Last name: Russell

This is one of the most famous and noble names in British history since the Conquest of 1066, when it was a Norman introduction. The name is a diminutive patronymic and means "the son of Red", from the Old French "Rous", red, a nickname for someone with red hair, and "-el", little. In the National Biography there are over sixty entries for Russell, the Dukes of Bedford being Russells, while Charles Russell 1832 - 1900, the Lord Chief Justice of England was Baron Russell of Killowen. The third Earl Russell is better known as the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). On January 2nd 1634, one John Russell, aged 19 yrs., embarked from London on the ship "Bonaventure" bound for "Virginea"; he was one of the earliest recorded namebearers to enter America. In the modern idiom, the name has seven spelling variations:- Russel, Russell, Russill, Rousel(l) and Roussel(l). Over sixty Coats of Arms have been granted to bearers of this illustrious name, one of the earliest being that of the Russells of Shropshire, which depicts, on a black shield, a fess between six gold martlets. The martlet signifies one who subsists on wings of virtue and merit, having little land to rest upon. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Rousel, which was dated 1115, in the "Winton Rolls of Hampshire", during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Administrator", 1100 - 1135. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

© Copyright: Name Origin Research 1980 - 2015

Want to dig deeper into your family history? Take a look at our page on building a Family Tree. Or get scientific and enter the exciting world of Ancestral DNA!

Surname Scroll

Enjoy this name printed onto our colourful scroll, printed in Olde English script. An ideal gift. View Details.
PayPal Acceptance Mark
Surname Scroll

frank brewster

My father's family is German for as far back as anyone can remember. So Russell made itshot way to Germany at some point

Callan Russell

cool! im my family, the russell side is in fact POLISH! any resons why??? :/

Juanita Russell

where were the first African decent of the russells acknowledged

Chad Russell

Based on my findings on, I am descended from one Hugh De Rousel, whom fought for William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066. I can also claim relation to the Earls of Bedford and their ilk. So in my case, the Russell surname is totally derived from France.


Hey, same here. Unfortunately when attempting to claim their coat of arms, they require more than just findings on which can easily be incorrect. Before completely claiming relation to the dukes of Bedford and their ilk, just make sure you have a lot of proof such as historical books and manuscripts, etc, other than an online database. :)

Maggie (Russell) Timmerman

I have reached 1779 on my family tree on ancestry..Orkney Island.. so wish i could get back further like you guys have

brent sutton

im on facebook as well. I live in crestline ohio and my grandparents was from mansfield ohio. My Grandfather was an elder at the Shelby Alliance and was in WW11

brent sutton

my grandfather and grandmothers name is june and edward russell im there grandson brent sutton

Darren Russell
Quite mad that it's earliest meaning was a nickname for a redhead. I am a redhead.

Maggie Russell Timmerman

My sister and 2 brothers have ginger hair...i am auburn.. yes red hair is a part of the ancestry

Rebecca Russell
This is all so interesting!

Karl Russell
I'm a Russell from New Zealand, and my father and his father were Russells from New Zealand. I have no idea where his father is from but I'm told we are descended from Scandinavia somewhere though again, I have no clue where and to what clan.

Derek Russell
My wife's father was born in Glasgow Scotland, James Russell in 1901. So her maiden name was Russell and her married name Russell. I was born in Essex, my wife also.

Maggie Russell Timmerman

My 3rd Great grandfather and down all James Russells. my 4th Great grandfather was called Arthur Russell

George russell
This is interesting. I live in Scotland to

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell. earliest relative known to be Toish Russell around 1760`s

Robert Russell
I was always told when I grew up that Russell was the third person on earth. as the story goes that when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden they were disturbed by a wee Russell in the bushes.

joan russell

nice to see the russell's have a sense of humour. Ucle Mark was the comedian in this family

My surname is Russell and I live in Scotland. There seems no doubt that the name derives from the place name Rosel in Normandy and the previous suppositions about diminutive forms of Rous were wrong. However, I undertook an ancestral DNA test which analyzed my Y-chromosome (my paternal lineage and therefor the 'surname chromosome'). This revealed a Germanic origin, specifically Frisian. This is about as Anglo Saxon (not Norman) as it gets. However, it is known that there were Frisian and other Germanic mercenaries amongst the forces of William the Conqueror during the Norman Invasion, so that perhaps explains it.

I am Australian and am trying to trace my Russell family in Ireland. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Betsy Russell
I am American. My grandfather, Charles F. Russell b.1870 d.1941 emigrated from Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland. There are many Russells in that area and some of my relatives emigrated to Australia.

i to am from rostrevor and grandmother was russell

Caity Russell
I am a Russell from Australia, it is my grandmothers maiden name (Thea Russell) not my grandfathers. My grandmother is the only child of my great grand mother Queenie-May Russell b.1913 d.2013. This year my great grandma and I were talking about our family history and had spoken about our last name coming from Scotland, was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction please?

Aaron Robert Russell
i live in Kentucky in the United States i to was told our last name originated in Scotland but im also hearing from other sources that it originated in Ireland Germany England and France when i was little my mother told me we have background from all the above lol!! i guess im just a mutt can i find u on facebook? we can compare notes

Randall S Russell
I'm a Russell from Kentucky in the U.S. From what I can come up with, the Rouse, Russell, Rousey, Richards, thing all names coming from the old french word Rous must be correct. In my area of Ky, there are also Rousey, and Richards sir names. My grandmother all ways said we were related to the Rousey's ,and the Richards.

Barbara Russell

possibly, I am English but my relatives came from the Waterford area of Ireland. I am on facebook - are you on there too

Mark Russell
Interesting to hear that the name has no connection with 'Rousel'

chris x

It says "Rousel" is another spelling of the same name.

Jayne Isgro
Also from my research it would seem that if you dig back far enough we are related sooner or later. :)

Jayne Isgro
I am doing my family tree as we speak, my Great Grandmother, who I knew at a young age is Eleanor Adeline Russell. I have traced back to her great grandfather who was John Russell born in 1825 in sussex England. Having trouble getting his parents details as he was a convicted criminal in 1844 and sent to Tasmania Australia and later was released and married a Matilda Eastley and had around 10 children. They became first pioneers in the Ulverstone area and are listed in there local museum. But as far as I can tell, what ever direction I head with leads on his family, he pretty much was a relation of the Royal Russell Family but most likely illegitimately as his mothers name is unclear. so exciting stuff and I am really addicted to the geneolagy!!

Mairin Campbell
I too am related to John Russell and Matilda Eastley.Have you managed to find out
Anything of John Russells forebears.?
Did he come to Australia as a convict on the Maria Soames?
Would you be willing to share what you have discovered about this part of the family.

John Russell
Woah that's really cool I never knew that it dated back into England I always knew I was though.

im a Russell and my hole family is Irish but i think your saying im English i don't believe everything on the internet but this has me wondering

Hi Sarah, my Russell family came from Clonakility Cork & Clonmel Tipperary Ireland

Hey, I'm a Russell. I'm trying to trace my family line and I think I have roots in Ireland. My grandfather Reginald was born in the 1920s and died in Jamaica and I live in Jamaica. Any answers for me?

Hey guys. I'm a black guy from america and I'm curious about my last name. I assumed that black slaves took the last name of their owners but my uncle showed me pics of my grandfather's dad and guess what....HE HAD RED HAIR!!! That sent chills up my spine. He was dark skinned and redheaded. He told me that Russell was a Scott Irish name but you guys are saying it's an anglo/saxon so I'm confused about that. my father's side of the family is from central texas San Antonio area so maybe I'm related to other Russells in that region.

My grandmother's maiden name is Russel, I live in Houston but I have family in central Texas

Luka (and the rest). Russell is a Norman name. A lot of people get caught up in the whole Irish/English bit but the Normans ruled both (or a lot of parts of ..) for a long time. For example, Henry the second was the king of England .. didn't speak a word of English! He was from the north of France, him being a Norman .. A lot of people in Britain and Ireland share the same surname .. and even moreso on the eastern part of Ireland - not just because of the Normans but it's a major factor. Anglo/Saxon is out .. I would always trust in science and DNA .. but, guess what, it's likely both of your parents weren't called Russell, and 3/4 of your grandparents weren't, 7/8 of your great-grand.... Enjoy your research into your family tree .. it does need a bit of historical context to help it along though (althought that's interesting too!)

Chad Russell

Hate to burst your bubble, but Henry the 2nd did in fact speak both English and French fluently, because his mother Matilda was of noble english blood. Henry was tutored daily in English by an English instructor, however he was raised in France and thus French was his native tongue. You are correct about the origin of the surname though, but not about Henry.

chris x

Luka, it might be important to know that African features tend to be "dominant", so that means many people who look African may not have such a very high percentage of African ancestry. In fact, there was a Caribbean island recently where people were surprised to find most of the population's DNA was Caribbean Indian because they all look African.

Stephen Henry Russell
My father was John Jewett Russell. I live in Maine. I know much about my father's mother's family, and my mother's families, but know little about the Russells. I thought I was Irish by Russell ancestry. But am I really Norman? Where is that tree....?

This is a classic misconception name. Russell 'The name' did indeed come from the Normans but it was given to the Scots, Irish and English who had 'reddish hair'. So it's very likely that your origin is Irish.

Betsy Russell
The Normans originated from those who conquered Normandy in the sixth and seventh century. They were Vikings and many had red hair.The Vikings left their red hair in Ireland too.

David Rouse (historian)
Russell is an Anglo Saxon name and not linked to Rous ( or any of it's derivatives). It neither originated from Normandy or resulted from the poll tax. Moreover, coats of arms are specific to one person and not a family through the generations.

Kirsty Russell
Hi my names Kirsty Russell I never knew our surname was one of the most noblest in British history. It's nice to get some background information.

gerald yates
Have a question for Charles Russell My mother was Helen Maxine Russell She told me she was royalty decendant of a King and Queen We had a reunion in Charlotte NC. The very few red hair Russell participates were given all this attention. My mother expected her children to be weathy and educated. I never saw her face only her neck because she was so haughty and worth more than the commoners. Is she correct about being a decendant of royalty ?

Charles Russell
Unfortunately Gerald there is no way to know for sure, but it is certainly possible your mother was descended from a younger son, of a younger son, of a royal person.

Charles Russell
Lisa names generally are not English Scottish or Irish in origin but mosly Saxon Celtic or Norman in origin, in Scotland England and Ireland where the populations in these 3 countries are a blend of Saxon Norman and Celtic peoples, first the Celts then the Saxons then the Normans in all 3 countries.

Lisa Marie Russell
My last name is Russell. So is it English, Scottish, or Irish? I'm so confused as to what I am. Any info is appreciated.

Charles Russell
Hi Team, There is a common misconception that the name Russell comes from the word rousel, often stated as the diminutive of rous, the old French word for red. This is incorrect. The diminutive of rous is rousset not rousel (Oxford English Dictionary). More recent research indicates that the name Russell stems originally from a Norman, Hugh de Rosel, who arrived in England in 1066. His estate in Normandy took its name Rosel from the nearby village of the same name. Some of his descendants migrated to Scotland and Ireland. Evidence that the name Russell is derived from Rosel is positively confirmed by the Aberdeenshire Russells who have traced their ancestry back to an English baron Rosel, who purchased estates in Aberdeenshire Scotland after the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. Kind Regards, Charles Russell

Jonny Russell
Thanks Charles, I never knew that, I was always lead to believe 'Rousel' was a nickname the Normans gave the red headed celts during the Norman invasion, later becoming 'Russell'. My family have lived in Somerset for at least 5 generations, my partner and my 3 little Russell's now live on Portland, Dorset.

Jayne Isgro
Charles Russell that is exactly the information I found also :)

Jayne Isgro
Hi Jonny Russell, Interesting you are saying you are from Somerset. I am currently researching family members John Russell 1806/1811 - 1833 married Mary born 1813 had 9 children eldest Henry. One of their sons was John Russell born 1836 sent to Tasmania Australia as a convict in 1844 as my first Tasmania decendent, are you related???

the beast
im sophie russell, i cant belive our name is so amazing. im from wiltshire and im 14 years old!

William Borland
Hi, my mother's last name was Russell but my dad's name was Borland. Both seem to come from the Normandy invasion in 1066. Interesting. Bill if anyone knows anything about these two last names I would be quite interested. Thanks,

alicia russell-downer
Alicia russell-downer orginally from bethnal green uk

Ken Kussell
Ken Russell, From Bethnal Green London uk,