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Family History

Origins of the Surname

Variations of the Surname

Armorial Bearings

& Motto(es)

Ancestral Lineage

Ancestral Locations

Source Documents

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Family history


Family History


    Very little is known about the Cummings or Cummins family line with the exception of our 6th great-grandmother Mary Cummings.   Mary of the County Down, Northern Ireland was born in there in 1720. 

    She and her husband Robert Douglass emigrated from Ulster to America sometime prior to 1758 and settled at Augusta County located in the back-country of the Virginia colony. It was here that their son Robert Douglass, Jr., (our 5th great-grandfather), was born in 1758.

    Mary and her family were most likely typical of the Scots-Irish pioneers who settled in America during the 18th century in that they brought along their devout Presbyterian animosity toward Papists and Anglicans alike thus a political activisim of the querulous and boat-rocking variety. These folk were tough, stubborn, touchy, combative, and full of energy.

    During her lifetime Nancy bore at least five known off-spring.   She passed away in Campbell County, Virginia on December 20, 1810.  At the time of her death she was aged 90 years, 6 months, 13 days.    


Origins of the surname


Origins of the Surname


·       An Introduction to the Name

·       Meaning of the Name

·        History of the Name

·                           Early Immigrants to North America

·                           More About Surname Meanings & Origins


An Introduction to the Name

                 The practice of inherited family surnames began in England and France during the late part of the 11th century.     With the passing of generations and the movement of families from place to place many of the original identifying names were altered into some of the versions that we are familiar with today.  Over the centuries, most of our European ancestors accepted their surname as an unchangeable part of their lives.  Thus people rarely changed their surname.  Variations of most surnames were usually the result of an involuntary act such as when a government official wrote a name phonetically or made an error in transcription.  Research into the record of this Cummings family line indicates that the variations, meanings and history of this surname is most likely linked to that area of Europe where English, Scottish, and Irish linguistic traditions are commonly found. 


Meaning of the Name

     Most of the modern family names throughout Europe have originated from with of the following circumstances: occupation (i.e., Carpenter, Cooper, Brewer, Mason); habitational (Middleton, Sidney, or Ireland) or topographical (i.e. Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale); nicknames (i.e., Moody Freeholder, Wise, Armstrong); status (i.e. Freeman, Bond, Knight); and acquired ornamental names that were simply made up.

     Cummings is an Irish variant of Cumming, with the addition of English patronymic -s.  The Cumming surname is of disputed origin.  It may be from a Celtic personal name derived from the element cam ‘bent’, ‘crooked’ a common element in such surnames as 'Campbell' and 'Cameron'. According to another theory it is a habitational name from Comines near Lille, but there is no evidence for this (no early forms with de have been found). In southern Ireland this Anglo-Norman name has been confused with the following Irish definition.  The Cumming is an Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Cuimín (or Ó Cuimín) ‘son (or ‘descendant’) of Cuimín’, a personal name formed from a diminutive of cam ‘crooked’.


History of the Name

Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th century. They were not in use in England or Scotland, before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and were first found in the Domesday Book of 1086. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans who had adopted the custom just prior to this time.    Soon thereafter it became a mark of a generally higher socio-economic status and thus seen as disgraceful for a well-bred man to have only one name.  It was not until the middle of the 14th century that surnames became general practice among all people in the British Isles.

     The Cumming surname is probably Norman-Breton in origin. It was introduced initially into England, and Scotland by the followers of William the Conqueror after the battle of Hastings in 1066.  In Scotland, the family founded by William Comyn, grew to be one of the most powerful in the country. In so doing they held at one time the Earldoms of both Angus and Atholl.  When Robert the Bruce secured the throne of Scotland he rewarded his friends at the expense of his enemies, and the family of Comyn, was amongst the latter who lost titles and lands.  However, the families using the Cumming(s), spelling of the name, remain numerous in the north-east of Scotland.    In England the Cumming(s) surname was relatively frequent in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries.  The Cummings surname was first found in Irish area of Connacht, where members of the family were Erenaghs of the local church. 

     The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Willelmus Comyn (Chancellor of Scotland), which was dated 1133, in the records of Kelso Abbey, Scotland.  Other recording examples include Simon Comyn of Coldingham, in 1483, Barabara Keminge, christened at St Margarets, Westminster, in January 1st 1579, and Johes Kemmin, the son of George and Annae, christened at St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on May 2nd 1641.


Early Immigrants to North America

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries hundreds of thousands of Europeans made the perilous ocean voyage to America.  For many it was an escape from economic hardship and religious persecution.  For most it was an opportunity to start over, own their own land, and make a better future for their descendents.  Immigration records show a number of people bearing the name of Cummings, or one of its variants, as arriving in North America between the 17th and 20th centuries.  Some of these immigrants were:  Elizabeth Comyngs, who settled in Plymouth, MA in 1620; George Cumming, who came to New Jersey in 1685; William Cumming, who arrived in Annapolis, MD in 1717;  Benjamin Cummins, who settled in Nova Scotia in 1759; Andrew Cummins, who settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1825; and Patrick Cummins, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1828.  

Use the following links to find more early immigrants with this surname:

$ Search Immigration Records; or Free Ship’s Passenger lists at


More About Surname Meanings & Origins

English Surnames

Although the Domesday Book compiled by William the Conqueror required surnames, the use of them in the British Isles did not become fixed until the time period between 1250 and 1450.  The broad range of ethnic and linguistic roots for British surnames reflects the history of Britain as an oft-invaded land. These roots include, but are not limited to, Old English, Middle English, Old French, Old Norse, Irish, Gaelic, Celtic, Pictish, Welsh, Gaulish, Germanic, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Throughout the British Isles, there are basically five types of native surnames. Some surnames were derived from a man's occupation (Carpenter, Taylor, Brewer, Mason), a practice that was commonplace by the end of the 14th century.  Place names reflected a location of residence and were also commonly used (Hill, Brook, Forrest, Dale) as a basis for the surname, for reasons that can be easily understood.  Nicknames that stuck also became surnames.  About one-third of all surnames in the United States are patronymic in origin, and identified the first bearer of the name by his father (or grandfather in the case of some Irish names).  Acquired ornamental names were simply made up, and had no specific reflection on the first who bore the name. They simply sounded nice, or were made up as a means of identification, generally much later than most surnames were adopted.  Source:


Irish Surnames

Most if not quite all, Irish surnames, have a nickname origin, some being extremely robust in their modern interpretation, although any sensibility in this respect seems to have passed by the original name holders. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's Christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor.    In the latter part of the sixteenth century, an influx of settlers arrived in Ireland under the patronage of Elizabeth I of England, and colonized the country beyond the 'Pale', the area around Dublin that was the only part firmly under English control.  At the same time, groups of Presbyterian settlers were encouraged to migrate from Scotland to Ulster, thus establishing the distinctively Scottish surnames of Ulster. During the long centuries of English domination, Irish surnames were crudely Anglicized either phonetically or by translation.  Irish surnames are now very widely dispersed, and are common in England as well as in Ireland, the United States and Australia.  


Scottish Surnames

     The first people in Scotland to acquire fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who called themselves, or were called by others, after the lands they possessed. Surnames originating in this way are known as territorial.  Formerly lords of baronies and regalities and farmers were inclined to magnify their importance and to sign letters and documents with the names of their baronies and farms instead of their Christian names and surnames. The abuse of this style of speech and writing was carried so far that an Act was passed in the Scots parliament in 1672 forbidding the practice and declaring that it was allowed only to noblemen and bishops to subscribe by their titles.

       Scottish names derive from patronymics (e.g., Robertson), occupations (Burgess), local features or places (Guthrie), and nicknames (Inglis, meaning English). Patronymic names make up a large proportion of Scottish surnames, and use of them lingered in parts of the Highlands well into the 19th century.  As for occupational names, only a few spring from Gaelic origins.  As for nicknames, not all "Mac" names indicate a clan affiliation, and many fewer of these remain in use today than have existed in the past.  With Scottish surnames, it is worth remembering that the border with England in no way prevented names from crossing over, and that people moved constantly between Ireland and Scotland.  Roots of some Scottish surnames can be traced to the followers of William the Conqueror, to Norse and Flemish origins (present-day Belgium), and to several other countries of Europe. 

Variations of the surname


Variations of
the Surname


Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to unfold and expand often leading to an overwhelming number of variants.  As such one can encounter great variation in the spelling of surnames because in early times, spelling in general and thus the spelling of names was not yet standardized.  Later on spellings would change with the branching and movement of families.  Spelling variations of this family name include: Cummins, Comines, Cummings, Comine, Cummin, Comyn, Cumming, Cummine, Cuming, Cumine, Cumyn, Cummyn, Commyn, Cuming, Camings, Kaman, Camin, Kaming, Keming, Kimmons, Kimmins, Kimmings and many others.


The complexity of researching records is compounded by the fact that in many cases an ancestors surname may also have been misspelled.  This is especially true when searching census documents.   The Soundex Indexing System was developed in an effort to assist with identifying spelling variations for a given surname.  Soundex is a method of indexing names in the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 US Census, and can aid genealogists in their research.  The Soundex Code for Cummings is C552.  Other surnames sharing this Soundex Code: CANNING | CHANNING | CHAOMHANACH | CHEWNING | CUMMING | CUMMINGS | CUMMINS | CUNNINGHAM |



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Coat of arms


Armorial Bearings & Motto(es)

In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armored warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.  In the British Isles the College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings.

Fig. 1


Fig. 2


There are at least 22 known associated armorial bearings for Comyn/Cumming and close variant spellings recorded in Reitstap’s Armorial General or Sir Bernard Burke’s General Armory. The following additional information has been found regarding the coats-of-arms shown at the left:

Figure 1: these armorial bearings were granted in 1068 to Robert (de) Comines, Earl of Northumberland.  He was murdered shortly thereafter by inhabitants of the county who did not approve of his appointment;

Figure 2: the shield of Comyn, Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badenoch, was granted in the 13th century;

Figure 3: example of the most common coat-of-arms has the blazon of a blue field charged with three golden wheat sheaves;

Figure 4: recorded in 1745, these arms, including crest,  were granted to Cumming of Altyre in Elgin a former cathedral city and Royal Burgh in Moray, Scotland; 

Figure 5: coat-of-arms, of unknown origin, attributed to a Cummins, displays a red shield with three silver wheat sheaves;

Figure 6: the armorial bearings granted to Comyn of Durham and Essex counties in England.  These arms are also attributed to Cummings in Ireland;

Figure 7: image the Cumming clan badge on back-ground of the clan tartan;

Figure 8: another example of the Cumming clan badge showing the most common family crest a gold lion rampant holding a dagger in his dexter paw.

      The most common Cumming motto is “Courage!” Another motto attributed to a Cummin is “Hinc garbœ nostrœ” which translates as “Hence our sheaves.”


Fig. 3

Fig. 4


Fig. 5


Fig. 6


Fig. 7

Fig. 8

A Coat of Arms is defined as a group of emblems and figures (heraldic bearings) usually arranged on and around a shield and serving as the special insignia of some person, family, or institution.  Except for a few cases, there is really no such thing as a standard "coat of arms" for a surname.  A coat of arms, more properly called an armorial achievement, armorial bearings or often just arms for short, is a design usually granted only to a single person not to an entire family or to a particular surname.  Coats of arms are inheritable property, and they generally descend to male lineal descendents of the original arms grantee.  The rules and traditions regarding Coats of Arms vary from country to country. Therefore a Coat of Arms for an English family would differ from that of a German family even when the surname is the same.  The art of designing, displaying, describing, and recording arms is called heraldry. The use of coats of arms by countries, states, provinces, towns and villages is called civic heraldry.   Some of the more prominent elements incorporated into a  coat of arms are :

Crest - The word crest is often mistakenly applied to a coat of arms.  The crest was a later development arising from the love of pageantry.  Initially the crest consisted of charges painted onto a ridge on top of the helmet.

Wreath or TorseThe torse is a twist of cloth or wreath underneath and part of a crest. Always shown as six twists, the first tincture being the tincture of the field, the second the tincture of the metal, and so on.

Mantling – The mantling is a drapery tied to the helmet above the shield. It forms a backdrop for the shield.

Helm or Helmet - The helmet or helm is situated above the shield and bears the torse and crest. The style of helmet displayed varies according to rank and social status, and these styles developed over time, in step with the development of actual military helmets.

Shield or Arms - The basis of all coats of arms.  At their simplest, arms consist of a shield with a plain field on which appears a geometrical shape or object.  The items appearing on the shield are known as charges.

Motto - The motto was originally a war cry, but later mottoes often expressed some worthy sentiment. It may appear at the top or bottom of a family coat of arms.

Direct ancestors


Ancestral Lineage

Descendant Register

Generation 1

Mary Cummings-1 was born on 06 Jun 1720 in County of Down, N. Ireland. She died on 20 Dec   1810 in Campbell County, Virginia. She married Robert Douglass Sr. on 1739 in County of Down, Ireland, son of John Douglass and Mary Douglass (nee?). He was born on 01 Jan 1700 in County of Antrim, N. Ireland. He died on 16 Dec 1795 in Campbell County, Virginia.


Children of Mary Cummings and Robert Douglass Sr. are:


iv.          Joshua Douglass, B: Aft. 1739, D: Abt. 1811 in Campbell County, Virginia.


v.           Betty Douglass, B: Aft. 1740.


vi.          Mary Douglass, B: Aft. 1740, M: Abt. 1760.


3.            iv.       Robert Douglass Jr., B: 10 Mar 1758 in Staunton, Augusta Co., Virginia, D: 10 Jul  1837 in Cog Hill, McMinn Co., Tennessee, M: 28 Dec 1784 in Staunton, Augusta  Co., Virginia.


i.             Nancy Douglass, B: Abt. 1762, M: 19 Aug 1793.


Additional information about our DIRECT ANCESTORS  as well as a complete listing of individuals with this surname may be reviewed by clicking on the following LINK.


MMPS Surname Locator

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Ancestral locations




Researching the locations where our ancestors lived has provided us with valuable evidence needed to fill-in the gaps in our family trees.  It has also led us to many interesting facts that enhance the overall picture of each family group.  The names of states and counties on the following list were derived from the known places where the persons in the “Direct Ancestors” list (see above) were born, married, and / or died.






County Down



Campbell County


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Source documents




The documents contained within the “Source Documents Archives” have been located during my research of this family, and used as evidence to prove many of the facts contained within the database of this family’s record.


     Most of these documents can be considered as primary or secondary evidence.  Primary evidence is usually defined as the best available to prove the fact in question, usually in an original document or record.  Secondary evidence is in essence all that evidence which is inferior in its origin to primary evidence. That does not mean secondary evidence is always in error, but there is a greater chance of error.  Examples of this type of evidence would be a copy of an original record, or oral testimony of a record’s contents.  Published genealogies and family histories are also secondary evidence.

     Classifying evidence as either primary or secondary does not tell anything about its accuracy or ultimate value.  This is especially true of secondary evidence.  Thus it is always a good idea to ask the following questions: (1) How far removed from the original is it, (when it is a copy)?; (2) What was the reason for the creation of the source which contains this evidence?; and (3) Who was responsible for creating this secondary evidence and what interest did they have in its accuracy? SOURCE:  Greenwood, Val D., The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 2nd edition, Genealogical Publishing  Co., Baltimore, MD 21202, 1990, pgs. 62-63


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