquered Normandy in the early 10th century CE, the origin of our Cushings is likely, ultimately, Viking.

From MORE IRISH FAMILIES, by Edward MacLysaght, printed in 1960:

CUSSEN: Although not among the first of the Anglo-Norman invasion settlers, the Cussens have been in Ireland since 1295, if not earlier, and may be regarded as hibernicized Norman. At the beginning of the fourteenth century they were to be found in Counties Cork and Tipperary and also in the Meath-Louth area. Their principal seat was at Farrahy, near Kildorrery, Co. Cork, which was renamed Bowenscourt when the Welsh family of Bowen (Ap Owen) acquired the property subsequent to the ruin of the Cussens under the Cromwellian regime. It would appear, however, that they were not all remarkable for their resistance to aggression for we find Mrs. Cushin of Fermoy in 1654, notable for her "good affection" and "utterly refusing to forsake the English." (It has been suggested that this lady was really a Cashin.) At that time and even later the name was often written Cushine or Cooshin; it appears as Coshin and Cooshene in King James II's army list. Coosheene is phonetically the same as the form used in Irish - Cuisin. In the Fiants of the previous century there are a number of other variants including Quyshen - Robert oge Quyshen of Grange, Co. Limerick, was attainted in 1593. The majority of these are in Co. Limerick, but a family of the name was evidently well established in Co. Westmeath, for among the 1582 pardons we find Edmond Cushene, of Cushenstown in that county, and Edward Cushine of the same place in the 1659 census. Families of Cussen etc. were formerly numerous in Leinster (there was another Cushenstown alias Cosinestown in Co. Wexford) and Cussin is listed in 1659 as a principal Irish name in the barony of Forth, but these have to a large extent died out and Cussen, the usual form today, is chiefly found in Counties Limerick and Cork.

The form Cushing survives in Co. Wexford and is prominent in the person of Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, though not all Cushings in U.S.A. are of Irish descent.

Apropos of variants it may be mentioned that Cushion is not unknown as a synonym of Cussen in Co. Tipperary, while the tendency to adopt English names has also turned it into the English Cousins. This is at least etymologically correct as Cussen is derived from the Old-French le cosin, meaning the kinsman.

Adam Cussin (fl. 1395) was one of the scribes of the "Book of Ui Maine". A Cussyn was M.P. for Athy in 1560. Since the submergence of the Gaelic order the name has not been prominent in Irish public life.

From SURNAMES in IRELAND, by Sir Robert Matheson, printed 1909:

On page 44 a table "Surnames in Ireland having Five Entries and upwards in the Birth Indexes of 1890 ..." shows only 9 Cussens born, 7 of them in Munster province. 3 each were born in counties Cork and Limerick. The estimated total number of Cussens in Ireland was 403 out of a population of 4,717,959. (For comparison, the most common name was Murphy: 62,600 or 1.3% of the population.)

From IRISH PEDIGREES, or The Origin and Stem of the IRISH NATION, by John O'Hart, printed c. 1860, p.478, Table III:

This Table contains the names of Huguenot families Naturalized in Great Britain and Ireland; commencing A.D., 1681, in the reign of King Charles II, and ending in 1712, in the reign of Queen Anne. But in the reign of William and Mary, the largest number of foreign refugees were Naturalized in these countries, from 1689 to the 3rd July, 1701. In Queen Anne's reign we do not find any long lists of "Naturalized Foreign Protestants;" because, during the prosecution by England of the war with France, they were recognised as British subjects. At length, however, on the 23rd March, 1709, an Act was passed for their Naturalization, but on the 9th of February, 1712, that Act was repealed.

In England the refugee might obtain his Naturalization Certificate, on taking the oaths prescribed for that purpose, in the Court of Queen's Bench, or in the Court of Common Pleas, or in the Court of Exchequer, but in Ireland, on taking the prescribed oaths before the Lord Chancellor, the refugee immediately obtained his Certificate of Naturalization.

So far as we have yet ascertained, the following are the names of the rufugee families which were Naturalized in Great Britain and Ireland.

[In the table Cousin appears with a note that "this name is now rendered Cussen".]

From a personal correspondance with a Cussen descendant:

Cussen is derived from Cu's son, Cu being a viking. There is a map that shows "Cu's land" somewhere in the vicinity of Galbally.

Copyright Michael Cushing.

cushingorigins.shtm; last updated 11 March 2015