Russell Surname Meaning and Family History

man with red hair or a ruddy complexion

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Russell is a common patronymic surname derived from the given name "Rousel," old French for someone with red hair or a ruddy complexion.

Russell is the 93rd most popular surname in the United States and England, and the 47th most common surname in Scotland.

  • Surname origin: English, Scottish, Irish
  • Alternate surname spellings: Russel, Rusell, Roussell, Ruessell, Roussel, Ruessel 

Famous People With the Surname

  • Robert C. Russell - Inventor of the Soundex system for indexing names by the way they sound
  • James Russell - Invented the compact disk (CD) in 1965

Where Is This Surname Most Common?

According to surname distribution data from Forebears, the Russell surname is among the top 100 most common surnames in a number of countries, including The Bahamas (15th), Scotland (60th), Australia (68th), New Zealand (72nd), the United States (87th), England (90th), and Jamaica (91st). In England, the name is most commonly found in the southwestern counties—Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, and Surrey.

WorldNames PublicProfiler identifies Australia as the country where the Russell surname is most common today, as well as in Scotland, particularly in South and North Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Falkirk, and Clackmannan.

Genealogy Resources

  • Russell family crest: Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Russell family crest or coat of arms for the Russell surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.
  • Russell family genealogies: Links to descendant genealogies for a number of early Russell families in the United States.
  • Russell family genealogy forum: Search this popular genealogy forum for the Russell surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Russell query.
  • FamilySearch - Russell genealogy: Explore over 5.6 million historical records which mention individuals with the Russell surname, as well as online Russell family trees on this free website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • GeneaNet Russell records: GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Russell surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.
  • The Russell genealogy and family tree: Browse family trees and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the last name Russell from the website of Genealogy Today.


  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Russell Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, September 18). Russell Surname Meaning and Family History. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Russell Surname Meaning and Family History." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).