Monday, September 15, 2014

Cushings: Our Viking Origins

[posted 15 Sep '14; added to web site 23 Jan '15] Our known genealogy only goes back a few hundred years: to the early 1800s for most of our branches, to the early 1600s for some.  While searching for Cushings in Ireland, I've browsed several books that either claim to know or speculate about the origin of the name and how Cushings came to be in Ireland. The one thing they all agree on is that Cushing is not a native Irish name.  I've included some of the different origin theories on the Cushing page of my genealogy web site.  The one most interesting to me, though I have not found any research to support the specific link to the Cushing family, is that Cussen (and like names) is derived from "Cu's son", Cu having been a Viking land owner in the vicinity of Galbally.  On the other hand, the most widely accepted theory is that an English knight with a name like Cousins came to the Cork area during the Norman Invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century.  [While the primary invasions occured in 1169 (eastern Ireland) and 1171 (eastern and southern Ireland), the influx of people from Normandy continued through about 1190.  All of this is considered the Norman Invasion.]  Over the centuries, they were "hibernicized", losing their foreign identity and becoming "Irish".  They had estates in the Cork area, until these were taken away and given to the Bowen family (Bowens Court) in about 1662 as part of the policy begun by Cromwell to replace the Irish with English. This once prominent family is taken to be the source of the Cushen and related families in Munster province (southern Ireland).

Rendering of what a Viking Cushing may have looked like [ 8-) ]
Recently, I was reading through the introduction to a well know Cushing genealogy, The Genealogy of the Cushing Family, An Account of the Ancestors and Descendants of Matthew Cushing, Who Came to America in 1638, the 1905 updated edition by James S. Cushing. In it he presents research that says that a great Viking warrior, son of the Viking conqueror of Norway, was exiled from Norway in about 900 C.E. He and his large group of followers eventually landed in what is now France, taking and settling a territory that came to be known as Normandy. (Norsemen, from Norway, conquered Normandy, ...)  Skipping 150 years of genealogy, descendants of these Vikings included William the Conqueror and his nobles, who conquered England in 1066 CE and issued lands and titles to his kinsmen, including one who had adopted the surname Cusyn.  So skip ahead another 120 years or so to a Cusyn descendant that took land in southern Ireland and established the Cushens of Munster Province. (By the way, descendants in England became the Cousins and Cushings and related of England, one of whose families was the subject of this Cushing genealogy book and to whom most of the Cushings in North America can trace their roots.)

The irony, then, is that whether you accept Cu, the Viking who conquered land in southern Ireland in the 9th or 10th century CE, or a Cousin nobleman who arrived during the Norman Invasion, a descendant of Vikings who conquered Normandy in the early 10th century CE, the origin of our Cushings is likely, ultimately, Viking.

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