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In this project “Cumming” stands for a number of closely related surnames distributed across Scotland, England and Ireland, and places settled by migrants from those countries.  Similar names are found in France, Belgium and other parts of western Europe, though it can’t be said for certain that they share a common origin. Common variants include Cumming, Cummings, Cummins, Cummine, Cuming, Cumyn, Comyn.  In Ireland, the names Commons and Common could also be connected.  And in France, Belgium, Spain and Italy, the surname Comin could be related.

The most common variant in the UK is CUMMING, which is strongly connected to Scotland and is seen as a Scottish clan name, found around the north-eastern Scottish counties of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Banff, Nairn and Inverness-shire.  In Scotland the name is connected to the dynastic family of COMYN, powerful magnates in the country in the 13th century and up to the Wars of Independence.  The Comyns are thought by many to have been Normans who came to England with the Conqueror and were given land and titles by Scottish kings until they became the dominant dynasty.  In 1306, John “the Red Comyn” was murdered in a church in Dumfries by Robert Bruce, who then smashed the power of the Comyns in the north-east.  Later, Cumming families re-emerged as a powerful clan in the north-east of Scotland, where the name is still widely distributed.

Some claim that the original Comyns came from Normandy with the Conqueror and claim Robert de COMINES, briefly made earl of Northumberland by William, as the original founder.  Black’s Surnames of Scotland says there is no evidence to support this view, nor that the later Comyns descended from him.  Comines was then in Flanders, and is now on the Belgian/French border.  This would make Cumming (etc) a locative surname in origin.  Another place name that has been suggested for its origin is the village of Bosc-Bénard-Commin in Normandy.  Name variants such as Comin, Commin or Comines are found across Belgium and France today.

Cumming and Cummins look similar and are often found as interchangeable variants in the USA or other places outside of Europe where the name was carried to, but in Ireland CUMMINS is by far the most common variant.  Around 1850 the Griffiths survey found 843 families named Cummins, compared with 72 Cumming.  There were also 360 named Commons and 150 Commins – probably all spelling variations of a single original Irish name (figures from John Grenham’s Irish Ancestors).  Grenham proposes that the original Irish name was Ó CUIMÍN, derived from an Old Irish personal name Comán. Ó Cuimín means grandson or descendant of Comán, and the -s in Cummins, Commons etc. carries the same meaning in the Anglicised names as the Ó in the Irish.  This could also be the origin for some surname bearers in Gaelic-speaking Scotland. Scottish Cumming and Cummings are also found in the northern parts of Ireland, carried in by Scottish settlers.