Rusnell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Rusnell is one of the thousands of new names that the Norman Conquest brought to England in 1066. The Rusnell family lived in Dorset. Their name, however, is a reference to Roussel, Normandy, the family's place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The family there were lords of Rosel, an ancient neighborhood of Cherbourg. [1] [2]

Early Origins of the Rusnell family

The surname Rusnell was first found in Dorset where they were originally descended from William Bertram, Baron of Briquebec, living in 1012. His son Hugue (Hugh) named de Roussel attended Duke William at Hastings, and became Marshall of England. "Hugh de Rosel, a benefactor of the abbey of Caen accompanied the Conqueror to England, and was rewarded with possessions in county Dorset, the principally of which were Kingston, afterwards called Kingston-Russell and Berwick, the latter of which is still in possession of the family." [1]

The noted Scottish author George F. Black believed that while not discounting the Norman influence, he felt the name was "most probably a diminutive of rous, 'red'," and that Chaucer's reference to 'Daun Russel' in Nonne Prestes Tale was "alluding to his reddish color." [3] He also notes one the first records in Scotland was Walter Russell who witnessed a charter by Walter filius Alani to the Abbey of Paisley, c. 1164-77. A few years later, John, son of Robert Russel of Doncallaw, granted lands to the Hospital of Soltre between 1180 and 1220. [3]

Moving back to the English branch of the family, we found a few listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273, specifically: Miriel Russell in Huntingdonshire; Simon Russel in Cambridgeshire; and Elyas Russell in London. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed: Johannes Russell and Robertus Russell. [4]

Over on the Isle of Wight in Yaverland, a small branch of the family was found at one time. "An ancient mansion of the Russells here, subsequently of the Richards family, and now a farmhouse, is a good specimen of the Elizabethan style." [5]

Early History of the Rusnell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rusnell research. Another 283 words (20 lines of text) covering the years 1012, 1259, 1296, 1310, 1320, 1321, 1376, 1539, 1683, 1727, 1741, 1437, 1423, 1424, 1432, 1417, 1486, 1555, 1550, 1577, 1632, 1601, 1614, 1602, 1669, 1625, 1632, 1669, 1639, 1683, 1660, 1731, 1613, 1700, 1680, 1711, 1642, 1714, 1679, 1683, 1694, 1702, 1710, 1735, 1629, 1692, 1683 and are included under the topic Early Rusnell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rusnell Spelling Variations

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Russell, Russel and others.

Early Notables of the Rusnell family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John Russell (died 1437), an English landowner and Justice of the Peace, Speaker of the House of Commons (1423-1424) and in 1432, High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1417; Sir John Russell, (c.1486-1555), Lord High Steward and Lord Keeper of the privy seal under Henry VIII and Edward VI, created 1st Earl of Bedford in 1550; Thomas Russell (1577-1632), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1601 and in 1614; Sir William Russell, 1st Baronet, of Wytley (ca. 1602-1669), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in...
Another 134 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rusnell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Rusnell family to Ireland

Some of the Rusnell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 111 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


New Zealand Rusnell migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Rusnell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James S. Rusnell, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Maori" arriving in Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand heading for Wellington on 16th April 1857 [6]


The Rusnell Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Che sara sara
Motto Translation: What will be will be.


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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