This interesting and unusual name is of Medieval Scottish origin and is a dialectal variant of a noble locational name 'Ruthven', from various places in Scotland, especially near Coldstream in the Borders region and one near Perth. The derivation is either from the Old Norse 'rauthr', red, and 'fen', a marsh, or the Gaelic 'ruadh', red and 'abhuinn', river. Ruthven is the name of a Scottish family who trace their ancestry to 'Thor', a Scandinavian overlord of an area of Clydesdale, whose name is recorded in charters dating from between 1127-1150. The present Earl of Gowrie bears this surname. Amongst the sample recordings in London is the christening of John Ruthen in March 1632 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and the marriage of Patrick Ruthen and Sarah Head on May 25th 1656 at St. Peter's, Paul's Wharf. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Rotheuen, which was dated 1284, Black's 'The Surnames of Scotland', during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249-1286. 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.
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