Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,766 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

9,365 total views, 9 views today


Cruwys, Cruise and Cruse


About the study

My name is Debbie Kennett. I started researching my family history in 2001, and soon developed a particular interest in my own rather unusual and rare maiden name of Cruwys. I originally set out to try and prove if we were related to the Cruwys family of Cruwys Morchard, but I soon realised that quite by accident I was to all intents and purposes doing a one-name study. I registered the Cruwys surname with the Guild in January 2006.  As the research progressed it was clear that the study would need to be broadened to include other variant spellings. Cruse was added as a registered variant in November 2007, and Cruise was added in September 2011. My research on the Cruse surname builds on the hard work of David Cruse who had researched the surname for more than 30 years and passed on his research to me when he was no longer able to continue with his work.

Frederick and Emma Cruwys, Debbie's great-grandparents, and their four sons (from left to right) Tom, Frank, Bob and Herbert

Variant names

Variants include: Creuse, Crewce, Crewes, Crewis, Crewiss, Crews, Crewse, Crewys, Croose, Crowse, Cruce, Crues, Cruese, Cruice, Cruis, Cruize, Crus, Cruse, Cruss, Crusse, Cruwes, Cruys, Cruyse, Cruze, Crwys, Curse, Cuss, De Cruce, De Crues, De Cruese, De Cruis, De Cruice, De Cruise, De Cruize, De Cruse, De Cruze, De Cruys, Screws, Scruse, Scuce, Scuse and Skuse.

A deviant spelling is an unorthodox spelling which can be the result of a clerical error or a mistranscription error and which is not a true surname. A list of all known deviant spellings of the surname Cruwys discovered to date can be found here.

A list of all known deviant spellings (transient clerical errors) of the surname Cruse discovered to date can be found here.

Name origin

There is an old Devon rhyme, quoted by Sir John Prince in his book  The Worthies of Devon, first published in 1701, which testifies to the longevity of the Cruwys surname:

'Crocker, Cruwys, and Coplestone, When the Conqueror came, were at home.'

There is however no evidence whatsoever to support the theory of a pre-Conquest pedigree and it seems most likely that the surname arrived in England in the middle of the twelfth century either from Normandy or, more probably, from Flanders. There is a place in Belgium known as Kruis or Cruys and a place by the name of Creus-Anisy in Normandy. Cruis is also the name of a commune in France. The earliest mention of the name in English records found to date is in about 1160 when Ottuel de Crues of Netherexe attested the Colne charters. The earliest document in the family records is known as the Tracy Deed which is believed to date from the beginning of the 13th century, if not earlier. Two of the witnesses to this deed are Richard de Cruwes and Alexander de Cruwes. The family gave its name to the parish of Cruwys Morchard, near Tiverton, in North Devon, where they have been Lords of the Manor for almost nine hundred years from the twelfth century to the present day. The family also at one time held the manors of Rackenford and East Anstey in Devon. These parishes were formerly known as Rackenford Cruwys and Anstey Cruwys.

The earliest reference in Irish records dates from 1229 when 'Philippum de Cruce' of Dublin was mentioned in the Patent Rolls. The surname is thought to have arrived in Ireland around the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, and DNA evidence suggests that the Irish Cruises are related to the Cruwyses of Devon. In early Irish records the name is mostly spelt Cruys but in more recent times the spelling changed to Cruise.

The surname is possibly derived from the Norman word  cruz  meaning 'cross'. The Welsh word for cross is  crwys but is a less likely origin as it is pronounced crewiss whereas the Devon surname has always been pronounced cruise. In early records the name was usually spelt Cruwes, Cruys, or Crues. The present-day spelling Cruwys is a curious hybrid of these early spellings. The Cruwys spelling was used consistently in the Cruwys Morchard parish registers from the 1680s onwards. Elsewhere in Devon the Cruwys spelling began to be used from the 1790s onwards. By the beginning of civil registration in 1837 the spelling had stabilised and Cruwys was the usual spelling throughout the country. However, the name was often mis-spelt and can be difficult to locate in official records, particularly in census indexes.

Historical occurrences of the name

The following is a list of people with the surname who have left their mark in history:

  • Robertus de Cruwes was a Member of Parliament for the county of Devon in 1340 and 1344.
  • Sir Robert Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard was knighted for his valiant service in France in the Hundred Years War. He served under Walter, Lord Mauny, probably fighting at the Battle of Crecy on 26th August 1346 and the Battle of Poitiers on 19th September 1356. He reputedly restored the family estate with the spoils of war. He died in 1362.
  • Sir John Cruys held 160 acres of land in Thorncastle, County Dublin, Ireland. In 1391 he was given a grant for life to be discharged from payment of his rent 'in consideration of the great inconveniences he sustains by the premises being so near to the king's Irish rebels that they are frequently burned and destroyed, and of his good service in the wars there'.
  • Willielmus Crwys was a Member of Henry VI's Parliament in 1449, representing the borough of Tavistock.
  • Sir Thomas Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard fought on the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses under the Earl of Devon. He survived the Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, reputedly the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, and received a Royal Pardon from Edward IV. His Deed of Pardon is still held in the family archives. Sir Thomas then fought in the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4th May 1471 dying just over a week later on 12th May 1471. It is not known if he died of wounds sustained in the battle or if he was one of the men who sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey and who were subsequently beheaded.
  • Mary Cruwys, the eldest daughter of Richard Cruwys of Wycroft Castle, Devon, married William Churchill of Muston, Dorset, some time before 1511. They are the ancestors of the prominent Churchill family from Dorset. Their descendants include the Duke of Marlborough, Sir William Churchill and Princess Diana.
  • John Cruys, gent, was the Member of Parliament for Liskeard Borough in 1555.
  • Cornelius Cruys (1655-1727) was Vice Admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy and the first commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet. He was half-Norwegian and half-Dutch. He was born as Niels Olsen (Olufsen) but changed his name when he moved to Amsterdam.
  • Lieutenant Robson Cruse (1785-1831) served in the Royal Navy and participated in the first Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 and the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805.
  • George Cruse (1818-1878) served with the King's 1st Royal Dragoons Cavalry Regiment in the Crimean War, and wrote an eye-witness account of the Charge of the Light Brigade. He fought at the battle of Balaclava and the siege of Sebastapol.
  • Thomas Cruse (1857-1843), a brigadier general in the United States Army, was awarded the Medal of Honor 'for distinguished gallantry in action with hostile Indians' in August 1882. He was also awarded the Indian Campaign Medal and the Philippine Campaign Medal.
  • Margaret Campbell Speke Cruwys (1894-1968) was a respected archivist and local historian, who is best known as the author of  A Cruwys Morchard Notebook 1066-1874. She was the Editor of  Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries  for more than thirty years and served both as Secretary and President of the Devonshire Association. She was Scottish by birth, the daughter of Alexander Houghton Abercrombie, an officer in the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, but moved to Devon in 1917 when she married Lewis George Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard House. The Cruwys family is fortunate to have a large collection of some 1,700 deeds and documents relating to the affairs of the estate dating back to c. 1200. The earliest charters from 1200 to 1552 were calendared by Dr Oliver in about 1791 but the remaining documents were left untouched until Margaret discovered the collection in 1926 'in various old carriage boxes and tin trunks, sandwiched between parts of four-poster beds, butterfly specimen boxes, globes, pictures of family picnics, eighteenth-century waistcoats, medicine chests, wig stands, peacock-feathered screens, croquet hoops and similar treasure trove in the Victorian box room'. She began the monumental task of translating, cataloguing and indexing the collection, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in 1950 in recognition of her work. She is remembered with great affection by the people of Cruwys Morchard.
  • Flying Officer 135442 Gerald Herbert Cruwys (1921-1944) was a navigator in the Royal Air Force in World War II. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palme by General de Gaulle and the Free French government for his work with the French Resistance during his time with 161 Squadron at RAF Tempsford. He transferred to Bomber Command (Pathfinder Force 8) in October 1943 joining 97 Squadron at RAF Bourn. He survived Black Thursday (16/17 December 1943) and completed a further 11 operations with 97 Squadron before moving to 235 Squadron at Downham Market in March 1944. He died on 20th April 1944 on an operation to bomb rail installations in Belgium when his Lancaster was shot down by a German nightfighter.
  • Jill Cruwys (1943-1990) played cricket for England.
  • John Howard Cruse (1908-1979) was a former Bishop of Knaresborough (1965-1972)
  • Tom Cruise (b.1962), Hollywood actor
  • The Cruse family is a well-known French wine-merchant family from the Bordeaux region of France. Family members also own several renowned wine estates.

Name frequency

There were 497 people with the surname Cruwys whose births were registered in England and Wales between 1837 and 2004. In the same period there were 384 marriages and 434 deaths. The name is often spelt incorrectly in the GRO indexes. I have records of an additional 28 births, 24 marriages and 25 deaths with variant spellings such as Crewys, Creuwys, Cruyes, Crunys, Crute, Cruyws, Crvwys, Crys, Crwys, Crwes, Cruyse, Cruys, Cruwyd and Creuse though the extraction of mis-spellings is by no means complete. Cruys is possibly a surname in its own right but the remaining variants are virtually all mistranscriptions. There was just one Cruwys marriage in Scotland.

At the time of the 2002 UK electoral register there were 126 people with the surname Cruwys living in the British Isles in the following counties and countries: Avon and Bristol, Devon, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, London, Middlesex, Norfolk, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The second largest concentration of the surname is in Australia, where the name is mostly to be found in New South Wales. There were 54 Cruwys marriages in New South Wales between 1788 and 1955, 26 births between 1788 and 1905 and 63 deaths between 1788 and 1975. There are 36 people with the surname Cruwys listed in the current Australian telephone directory.

The surname is also found in America, Canada and Ireland with a few occurrences in France and Belgium. The censuses are not a reliable indicator of the frequency of the surname as the name is commonly mis-transcribed and is therefore under-represented. For instance, there are a number of Crumps who are Cruwyses in disguise and the transcribers have invented a variety of weird and wonderful surnames such as Brewys, Cenings, Coneys, Cravys, Creewys, Cremeys, Crenny, Crinorp, Crmoys, Crowys, Crucoys, Cruings, Cruloys, Crumys, Crungs, Crusoys, Cruroys, Crurvys, Crwoys, Cumys, Gruwys and Ommps. An initial attempt at analysing the distribution of the surname in the 1881 census can be found here.

Distribution of the name

The surname Cruwys (and variants) was firmly planted in North Devon in the twelfth century. It seems likely that everyone with the surname shares a common ancestry. A branch of the family appears to have settled in Ireland, probably at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. Sir Hugh de Cruys was knighted on 6th February 1279 for his good service in the Irish wars and given certain demesnes in Ireland. Robert de Cruys of Nalle, County Meath, who died in 1292, held tenements at Nalle, Ardmays, Cruys, and Moderath. The arms of the Irish Cruys family share many features in common with those of the Devon family. Another branch had settled in Fotheringay, Northamptonshire, by the sixteenth century. From Devon the surname spread mainly into Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, London and Wales. The following map shows the distribution of the Cruwys surname in Great Britain in the 1881 census.

The distribution of the Cruwys surname in Great Britain in the 1881 census. (Map produced from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD.)

The largest migration from Devon occurred from the 1840s onwards with families settling principally in Bristol, London and Wales. William George Cruwys (1821-1873) from Burrington in Devon emigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada, and married Sarah Burrows in 1848. Some of their descendants settled in Massachusetts, USA. Virtually everyone in America and Canada with the surname Cruwys is descended from this one couple. The surname also spread to Australia in the nineteenth century. Nearly all the Cruwyses in Australia are descended from John Cruwys and Elizabeth Prichard who married in 1817 at Westminster, London. Oddly in Australia some of the descendants of this couple pronounce the surname crewiss whereas others use the more usual Devon pronunciation cruise. There are three Cruwyses listed in the current New Zealand White Pages telephone directory.

Cruse has some overlap with the distribution of Cruwys in the south-west of England but is also widely distributed across the whole of the south of England. It has spread into Wales and the Midlands. There is also a strong concentration in Lancashire.

The distribution of the Cruse surname in Great Britain in the 1881 census. (Map produced from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD.)

Cruise is the most common variant spelling in Ireland. In England it has a particularly strong concentration in Lancashire, probably as a result of migration from Ireland. The Cruise surname is also found in the south-west and south-east of England .

The distribution of the Cruise surname in the 1881 census. (Map produced from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD.)

Crewes is a variant of the surname found in Cornwall from the sixteenth century onwards and especially in Liskeard, Gerrans and Probus. The Cornish Crewes are virtually all descended from Anthony Cruwys, the son of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard by his second wife Mary Fraunceys. Anthony married Joanna Bealbury, the daughter of John Bealbury, a wealthy merchant. Anthony died in about 1540 in Liskeard, Cornwall. The Cornish family are already covered in considerable detail by Tom Johns in his booklet  Crewes of South Cornwall and their ancestors in Liskeard, Cornwall and Cruwys Morchard, Devon and are beyond the scope of the present study, though descendants from this line are encouraged to participate in the DNA project (see below). The Gerrans OPC (online parish clerk) has a comprehensive website with transcriptions from the parish registers and some interesting historical material. 

The distribution of the Crewes surname in the 1881 census. (Map produced from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD.)

Crews is a high-frequency surname in the US and is found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia from the seventeenth century onwards. In some branches the spelling changed to Cruse. Cruse is also found in the US in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Because of the high frequency in the US I have not included Crews as one of my registered variants. However, I have amassed a growing collection of records on the American lines and am working with researchers in America to construct the pedigrees of these lines with the aid of results from the DNA project (see below). Paulette Smith provides an excellent account of the genealogy of one of the Crews lines in Virginia on her website.  In Great Britain the surname Crews is found at low frequencies in the south-west of England and in other counties in the south of England. I routinely collect references to the Crews variant in English records.

Cruys is possibly a distinct surname in the Netherlands where it appears from the sixteenth century onwards. For further information on the name in Holland see the posting on the surname Cruys in the Netherlands.


All enquiries are welcome and any information, however trivial, is always gratefully received and acknowledged. The following are some of the resources which are available:

  • A listing of all the occurrences of the surname Cruwys, together with some variant spellings (Cruys and Crowse), from the General Register Office indexes for births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to 2005 inclusive. Please note that for privacy reasons information about living people will not be divulged.
  • A listing of all the occurrences of the surname Cruse from the General Register Office indexes for births from 1837-1940, marriages from 1837-1940 and deaths from 1837-1930.
  • A listing of all occurrences of the surname Cruise, Cruice and variants in the Irish Civil Registration Indexes from 1845-1958.
  • A large collection of census entries from all the British censuses from 1841 to 1901, the Canadian censuses from 1881 to 1911, and the American censuses from 1880 to 1930.
  • Transcriptions of all occurrences of the surname and those of many other associated names from the parish registers of Ashreigney, Burrington, Cruwys Morchard, Mariansleigh and Winkleigh in Devon. Selected transcriptions from many other parishes in Devon.
  • A complete listing of all the marriages in Devon for Cruwys, Crewes, Cruse (and other variants) from the Devon Family History Society's marriage indexes for the period 1754 to 1837.
  • Baptisms and burials for Cruwys and variants for the period 1813-1837 from the Devon Family History Society's indexes. (The indexing is not yet complete but the coverage is now quite comprehensive.)
  • All the entries for Cruse, Crews, Crewes and other variants from the Sussex Marriage Index.
  • A large collection of parish register transcriptions, wills and other items for the surname Cruse (and variants) for the counties of Berkshire and Wiltshire courtesy of David Cruse. I also have a complete list of Wiltshire marriages from the Nimrod Marriage Index and a listing of all references to the surname in the Nimrod Varied Index.
  • A list of all the Cruwys, Cruse, Crews, etc. marriages from Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840.
  • A large collection of newspaper articles including all mentions of the surname in The Times Digital Archive (1785-1985), the London Gazette  (1900-1979) and the  New York Times  (1851-1980).
  • A collection of transcriptions and photocopies from The Public Archives and Records Office in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada (courtesy of Miriam Neill).
  • Copies of all the Inquisitions Post Mortem relating to the Cruwys family in Devon together with those of other associated families such as Whiting/Whyting and Keynes.
  • All occurrences of the surname and some other associated names have been extracted from the following early records: the Calendars of the Patent Rolls 1216-1452, the Feudal Aids 1284-1431, the Devon Lay Subsidy Roll for 1332, the Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls for 1524-1527 and 1543-1545, the Devon Muster Roll for 1569, the Devon Protestation Returns of 1641, and the Devon Hearth Tax Return for Lady Day 1674.
  • The family archives dating back to c. 1200 are still held at Cruwys Morchard House and are not available for public inspection. However, Margaret Cruwys deposited a 171-page booklet (deposit no. 1285) at the Devon Record Office in 1964 which contains abstracts of all the deeds and documents in the collection. She gives lengthy extracts from some of the documents and has provided full transcriptions of some of the Manor Court Rolls. I have a copy of the booklet on microfiche and I am currently in the process of transcribing all the entries.

In addition to the material I have acquired for my Cruwys one-name study I also have a substantial amount of data on some of the other family names which I am researching. These names include: Bodger (Bourn, Cambridgeshire); Boundy (Ashreigney, Devon), Couch (St Giles in the Wood, Devon), Ford (Ashreigney, Devon, and Prince Edward Island, Canada); Dillon (Burrington and Ashreigney, Devon); Faithfull/Faithful (Berkshire, Hampshire, Australia and New Zealand); Kennett (Sussex and Dorset); Tidbury (Berkshire and Hampshire); Trask (Merriott, Somerset, and London); Underwood (Boxworth, Cambridgeshire); Westcott (North Molton, Devon); Wiggins (Clapham, Lewisham and Sydenham); Woolfenden/Wolfenden (Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire).


The DNA project was set up on 26th September 2007 and is providing new insights into the origins, evolution and distribution of the surname. We have already had some exciting matches linking together trees from different continents. The project currently has over 100 participants from nine different countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Thailand and America). The DNA project has a wider scope than the one-name study. Participation is invited from any male bearers of the surnames Crew, Crewe, Crewes, Crews, Cruce, Cruise, Cruse, Cruze, Cruwys, Cruys, Cruze, Cuss, Krause, Kruse, Screws, Scruse, etc.

For further details about the DNA project visit the official project website. You can read about some of our success stories here. For a brief introduction to DNA testing you can read my introductory article 'Is the answer in your genes?' which was published in the Berkshire Family Historian. You can also watch my presentation on DNA for Beginners that I gave at the Genetic Genealogy conference in Dublin, Ireland, in October 2014. 


I set up the Cruwys News blog in January 2007 where I publish news items and stories of interest from my one-name study as well as general articles on the subject of DNA testing.

You can follow me on both Twitter and Google+.


Chromosomes, Conquerors and Castles: DNA and the Cruise/Cruse/Cruwys One-Name  Study - my presentation at Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013

Cruwys one-name study presentation on Slideshare - my presentation given at the Guild's DNA Seminar in February 2010.

Mailing lists and discussion groups

Other links

Pictures of Cruwys Morchard from Geograph

A growing collection of wills, newspaper articles and other items has been transcribed and published online, mostly on the pages of Genuki Devon. The largest collection can be found on the Cruwys Morchard page.

Other published items (listed in chronological order) include:

  • The will of John Ackelande Esquire of Landkey (1538) (John Acland's second wife was Mary Cruwys nee Fraunceys)
  • The will of Gilbert Crewes of Gerrans, Cornwall (1614)
  • The will of Susann Cruse of Winkleigh (1648)
  • The will of Francis Colman, gentleman of Tiverton (1650) (Francis Colman was the husband of Bridget Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard)
  • The will of Mary Cruse, wife of Winkleigh (1655)
  • The will of Henry Cruwys of Hillersdon, Cullompton (1760)
  • The will of Jane Cruwys Widow of Hillersdon, Cullompton (1765)
  • Transcription of a tripartite indenture dated 12th October 1770 between John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard, Thomas Putt and Samuel Newte of the first part, Charles Evelyn of Totnes and Philippa his wife of the second part and William Mann yeoman of Broadhempston of the third part
  • The will of Dorothy Dillon, widow, of Burrington (1812) (Dorothy Dillon's eldest daughter, who was also called Dorothy, married John Cruwys on 6th June 1779 in Ashreigney, Devon)
  • John Cruwys and the stolen cow (1848)
  • William Cruwys and Maria Westacott and the stolen blankets (1871)
  • The last will and testament of William Cruwys of Prince Edward Island, Canada (1873)
  • The tragic death of Herbert Cruwys of Witheridge (1891)