Cornish surnames with origins in Penryn, Devon and France

The next three in our rare Cornish surnames series originated in places far apart. In fact, sufficiently far apart that we are able to display all three migrations on just one map.

Roskrow is a place near Penryn, meaning rough land or moor with a hut. Peter and John Rescrow in Penryn and St Gluvias in 1524 were presumably from this place. At some point between the 1640s and 1740s the Roscrow family name began to depart Penryn and migrate to the mining district of Camborne-Redruth, where it was found by the mid-eighteenth century.

Rouffignacs migrated later, arriving in Paul parish by 1775 when Elias Roufignett was baptised. Once in Newlyn, the Rouffignacs liked it so much few of them ever left. Rouffignac is a place found in western France and, as always, any French name is always assumed to be that of Huguenot refugees. Yet the main flight of Huguenots followed 1685 so perhaps the Rouffignacs arriving in Mount‘s Bay in the late 1700s came via somewhere else, or perhaps from the Channel Islands. For what it’s worth, Elias’s parents in 1775 had impeccably English names – William and Elizabeth – rather than French ones, ignoring the fact that William was originally Norman-French that is!

Saltern is supposedly an occupational name for someone working with salt. Whether that’s the case or not, the surname was more common in Devon than Cornwall and seems to have originated in north Devon near Torrington. This fits its Cornish geography, with the first Salterns making an appearance on the border at Bridgerule in the 1580s. From there they spread into east Cornwall, but not that far.

13 thoughts on “Cornish surnames with origins in Penryn, Devon and France

  1. Jersey is always a possibility. My grandparents and mother were from Jersey, their name being Renouf.

    I think it is very reasonable to assume that not all French names are related to Huguenot refugees!

    Whilst the spelling of William and Elizabeth may be very English the names are very widespread on the continent. My mother-in-law (German) was called Elisabeth, and Wilhem (and variations) has historically been very common.


      1. By the nineteenth century the three most common Cornish surnames – Williams, Richards and Thomas – were all derived from Norman first names.


  2. I wonder if Elias is a mistake for Elizabeth as Elizabeth Rouffignac married in to the Batten family of Paul. Her mother Elizabeth née Miscally died in Paul. Her brother Francis seems to be the source of the West Cornwall Rouffignac even though he was born up country. William Rouffignac was a midshipman in the navy and died in Liphook Hampshire. It’s unclear why they moved West. But the immediate ancestors seem to have been Essex and London. With Williams father Guy being a medical doctor and his grandfather being a Protestant minister. His great grandfather was the Hugenot emigree who fled his estate after the Edict of Nantes and was welcomed to Britain.


    1. William De Rouffignac was my 6th G Grandfather . I believe the family moved West/Cornwall because of the fishing lifestyle . William became a fisherman later on and his children married into Newlyn families.


  3. William de Rouffignac was my 5th great-grandfather. I am descended from him twice. His great-grandson John Batten (grandson of his daughter Elizabeth de Rouffignac who married Philip Batten) married his 2nd cousin Catherine Johns (whose mother Elizabeth James Rouffignac was the daughter of William’s son Francis de Rouffignac). John and Catherine had a daughter Mary Dillon Batten who married William Stanley Drew of Mousehole and who was my maternal great-grandmother.


  4. Hello Bernard Deacon,
    I have been collating some information about my family for my granddaughter and came across my father’s short history of the de Rouffignac family from Jacob and Madeleine de Rouffignac, Huguenots who escaped to England, their first known address near Hitchin in1687, almost until the present day.
    He has made very clear family trees and written a history of the family from this time which can, perhaps give some clarity and new information. I am very happy to copy this and send it to you.
    My father was Richard Richards Bath (III), born in Penzance in 1918 and died in Hampshire in 1998. His father, Richard Richards Bath (II), married Jane de Rouffignac (Jinnie) from Newlyn, (St Peter’s Hill). Here’s hoping this will be of some interest to you.
    Kind regards
    Jane Bath


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