Family & Ancestry


The Rutherfurd Name

Q. Rutherfurd is your writing name, but also a family name.

A. Yes. In fact, if you could look at my genetic make-up, you'd find all these individual foot - soldiers genes, and then this tribal group of Rutherfurd genes ganging up on them. That's because my Rutherfurd ancestors kept marrying their cousins, reinforcing their genetic claim, so to speak. Whatever small talent I may possess, I attribute entirely to the inbreeding of the Rutherfurds in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries!

Q. Why the strange spelling?

A. Rutherford is the most usual of the many spellings of the name. It's all the same family. And in the past people were often inconsistent in how they spelt even their own names. But for some reason the branch of the family from which my ancestors came spelt their name, fairly consistently from the eighteenth century, with a U instead of an O.

Q. And you think your writing talent comes from the Rutherfurds.

A. We still know so little about the relationship between our abilities and our genes, but I think it's likely there's a Rutherfurd writing gene of some kind. There seems to have been a double family relationship between my Rutherfurd ancestors and the writer Sir Walter Scott, though his mother's name is usually spelled Rutherford. Some of Scott's plots are actually based upon Rutherfurd family stories. My grandmother, who strongly exhibited the Rutherfurd family traits, was a prolific popular novelist in the 1930s. Some of her natural facility seems to have been passed down to me.

Did You Know?
In Manhattan in the early to mid nineteenth century, scores of pigs roamed the streets – about 20,000 of them at peak population in the early 1820’s, a ratio of roughly one pig to every five humans ! Many of them belonged to families. The city was quickly growing in the nineteenth century – in population and wealth disparity. Despite rapid urbanization, non-wealthy New Yorkers continued raising hogs as a means of surviving. A family could always slaughter one of its pigs to feed itself, or sell one of them since pork was a staple of the American diet. Why pigs? Other animals weren’t quite so compatible with urban life. People could let their pigs wander the streets, rummage through trash for the piles of spoiled food that was left out on the street during the day, and count on them to return home in the evening !




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