This ancient surname is usually regarded as being of Scottish origin, but can be English. The Clan Rutherford were once a powerful family in the Border Country, and they held an estate known as The lands of Rutherford in Roxburgh. There are a number of spellings including: Rutherford, Rutherfoord, Rutherforde, Rudderford, Riddiford, Ruddiford, Rotherforth, Ruddiforth and probably others as yet undiscovered. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century words "hryther" meaning cattle, and "forda", a shallow river crossing. However although the surname is principally recorded in the Scottish border country, some modern nameholders at least have no Scottish connections. In medieval times there once existed a village called Ruddiford or similar in North Yorkshire, as shown in surviving church registers of the county. Early Scottish recordings include Huwe de Ruwerford, who witnessed a land charter of Philip de Valoniis in the year 1215, whilst Nicolas de Rotherford witnessed a quitclaim by Malcolm de Constabletun and Alicia, his wife, of a carucate of land to the Church of Glasgow in 1260. Recordings from early English church registers include the christening of Katherina Rutherfoorde on December 19th 1562, at Howden, Yorkshire; and the marriage of Robert Rutherford and Dorathi Bakster on April 12th 1629, at St. Olave's church, Hart Street, city of London. Jane Rutherford, aged 22 years., was an Irish famine emigrant, who sailed from Liverpool aboard the ship "Cornelia" bound for New York on January 26th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Sir William de Rotherford, who witnessed a charter by Henry de Grahame, in the year 1200, during the reign of King William, the Lyon, of Scotland, 1165 - 1214. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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