Surnames/tags: Brush Brushe Brusshe
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Please contact the project leader David Brush or post a comment at the foot of the page. If you have any questions, just ask. Thanks!
This is a One Name Study to collect together in one place everything about one surname and the variants of that name. The hope is that other researchers like you will join our study to help make it a valuable reference point for people studying lines that cross or intersect.
As well as the listed (early )variants of Brushe and Brusshe there are also entries from the 18th and 19th century adopting the form Brusch and Brusche. The English Bruch family ( but probably not the German Bruch families) may be connected but if so this goes back to at least the 16th century and probably earlier. But there are occasional instances where the name is confused. This also happens sometimes with Brish, Brash and even Bush. A link to Bruce or Brus has sometimes been suggested but I have seen nothing to confirm this and fear it is no more than speculation.
No one knows, and it seems probable that no one will now ever know, when or where the name BRUSH first appeared as a surname. The very earliest reference, to BRUSCH, appears in the 14th century but no useful record exists until much later. In general terms, the modern form of single word surname as we now know it appears in England around 1400.
English Parish registers, the basic raw material of the English genealogist, begin for the most part only in the mid 16th Century . In some parishes records may voluntarily have been maintained earlier but the earliest date encountered is likely to be 1538 when they were first legally required though for many the surviving record does not begin until later. This was the century of the Tudors; Henry VIII was on the throne from 1509 to 1547 and Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603. England had emerged from the medieval period but was still an agricultural country in a pre-industrial age.
It will never be possible for the great mass of the population of England, below the aristocracy, to produce any sort of comprehensive genealogical history before the start of these essential records. The BRUSH family, or families, form a part of this great mass. There is no indication of any grand aristocratic or royal connection in this history . The raw source material for a comprehensive genealogical record just does not exist even though there are various earlier records of other kinds often associated with legal affairs of one kind or another.
During the 15th and 16th century the BRUSH name is scattered along a 300 mile crescent running from Cornwall in the South West to the east coast of Suffolk. Although this is a long line, we do not have a random scattering of the name across the country as a whole; just localised pockets.
The earliest fully documented reference to the BRUSH family is to the will of “John BRUSCH or BRUSSH” of Gippco proved 1438 in the Norfolk Record Office. “Gippco” was Ipswich in Suffolk, which is right at the eastern end of the crescent on the Suffolk coast.
In A dictionary of English surnames by Reaney & Wilson, 1991, a reference is made to “Alice Brusch, 1327” but I do not know the source for this reference. If it is identifiable it would be the earliest known reference by more than a century.
The early BRUSH groups present the tantalising prospect of a single point of origin –one single family somewhere back before the 15th century. But this is idle conjecture and, I increasingly suspect, may be a false prospect.
There are also two very early references well away from the southern crescent. Willelmus BRUSSHE, tyler was admitted as a freeman of the City of York in 1444 . These records also contain a reference to a “Thomas BRACHE, yoman”. This is well outside the geographic band I have just described and there is a century and a half before the next reference in Yorkshire. One, possibly two, isolated references will not for the moment overturn the general theory that BRUSH roots lie in the South Midlands of England. It seems entirely plausible that a building craftsman from elsewhere in England should have ended up in a major medieval city such as York.
About ten years later in ‘33 Hen VI’ (1 September 1454 -31 August 1455) there is a reference to Walter BRUSSH of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, which may prove to be one of the most significant as a possible root for the substantial Gloucestereshire group of families.. “Walter Brussh of Cheltenham to Pershore Abbey (William Newnton, abbot): Two messuages and land in Pershore (appointment of attorney to deliver seisin): (Worcs.)”
The Pershore location reappears nearly two centuries later when the deceased father of John Brush, freeman of Tewkesbury in 1631, is identified as having been ‘of Pershore’.
Although there are earlier individual references to the name of BRUSH, the earliest identifiable and substantial family grouping is in Gloucestershire. It is from Gloucestershire that my own family descends, though there is some doubt from exactly where. The second main early grouping of the BRUSH name in England is in Cornwall. If there is a link between the BRUSH family of Cornwall and the BRUSH family (or families) of Gloucestershire it is lost in the mists of time prior to 1550 and I regret to say there seems no prospect of establishing a link – subject only to the possibilities which DNA testing may open up. Other BRUSH households within the 16th century, i.e. Tudor England, appear in Suffolk, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and London.
There was also a significant BRUSH family group in Ireland, which falls within our title of “.of the British Isles”. It appears that this was part of the English colonisation of Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries and that the Irish families were descendants of a single individual, John, who had moved there from England or from Holland . In time some of his descendants would move back to England and on to more far flung colonies.
There seem to be at least three separate lines in the US. Two from Thomas and Richard of Long Island in the 1650s ( who may be father and son but may be less closely related ) and a third from immigrants further south in Virginia. Despite several attempts there is no convincing theory ( that I know of) about which of the English Brush families any of these stem from.
The principal secondary resource for the US lines is the two volume work ( plus supplements) produced by Stuart Brush of Connecticut.
David Brush (Brush-615)