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About the study
I started investigating my family history in 1986 and soon discovered that Rugman was a fairly rare surname so I decided to collect all Rugman data and joined the Guild in 1987. I have constructed trees, all in the south of England, with 2,348 individuals including 768 Rugmans. I have been contacted by a few people around the world who have Rugman ancestors and to date I have been able to connect them to one of the Rugman trees and have given them their branch of the tree.
There are few variants of the the name and not many of each variant so these are probably mis-spellings. Rugmand, Rogeman, Rougman and Ruggman are registered variants with the Guild.
Sadly, I still do not know the origin of the name. One obvious meaning, given by some surname dictionaries is 'a rug dealer' but being a rare surname I would have thought that the name would be more common to have this meaning and from researches to date there appears to be only one or two sources at most. I have not found any rug dealers with the name Rugman. In the 'Penguin Dictionary of Surnames', Rugman is described as an old English name and the definition is given as 'dweller on the ridge'. If this is correct, I am surprised again that the name is not more common. I am not dismissing any of these meanings but I have yet to be convinced.
I am probably the only Rugman that has any connection to Rugs. Rugs were originally tapestries that were hung on walls and later used to upholster chairs, sofas and stools. I was a furniture designer for over 40 years, specialising in upholstered furniture.
Historical occurrences of the name
The earliest record of the name was Thomas Rugman (Rugmayn - spelling was "casual") at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. There was a Rugman's Row in St. Bartholomew's the Great, London as part of Cloth Fair in the 17th century. Rugman's row narrowly escaped the Great Fire of London and the blitz of WW2 and is still standing today. See my ONS website, as in the links section below, for photos, maps and more detail.
Distribution of the name
On the 1881 and 1901 censuses, there are more Rugmans in Gloucestershire than in the rest of the UK put together. There were only 214 Rugmans living in England and Wales and none in Scotland in 1881. Over half, 120, were living in Gloucestershire. In 1901 there were only 262 Rugmans living in England and Wales and again none in Scotland. 154 lived in Gloucestershire.
In 2007 I started a DNA surname project with DNA Heritage but to date there have been too small a number of results to draw any conclusions. Male volunteers are urgently needed to continue the project. See my website, link as below, for more details.