Select Wade Surname Genealogy

The Wade name in Yorkshire seems to have come from the Nordic myth of Wada, a legendary sea giant. Many of the sites attributed there to Wade were in areas that were settled by the Danish Vikings. 

Outside of Yorkshire, Wade may have come from the Anglo Saxon wad, meaning a meadow for animals to feed, but more likely from wadan, meaning a ford or crossing and describing someone who lived near a ford.  

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England.  The Wade name has cropped up in Yorkshire and also, to a lesser extent, in London and the west country.

Yorkshire  Wades have always been numerous in Yorkshire, it is thought from the Saxon Duke Wada.  He is said to have given his name to Wade's Castle (Mulgrave Castle near Whitby) and to Wade's Grove, although the latter was more of a size with the legendary giant who gave his name to Wade's Causeway. 

"In the midst of the bleak beauty of the Yorkshire wolds and the Cumberland dales, you will find a hamlet called Kilnsea.   Here, not many miles from Whalley, where Duke Wada was defeated, and in the heart of that wild Northumbria, where folk stories of Wada were numerous and curious, were early settled the Wade family."

The Wade (or Waad) name dates here from 1379 in poll tax records.  They were first established at Plumtreebanks in Addington and then, after the dissolution of the monasteries, at Kilsnea.  But they lost out in the Civil War by being Royalist supporters and their fortunes never really recovered. 

From this family came Armagil Wade, the Elizabethan voyager to Newfoundland in 1536 on The Minion, and his son, Sir William, the governor of the Tower of London at the time of the Gunpowder plot.  They were not universally liked.  "That busybody Wade and that beast Waad" was one description.  Sir Walter Raleigh, who had been imprisoned in the Tower, called its governor "that villain Wade."

London  There were early Wade sightings in London.  John Wade was a sheriff and alderman of London in the 1390's.  He appears on subsidy rolls as "J. Wadeblad."  The name cropped up later in Essex, Suffolk, and Oxford.

SW England.  A Wade presence in Cornwall dates back to 1313 when a man named Wade was granted a market and two fairs in the manor of Pawton.  The Wade bridge was built across the river Camel in 1460 and Wadebridge became an important town for local wool merchants and sheep farmers.

Wades were recorded as holding lands at various places around Bristol in the 14th century.  Later Wades at Filton near Bristol included John Wade, a major in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War, and his son Nathaniel, a plotter and conspirator who somehow managed to escape from being executed.

A Cornish Wade family lived at Trethevy Court in Tintagel.  They included Arthur Wade, mayor of Tintagel in 1775.  However, the 19th century represented bad times for Cornwall.  Trethevy Court is but a ruin today and most of the Wades have emigrated, to Canada, America, or Australia

Wales.  The first references to Wades in Pembrokeshire come in the early 1600's. 

In the mid 19th century, there were
John Wade running the Blacksmith's Arms in Pembroke; James Wade spinning his stories there (he was one of the region's best known story tellers); and Frank Wade organizing the musical entertainment for the area.  His shop front proclaimed a company of organ builders and musical instrument dealers, but his actual business might have been something more modest than that.
Ireland.  The Wades who had fought with Cromwell in Ireland benefited from the subsequent land grab, William Wade with Kilawally in West Meath and Henry Wade with Clonebraney in Meath:
  • the Kilawally Wades produced General George Wade who was instrumental in crushing the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and later supervised the new road system for the Highlands. 
  • the Wade presence in Clonebraney continued until 1911.  But the place is now just a ruin.

America.  Wades in America could be of English, Irish, Dutch or German descent.

Virginia  Various English Wades arrived in Virginia in the 1630's, William Wade on the St. Christopher, Edward and Robert Wade on the Paul, and John Wade on the Constance.  Edward's descendants later migrated to Tennessee and Georgia. 

John Wade came to Virginia sometime in the 1740's.  His descendants settled in Ohio.  Walter Gingery's 1918 book Wade Family History covered the line of Wenman and Margaret Wade.

Other Wades from Virginia can be traced to Kentucky, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Missouri, and Texas.  Some of these Wades became Waids.  David Wade was an early settler in Texas.  Although he himself died of an accident in 1858, his Wade family lived on in Fayetteville. 

Elsewhere  Another Wade line started with Benjamin Wade on Long Island in the 1650’s and migrated to New Jersey and later to Seneca county in upstate New York.  Jephtha Wade was born there in 1811, the youngest of nine children.  His father died soon afterwards and he left home at the age of twelve for a series of apprenticeships.  In 1847, he acquired his first job in the telegraph industry.  He would make his fortune in this field over the next twenty years, eventually forming the Western Union Telegraph Company.

Wades in the Revolutionary War  Irish-born William Wade fought on the British side.  His cocked hat, pierced by an American musket ball at the Battle of Bunker Hill, has been kept and is held by one of his descendants.  Whilst in New York, William fell for Ann Dean, one of the belles of the city, and resigned his commission.  Their daughter Frances was also a famous beauty.  A miniature of her, painted by Edward Greene Mabone, still exists.

There were Wades on the American side.  Daniel Wade's property in New Jersey was taken and destroyed by British troops in 1780.  Another Wade, James Wade, fought against the British from Bunker Hill to the final victory at Yorktown.  He was a dirt poor farmer after the war.  But one of his sons Benjamin Wade, who started off as a laborer on the Erie Canal, studied law and eventually rose to be the Senator for Ohio.  A vocal radical Republican, he was actively involved in national politics before and after the Civil War.

Other Wades  The Wades in America came not just from England, but from Holland and Germany as well.  The name here originated from very different roots, the Middle Dutch or German wade meaning garment or large net.  These immigrants left their own distinctive marks. 

A New World Dutch barn stands on the Wade farm property in Readington, New Jersey.  Sylvanus Wade and his family were early immigrants into Wisconsin.  Their Wade House Stagecoach Inn, built in 1850 in Sheboygan on Lake Michigan's western shore, now exists as a museum to their way of life.

Caribbean.  Solomon Wade came to St. Kitts in the 1840's and built up a thriving business there around sugar plantations.  He married his black housekeeper Mary James in 1855 and they raised six children.  The family connection with St. Kitts extended to his grandson Charles Paget Wade who lived in St. Kitts until his death in 1956.

Other prominent Wades in the Caribbean have been locally-born, in Montserrat and Bermuda:

  • Wally Wade came from nothing in Montserrat to develop an inter-Caribbean shipping and trading business in the 1930's.  Later Wades of the family left Montserrat, most notably Tony Wade who, against all odds, became a successful black entrepreneur in 1950's Britain. 
  • while in 2007 the Bermuda airport was renamed the L. Frederick Wade airport in honor of the former Bermuda PLP leader.
Australia.  Mary Wade was only eleven in 1790 when she was transported as a convict to Australia on "that floating brothel," the Lady Juliana.  She lived first in the Norfolk Island penal colony and then at a place near the Hawkesbury river.  Here she raised a family which numbered twenty one children. 

She is in fact credited with being the matriarch of one of the largest families in the world.  They grew to include five generations and over 300 descendants during her lifetime and many thousands today, including the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.   A group compiled the book, Mary Wade to Us: A Family History," in 1986.

Select Wade Miscellany

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

Select Wade Names

Armagil Wade was the Elizabethan voyager who reached Newfoundland in 1536.
General George Wade was the pacifier of the Highlands after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.
Benjamin Wade was the radical Republican Senator for Ohio from 1851 to 1869.
Jephtha Wade founded Western Union Telegraph in 1861 and later became a benefactor to his adopted city of Cleveland.
Virginia Wade won the Wimbledon ladies' tennis championship in 1977. 

Abdoulaye Wade, whose forebears were Wolof slave traders, is a recent President of Senegal.

Select Wades Today
  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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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