Select Todd Surname Genealogy

The Scots and Middle English tod of northern origin means "fox."  The word cropped up in the 14th century writings of Wycliffe.  This was Beatrix Potter's description in The Tale of Mr. Tod:

"Nobody could call Mr. Tod "nice."  The rabbits could not bear him; they could smell him half a mile off.  He was of a wandering habit and he had foxey whiskers; they never knew where he would be next."

As a surname, Todd would be a nickname for someone resembling a fox, either by his slyness or cunning or by his red hair, or he could be a fox hunter.  Todhunter means fox hunter.  Todd is both an English and a Scottish surname.  DNA testing suggests that the English Todds tended to be of European descent, whilst the Scots Todds were Nordic.

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Select Todd Ancestry

England.  Todd only really appears in England as a surname in the north (instead of the Fox surname to be found in the midlands and the south).  The earliest surname reference appears to have been a Richard Todd in the 1231 Northumberland rolls.  

Yorkshire.  John Todde was High Sheriff of York in 1390 and Sir William Todd held the same office in 1487.  A Todd family from Pontefract in Yorkshire included Christopher and Grace Todd who were among the early New England settlers in 1638 in New Haven colony. 

Many Yorkshire Todds were seafarers and sea captains.  The Todds of Fylingdales near Whitby date from the 1650ís and were very much part of the Whitby seafaring community for the next 150 years.  Charles Todd used to sail out with the Whitby whaling ships in the 1750's. 

William Todd was born in Kirby Overblow near Harrogate in 1761 and later made his home in Hull.  Meanwhile the Todds of Swanland near Hull claimed that they could trace their ancestry back to 1625.  They were the principal landowners and benefactors to the village during the 19th century, in fact until they sold Swanland Hall in 1926.

Scotland.  Todd was at first a Border name.  James Todd, for instance, was the laird of Dunbar in the late 1600's who met an untimely end.  Another Todd family has traced itself back to Skaithmuir near Coldstream in the late 1700's.

However, hard times on the Borders brought about an out-migration:
  • to Glasgow in Lanarkshire where the Todds of Easter Haghill were to be found
  • and across the Irish Sea to Ulster where Scots Presbyterians were being granted land tenancies. 
Ireland.  Many Todds settled in Antrim and Armagh.  A Todd family acquired Buncrana castle in county Donegal.  William Todd of Buncrana was said to have fought the last fatal duel in Ireland in 1812.  James Henthorn Todd from Dublin was a noted 19th century Irish historian and writer.

A number of these Scots-Irish Todds emigrated to America.  They included descendants of James Todd, the laird of Dunbar, who had settled in Armagh.  A few moved back to Scotland, such as John Todd, a weaver, who travelled the Scots border towns in the 1830's and 1840's in search of work.

America.   Of the nine distinct early families of Todds in America, they divided equally between England, Scotland, and Ireland

The early immigrant Christopher Todd, who arrived in 1639 from Yorkshire, ended up in New Haven, Connecticut (while his first cousin John settled in Rowley, Massachusetts).  Christopher's descendants later spread across America.   They included Rev. James Doeg Todd, a Presbyterian minister in Johnstown, Wisconsin.  From this line came a New Jersey political dynasty:
  • it started with John R. Todd, who helped build Rockefeller Center
  • and continued to Webster B. Todd and his daughter, Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001.
A Todd family was one of the first to establish a farmstead, later called Todd's Inheritance, along Chesapeake Bay.  The following is the historical marker at the site:

"Thomas Todd settled here from Gloucester County, Virginia in 1664.  The homestead has remained in the Todd famly for more than three centuries.  The 17th century brick house was burned by British soldiers in 1814 as they withdrew from an unsuccessful assault on Baltimore.  The house was rebuilt on the site in 1816 and remodelled in 1867."

There is a telescope surviving from these times which was used, it was believed, to spy on British vessel movements during the War of 1812.

Another early arrival was Joseph Todd.  He came to Pennsylvania where he died in 1699.  His descendants moved onto North Carolina and then in 1797 undertook the trek to Kentucky, settling in Madison County.

Mary Todd's ancestry was said to include:
  • the Scots Covenanter James Todd who had fought and lost at Bothwell Bridge in 1679
  • and the Scots-Irish Robert and Andrew Todd who had come to Pennsylvania in 1737.
Kentucky.  Their Todd descendants moved onto Kentucky where John Todd was killed in one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War (Todd County in Kentucky is named after him). 

Mary Todd herself, who married Abraham Lincoln in Illinois in 1842, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky.  Kentucky at that time was one of the four slave states that did not secede from the Union (Lexington being a major slave market for the Deep South).  Mary's own family loyalties were divided at the time of the Civil War.  Some of her relatives supported the Confederate cause; while her cousin John was a Union general (and later a representative for the Dakota territory).

Stephen Todd also came from Kentucky.  But he was a runaway slave who escaped on the underground railway to Indiana and thence with his wife to Remus, Michigan.   In 1983, at a Todd family reunion, six Todd women began a quilting project to commemmorate their family history.

Canada.  Canadian Todds, like American Todds, originated from England, Scotland and Ireland.  William and Elizabeth Todd arrived from Roxburgh on the Scottish borders in 1827 and headed for Quebec. 

In 1816 Dublin-born William Todd had gone out to Canada to work for the Hudson Bay Company, as surgeon and later as trader, in the Red River colony in Manitoba.  He married two and possibly three times.

"At York factory in 1824, Dr. Todd took Elizabeth Dennet, half-breed daughter of William Dennet, to wife by "the custom of the country."  Together for seventeen years until her death in 1845, they raised a family of twelve, nine of whom survived to adulthood.  In 1849, Dr. Todd married Jane Johnstone and at the ripe old age of 65 fathered two more children."

Todd's descendants are to be found in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  John Todd, the last of Saskatchewan's long-trail men, died in 1943 at the age of eighty seven.

Another Todd who headed west was the Englishman James Todd.  He was one of the first settlers in Barnhartvale, British Columbia in 1865.  He had gone west to California during the Gold Rush but, being unsuccessful, had headed north.

Australia and New Zealand.  Todds started to move to Australia and New Zealand as the 19th century proceeded.  Thomas and Elizabeth Todd, for instance, set sail for South Australia in the 1850's.  Alexander and Jane Todd arrived in New Zealand in 1849 and settled in Dunedin. 

Perhaps the most successful of these immigrants was Charles Todd who arrived in 1885.  He started off with a rural goods store in Otago, got into automobiles and petrol stations, and built up the Todd Corporation to the large New Zealand energy company it is today.
Select Todd Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Todd Names

Sir William Todd was High Sheriff of York in 1487 and later Lord Mayor.
Mary Todd Lincoln was the wife of Abraham Lincoln.
Sweeney Todd was the fictional Victorian barber and serial killer, recreated in a Broadway musical and film.
Alexander Todd from Glasgow was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1957.
Mark Todd is the New Zealand horseman voted "Rider of the 20th Century" by the International Equestrian Association.

Select Todds Today
  • 31,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 29,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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