Flemish Roots

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Flemish Roots and Scottish Branches

Ruddervoorde to Rutherford


The Rutherfurds, like their cousins the Douglases, trace their ancestry back to West Flanders and to the powerful Erembald family. Other families in Britain who share these roots are the Ypres [Douglas], Furnes, Harnes, Lucy, Hacket and Winter families. The political events of the 11th and 12th centuries within Flanders were to change the lives of these families and push them down a migratory path which began in today's Belgium and ended up in Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The noble families of Flanders were jealous descendants of Charlemagne until the coastal invasions by the Vikings began and military resources in Flanders were stretched dangerously thin. During the ninth and tenth centuries, Europe, and particularly West Flanders, were ravaged by the Vikings. Traditional tactics were insufficient to stop these raiders and a new "non-noble" class of knight was born, the 'ministeriales'. The ministeriales manned cavalry units throughout Flanders, thus solving the problem of fast response to Viking assaults and creating a new social class. At this time we see the rise of a new class of family, the Karls. The Karls did not belong to the nobility - in fact, they despised feudalism and were proud self-made freemen. They were the hereditary chiefs of the commercial guilds and free members of the Flemish burghs which were later copied in Scotland. The hamlet of Ruddervoorde, the origin of the modern name of Rutherfurd/Rutherford, was part of the political and military structure of the beautiful city of Bruges [Brugge]. Cities like Bruges had a mixed population; noblemen and freeman merchants who ran the powerful guilds. David I of Scotland used these free burghs as the model for Jedburgh, Roxburgh and Berwick on the Scottish Borders. The most important social distinction in a burgh was not between nobles and merchants, or between merchants and craftsmen, but between those who held the status of burghers and those who didn't. The Ruddervoordes enjoyed a unique position as freemen, burghers and ministeriales.[Medieval Towns - Bruges by Ernest Gilliat-Smith.]

Many of the maternal lines of the Erembalds were noble and here lay the problem in future years. The nobles of Flanders were required to prove their noble descent through both the paternal and maternal lines. At Gent, Courtrai, Saint-Omer, Bergues, Bourbourg and Ypres, the comital and castellan families came from nobles who had held estates and public authority in these areas since the establishment of the Baldwins as Counts of Flanders. At Veurne, however, power was held by the Erembalds, who were ministeriales from the Veurne region. The Erembalds of Veurne who were rewarded for helping Robert I in his conquest of Flanders in 1071. After that, the Erembald's rights as freemen were acknowledged throughout Flanders, their chiefs were received at court on an equal footing with the nobles, they occupied high positions in the church and state and their daughters were married to feudal lords. The most powerful of these Karl families was the House of Erembald.

Following the death of Robert I things began to change for the worse for the Erembalds. Charles "the good" became the new count of Flanders just when the Erembalds had reached a political and economic zenith. After 1091 Bertulf, a member of the Erembald clan was both the chancellor of the county, and the provost of the wealthy church of St. Donatian at Bruges. Although Charles had been in Flanders for some forty years he was surprised when he was informed that the Erembalds were freeborn but not noble. Unwisely, he decided to disgrace them. It seems clear that the status of the Erembalds was an open secret among the other powerful families of Bruges and that none was particularly upset by it until Charles raised the issue. Indeed, after discovering the problem with the Erembalds, Charles summoned his councilors, many of whom were related to the Erembalds which meant that there were other non-nobles in the Count's council and Charles knew it. Charles was bent upon reducing the Erembald's status and the Erembalds were having none of it.

In 1127 a feud broke out between Provost Bertulf Erembald and Count Charles. The Count burnt Bertulf's nephew's house to the ground. Borsiard, Bertulf's nephew and others, plotted with the Erembald clan and assassinated Charles on March 2, 1127 - Ash Wednesday. A week later citizens of Bruges led by Gervaise de Praet besieged the castle, and barons swore to support them in a league. King Louis VI of France summoned the barons to Arras, and they elected William Clito as count. Count William granted charters to towns and had Bertulf Erembald put to death. A siege of Ypres captured William of Ypres, and Borsiard was left to die nailed to a tree. England's king Henry I opposed William and sent money to oppose his cause. Thierry d' Alsace gained the support of the people at Ghent by promising to support the privileges of the Burghers. In March 1128 Count Thierry d' Alsace was elected count by the barons and burghers at Bruges. France's Louis still supported William Clito, and a partisan struggle raged in Flanders until William was killed in the siege of Aalst in June 1128. Count Thierry visited the towns and was invested by the kings of France and England with the fiefs and benefices that Charles had held.

Desiderius Hacket, Chatelain of Bruges, was head of the house of Erembalds. His brother Bertulph was Provost of St. Donatian's, hereditary chancellor and chief of the Count's household. Also under suspicion for the assassination of Count Charles, Desiderius Hacket and his young son Robert, escaped from the tower fleeing Bruges. It is believed that his nephew Burchard escaped to southern Ireland. Hacket and his son crossed the great salt marsh north of the city, reached the castle of his son-in-law Walter Cromlin, Lord of Lissewege where he remained hidden until Theirry d'Alsace became Count of Flanders a year later. He was sent to trial, proved his innocence, was restored to his former rank and became abbot of Dunes, founding the monastary at Lissewege. Lissewege was situated on the busy pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Ter Doest Abbey at Lissewege was noted as an early Cistercian Abbey and strongly connected to the Knights Templar. According to recent discoveries by author and historian Johan Ballegeer, who specializes in local history, the church of Lissewege was built with donations from the Templars.

The Hacketts of County Kildare, Ireland, are also known as the de Ridelsford family of Lincolnshire. The name Haket means "hooks", which is also a type of fish. Haket was a prominent Christian name of this family and along with Lucy [also a fish] evolved into surnames in Britain with very similar coats of arms.

On July 29, 1128 Count Thierry d' Alsace and a large army of Knights took the Erembald city of Ypres. The people of Bruges and the knights also plundered Ruddervoorde. Lambrecht of Ruddervoorde, Lambrecht of Wingene, Folket of Tielt who had been supporters of count Willem, withdrew back to the castle of Wijnendale. They surrendered and recognized Count Thierry as the new count of Flanders. The Erembald Clan was in total disarray. Those who had participated in the assassination of Count Charles were dead or hunted men. Those Erembalds who were not involved were nonetheless implicated through association.

With the recognition of Thierry d' Alsace as Count of Flanders, the Erembalds of Ruddervoorde came under the protection of a just overlord. In 1128 Lambert van Ruddervoorde I was a witness to count Thierry d' Alsace. In 1154 Lambert van Ruddervoorde II and his brother Eustachius served as witnesses to bishop Gerald of Tournai and count Thierry d' Alsace. By the year 1230, the lordship of Ruddervoorde belonged to Lamkin van Ruddervoorde after the death of his father Knight Haket who received it from the Dean of St. Donatian church in Bruges. The Lordship of Ruddervoorde lasted into the 14th century but with increasing frequency the young Erembalds of Ruddervoorde began to migrate to Britain. They disappeared from Flanders at the same time the "Rutherfords" began to appear in England, Scotland and Ireland. The English county of Gloucester has a town called Ruddeford listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Yorkshire wapentake of Austhorpe also lists the town of Redeford. Both properties were owned by Roger de Busli who, like the Rutherfords, was from the coastal area of Flanders called Bray. Roger de Busli was the master of Tickhill Castle with which the Rutherfords were long connected.

Fortunately, the Ruddervoordes and other Flemings who came to Britain were among the first to use both surnames and heraldry. The works of Mrs. Beryl Platts have been central to the idea that the Rutherfurd/Rutherford family, like their near relatives: Douglas, Bruce, Stewart, Lindsay, Hay, Bethune, Lyle, Erskine and Crawford came to Scotland from Flanders and Normandy. The Rutherfords have always followed the Douglases - in Flanders and in Scotland. Therefore, a secondary working theory has been that a detailed study of the Douglas family history in Flanders would certainly shed light on the origins of the Rutherfurds.

In West Flanders, the Rutherfurd familial relations center around these 4 groups - all of whom later came to Britain:

1. Hacket - Ridelsford - Ypres - Douglas – Rutherfurd

2. Harnes

3. Wavrin - Beaufremetz [Beaumetz] - de Fournes [Furnes/Furness] - Bailleul [Balliol]

4. Bethune [Beaton] - Lille [Lyle] - de Insula

Under the Scottish kings David I (1124-53) and Malcolm IV (1153-65) a program was devised with the Flemish counts, Thierry (1128-63) and his son Philip d' Alsace (1163-91) to settle Flemish immigrants in Scotland in order to build up urban cloth centers in Scotland, as existed in Flanders. Malcolm's daughter Marie married Eustache III, Count of Boulogne brother of Godfroi de Bouillon, conqueror of Jerusalem, creating a dynastic link between the court of Scotland and that of Jerusalem. Malcolm's successor, his brother William I (1165-1214), known as "the Lion", continued the Flemish settlement policy, as well as utilizing Flemish aid in other matters: In 1173, when William invaded northern England, he was reinforced by a Flemish contingent sent by Philip d' Alsace, Count of Flanders. Count Thierry and his son Philip d'Alsace were the overlords of the Ruddervoorde family in Flanders.

Although some Normans ventured into Scotland at the time of Malcolm III and the Battle of Alnwick, there was no effective penetration until the reign of King David I (1124-53). But even then this controlled immigration was engineered for specific reasons when David invited the sons of Norman and Flemish aristocracy to his realm. The resultant settlement was far more Flemish than Norman, even though some of the noble families of Flanders (like those of de Brus and de Balieul) had been granted lands in Normandy before the conquest of England. King David (the Saint) recognized that, during the recent years of turmoil, Scotland had fallen behind the European countries in many ways; her systems of government, trade, manufacture and urban development were all outmoded, and the economy was suffering. Flanders, on the other hand, was at the forefront of a significant commercial urbanization, which provided substantial rental and mercantile income. The Flemings were also advanced in agricultural expertise, and had a greatly superior weaving industry. All in all, David deemed their knowledge and updated techniques necessary to aid Scotland's survival on the international stage. The Normans too had grown in matters of government and land management. King David, therefore, sought their aid in all manner of administrative affairs: sheriffdoms were created, new communication networks were developed, and the powers of the judiciary were considerably strengthened. Also, the prerogatives of the Crown were redefined so as to be more socially effective and financially viable. Generally, the incoming nobles of Flanders and Normandy married into Celtic noble families, and conversely King David married Maud de Lens of the Flemish House of Boulogne.

The Flemish Laws of Nobilitas

Flemish law forbade noble men and women to marry outside their own class. This law followed the Flemish nobility wherever they were. Its effects were especially apparent in Scotland where the Flemish and Norman aristocracy were closely related. The very fact that Rutherford knights were marrying the daughters of Flemish noblemen is proof that they were both Flemish and noble themselves. Initially knights like the Rutherfords were not considered members of the nobility. They were called 'miles' or 'caballarius'. Knights were seen as mere soldiers. In Scotland, the laws of nolilitas continued, but with the lessons of the Flemish wars and the Erembalds weighed and considered. Knights like the Rutherfords, were given small Scottish estates in return for guarding castles, keeping the peace and accompanying their Home and Douglas lords on campaign.

The hamlet of Rutherford enters into the Scottish record during the reign of William the Lion shortly after 1165. Since the time of James Rutherfurd II the Rutherfurd chieftains have always been from Edgerston which is to the south of Rutherford on the Jed River flowing through the town of Jedburgh. The other close relatives of the Rutherfords are all of Flemish origin. Like the Homes, Hopringles, Lauders and Nisbets, the Rutherfords were the ancestral escutifers [squires] of the Douglas chiefs. Because of the similarity between the Rutherford and Balliol arms it is thought that they too may have family connections. The Balliol family also came to England with William the Conqueror and were also from Flanders. They fought under the flag of the Counts of Boulogne [Boulonnais]. Their heraldric charge is the reversed tinctures of the de Wavrin family and identical to the Rutherfords.

Ethnic Origins of the Rutherfords

The paternal ethnic origins of the Rutherford family are most certainly not Celtic. The Rutherfords are found throughout Britain and nowhere is there any evidence of a Gaelic speaking ancestry. Each cadet has marked ethno-historical differences, some with no known or assumed connections to Roxburghshire. However, all English and Scottish Rutherford groups have a common link to the era of William the Conqueror, most likely because of a common Flemish descent. The Rutherfords first appear in Scotland in the 12th century. This was at the same time the Ridderfort and/or Ruddervoorde family of Flanders was making alliances with Flemish lords who were resettling in Roxburghshire.

"Although the fragmentary Scottish records of this remote period seldom afford precise clues to the provenance of early Lowland landholders, it is well known that during the reign of David I [1124-1153] and later many Anglo-Norman adventures entered Scotland, encouraged by a royal policy designed to transform its social economy into a feudal state with a centralized administration organized on lines similar to those of Norman England, and depending on a nucleus of immigrant barons, knights, their followers and clergy who could apply the experience they had gained in the neighboring realm where David himself held two earldoms" - "The Rutherfords in Britain: a history and guide" - Kenneth Rutherford Davis page 5

The most important of these alliances were with the ancestors of the Douglases, Balliols, Hayes, Humes and Lindsays. Tellingly, the Ridderfort/Ruddervoorde family was disappearing in Flanders at the same time the Rutherford family was appearing in Roxburghshire. Like many of the towns in West Flanders, Ruddervoorde is of great antiquity. However, the surname Ruddervoorde or van Ruddervoorde is practically unknown in Flanders after the 12th century. Inversely, the name Rutherford is unknown in Scotland prior to the 12th century, but begins to appear in Roxburghshire at about the same time as its decline in Flanders. The demographic diversity, feudal associations and 'laws of nobilitas' all point to pre-Scottish origins in Flanders. The literature is usually very general concerning Flemish vs Norman ancestry in Britain. This collective group is often referred to as the "Anglo-Normans" even though there were enormous differences between the Nordic invaders of Normandy and Flanders who became known as the Normans and the local Flemish lords who were descendants of Charlemagne.

"When therefore we find at about this time adult Scotsmen bearing typical Anglo-Norman Christian names we can concluded that they came from the stock of foreigners whom the Normanizing kings welcomed to settle with grants of land …………. But the first known Rutherfords must have been living there in the 2nd half of the 12th century, and their names -- Hugh, Gregory, William and Richard -- of similar character introduced by the newcomers may point to an Anglo-Norman founder" - "The Rutherfords in Britain: a history and guide" - Kenneth Rutherford Davis pages 5-6

The Major Rutherford Cadets in Scotland and Northumberland

I. The senior Rutherford Family is called "of that Ilk" [meaning: of the place so named]. This cadet's name is spelled Rutherfurd.

This family can be documented to the 12th century in the county of Roxburghshire, Scotland. This family also held lands in Yorkshire, England, however, this line died out in the 13th century and the younger brother of the clan continued the line in Roxburghshire, Scotland. This family lost most of the Rutherford holdings in a land dispute with a pretender to the line in the 14th century. The family managed to keep Edgerston, an estate southeast of Jedburgh until 1915. There is an offshoot branch at Fairnington, an estate south of the River Tweed. This family line is well represented in New Zealand and the USA. The estate was sold in 1922. There was also a junior Rutherford line in the 18th century located at the estate of Bowland which had emigrated to North Carolina in the 18th century, but lost its estates after backing the British in the American Revolution.

2. Another line is called Hunthill or Chatto. This cadet's name is spelled Rutherfoord and/or Rutherford. Hunthill is located very near Jedburgh just to the southeast of town and Chatto is located almost due east of Jedburgh near the Northumberland border. This line goes back to the 15th century and produced through one of it's cadet lines Andrew Lord Rutherford, Earl of Teviot. The Earl's title pasted through the Lords of Hunthill till the line died out in 1720. There are many junior lines from this family; Longnewton, Bankend, Littleheuch, Capehope, Ladfield, Knowsouth and Kidheugh. Some are possibly of Hunthill origin but are unproven at present. The Rutherfoord's have many descendants in America from the Nisbet-Crailing area. The Wigton-Walkers of the USA are also members of this cadet.

3. The Rutherfords at Hundalee can also be traced to the early 15th century. This cadet's name is spelled Rutherford. The Hundalee estate is just south of and very near the town of Jedburgh. This cadet has ancestry from the House of Tudor, Henry VII King of England. This line ended in the 17th century when the last heiress of Hundalee married into the Kerr family. There is a possible connection to the Fairnilee cadet in the 18th century.

4. A family of Rutherfords lived in Aberdeen by the middle of the 14th century surviving into the 17th century. This cadet's name is spelled Rutherford.

5. In Northumberland near Newcastle upon Tyne a Rutherford family was started in the 13th century at Rudchester. This was through a Rutherford marriage to an English heiress. The family lasted into the late 17th century. Possible descendants in Yorkshire and Derbyshire. This cadet's name is spelled Rutherford, Rutherforth and Rotherforth.

6. A second Rutherford family at Middleton Hall near Wooler, Northumberland was founded at about the same time and in the same manner as Rudchester. Northumberland descendants. This cadet's name is also spelled Rutherford, Rutherforth and Rotherforth.

As can be seen, not all Rutherfords are from Scotland, nor is there necessarily a proven link for the various English Rutherford groups to Scotland. In modern Britian today the majority of all Rutherfords live in England not Scotland. The assumption made by many Rutherfords who live outside of Britain is that their family must come from Scotland, even when this is unsupported by any evidence or a confirmed immigrant.

For those interested in the English Rutherfords, "The Rutherfords in Britain: a history and guide" by Kenneth Rutherford Davis uses four chapters to handle the different areas of England and the relationship [proven or not] between each group and Roxburghshire.

7. The Rutherfords in Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland

8. The Rutherfords of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the Northwest

9. Rutherfords in the Sheffield district and North Midlands

10. Rutherfords in East Anglia and Southern England


"The Rutherfords in Britain: a history and guide" 
by Kenneth Rutherford Davis 
Alan Sutton Publishing 
Gloucester 1987

“The Rutherfords of Roxburghshire” 
Gary Rutherford Harding 
6 editions from 1918 to 2002 
privately published

Paul Vandewalle
"Gerard de Ridefort"
Ruddervoorde, Belgium: Heemkundige Kring, 1998

Paul Vandewalle
"Van Ruddervoorde naar Rutherford"
Ruddervoorde, Belgium: Heemkundige Kring, 2003

Beryl Platts
"Scottish Hazard - The Flemish Nobility and their Impact on Scotland" 
The Procter Press, London. 1985 & 1990 - 2 Volumes

Beryl Platts
"Origins of Heraldry"
The Procter Press, London. 1980

"The Flemish Nobility Before 1300"
Dr. E. Warlop
Kortrijk, Belgium 1975 - 4 vols. 1332 pages
translated from the Flemish by James Bruce Ross

Galbert of Bruges
"The Murder of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders"
translated by James Bruce Ross
1960, Columbia Univ. Press, New York