Dodd Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Dodd Surname Meaning

The medieval personal name Dodde or Dudde, in frequent use until the 14th century, was the source of the Dodd surname. The name may come from a Germanic root used to describe something round and lumpish – hence a short, plump man. It appeared early, before the Norman conquest. Aelfweard Dudd was recorded in the early charters of Hampshire around 1030.

Dodd and Dodds are the main surname variants. Dodd is more numerous today.

Dodd Surname Resources on The Internet

Dodd and Dodds Surname Ancestry

  • from Northern England and Wales
  • to Ireland, America, Canada and Australia

England.  The surnames Dodd and Dodds have somewhat different geographic origins.

NE England. Dodds was an English border name. Seventy percent of the Dodds in England in the 1891 census in England were to be found in the two counties of Northumberland and Durham.

Dodds in its history has been primarily associated with Northumberland. The Dodds of Northumberland were one of the four major Border clans of North Tynedale. Burbank Peel, a fortified tower on the Tarset Burn near Bellingham, was their ancestral home. Documentary evidence shows the Dodds had already established themselves in that area by the end of the 14th century.

Later the name extended south to Durham and north across the border into Scotland.

NW England. The surname Dod or Dodd, dating back to the 12th century, was first found at Edge near Shropshire and Cheshire on the border with Wales. The Rev. John Dod of Shotwich in Cheshire was a popular preacher, someone born in 1549 who lived on to witness the Civil War.

Since that time this Dodd name has radiated outwards, north into Lancashire, south into Staffordshire, west into Wales, and also further afield.

Elsewhere. One Dodd family traces itself back to William Dodd, a tavern owner in London during the Restoration period. A century or so later there lived in London Robert Dodd, a painter and engraver, and his brother Ralph Dodd, an engineer remembered uncharitably at the time for his failure to build a tunnel under the Thames.

William Dodd from Lincolnshire was an 18th century Anglican clergyman who lived extravagantly. He was nicknamed the “macaroni parson.” In an effort to clear his debts, he dabbled in forgery, was caught, convicted, and, despite a public campaign for a royal pardon, became in 1777 the last person to be hanged at Tyburn for forgery.

Wales. Charles Dodd was a schoolmaster in Wrexham in north Wales in late Victorian times. He had three notable sons who each became highly prominent in their chosen academic field: A.H. Dodd the historian; C.H. Dodd the New Testament scholar and Protestant theologian; and P.W. Dodd the classicist.

Ireland.  The Dodd name was taken to Sligo in the 16th century by a Shropshire family.  Thomas Dodd of Sligo emigrated to Canada in the 1860’s.  Successive members of the Dodd family lived in the Masonic Lodge in Sligo as its caretakers since its opening in 1895.

In Ulster the Gaelic O’Dubhda sept sometimes adopted Dodd as the anglicized form of their name, instead of the more usual Dowd. In 1890 the Dodd name in Ireland was principally to be found in Down and Armagh.  I

America. John Dods was one of Captain John Smith’s original colonists at Jamestown in 1607 and one of only three who were still there in 1623. His descendants in Virginia and West Virginia became Dodsons.

Another Southern Dodd family began with Michael Dodd who was born in Georgia in 1779 but migrated as a young man to Missouri and then to Arkansas. David Dodd of this family was a 17 year old who was tried, convicted and hanged as a Confederate spy in the Civil War during the Union occupation of Little Rock. To Southerners he was the boy martyr and boy hero of Arkansas.

The first Dodd to arrive in New England was probably James Dodd from Sussex, aged sixteen, onboard Winthrop’s vessel the Abigail in 1635. Daniel Dod from Suffolk came to Branford, Connecticut ten years later in 1645. This family name changed to Dodd in the late 18th century.

Irish. Thomas Dodd was born in Connecticut in 1907 from grandparents who had immigrated from Ireland in the 1860’s. He was a lawyer who made his mark in the Nuremburg trials after World War Two and subsequently became Senator of Connecticut. His son Christopher was to serve for five consecutive terms as Connecticut’s Senator.

Canada. Local tradition in Cape Breton has it that Archibald Dodd was born into a wealthy family in Northumberland. But he came to Cape Breton in 1787 to escape a troubled past. Although a divisive man in his manners, he would play a key role as a lawyer and a politician in the early history of Cape Breton, at that time a separate province of Canada. His son and grandson followed in his footsteps.

Australia. William Dodd, a blacksmith from Warwickshire, was an early settler in South Australia, arriving there in 1839. Oral family history recalls that William had wanted to be a preacher but his parents were too poor to support him through ministerial training. Two Dodd family bibles are treasured heirlooms of his descendants in Stansbury, South Australia.

John Dodds came out with his parents from Durham in 1853. They settled in Tasmania and John, who became a lawyer, rose to be the Chief Justice of the colony.

Dodd Surname Miscellany

Northumbrian Origins.  Legend has it that the Dodds were descended from Eilaf, an Anglo-Saxon monk who was one of the carriers of St Cuthbert’s coffin who fled from Lindisfarne at the time of the Viking raids in the 9th century.

It was said that Eilaf pinched some cheese from his fellow monks who prayed that that the culprit be revealed by turning him into a Dodd – a fox.  Prayers were answered and for a short while Eilaf was turned into a fox.  From that day on Eilaf and his descendants were known as Dodd.

Dodd and Dodds in 1891

County (000’s) Dodd Dodds Total
Northumberland    0.8    1.5    2.3
Durham    0.6    2.1    2.7
Yorkshire    0.6    0.5    1.1
Lancashire    2.0    0.2    2.2
Cheshire    1.7    0.1    1.8
Staffordshire    0.9     –    0.9
Elsewhere    6.1    0.6    6.7
Total   12.7    5.0   17.7

Dodd and Dodds Today.  Dodd and Dodds are the main surname variants. Dodd is more numerous today.

Numbers (000’s) Dodd Dodds Total
UK    21    13    34
America    10     3    13
Elsewhere    12     7    19
Total    43    23    66

The Rev. John Dod of Shopwich.  The Rev. John Dod was in his nineties when he suffered the following indignity:

“During the Civil War, the Rev. John Dod dealt with the inhuman treatment of the King’s party who proceeded to rob him of all his possessions except one sheet that he managed to sit on while the King’s men looked for other loot.  He was near death at the time and took glory from having robbed the robbers.”

John Dods of Jamestown.  John Dods was among the original 104 settlers of Jamestown with Captain John Smith in 1607.   He was recorded there as a laborer, aged 18.

While at Jamestown he went to visit Powhatan at Werowocomoco and, during his visit, was said to have built a house for Powhatan.  This house is believed to have been of the same ‘mud and stud’ type of dwelling that has been found at Jamestown and was unique at that time to the area of east Lincolnshire in England.

Dods survived the harsh early years and was recorded in the tax list of James City in 1623.  He was one of only three of the original settlers still alive at that time.  By that time he had married a local Indian woman. They were to have two children, Jesse and William Dodson, and possibly more.  The Dodsons of Virginia and West Virginia trace from this family.

Ralph Dodd and His Thames Projects.  Ralph Dodd, a marine painter turned engineer, was the first in 1799 to promote a tunnel under the Thames. He had in fact two schemes, one to construct a tunnel linking Gravesend and Tilbury and the other to dig a six mile canal across the marshes to the river Medway.

The canal project did proceed and by 1801 some four miles of the canal to Higham had been built.  However, Dodd soon departed the scene and it was not until 1824, some twenty three years later, that the canal was finally completed.  By that time the Napoleonic Wars were long over and the military needs for the canal were no longer there.

Work on the tunnel was started.  But lack of money and flooding meant that the project had to be abandoned.  The project was taken up again by Marc Isambard Brunel and his son in 1824.  It took eighteen years of struggle, using engineering techniques that were at the very limits of available technology at the time, before the tunnel was completed and opened.

Archibald Dodd of Cape Breton and His Family.  In 1775 Archibald Charles Dodd had married in England a woman named Bridget, who, he later claimed, was a bigamist.

She in turn stated that he had left her when her money was gone and that after she had refused his proposals for divorce they had agreed on his paying her an annual allowance.  These payments continued for many years.  However, in 1812 Bridget Dodd resurfaced, claiming that he had deserted her.  She persisted in her suit and even put together a petition in 1818, but nothing came of it.

In 1787 Archibald had left England for Cape Breton in Canada.  One year later, he had married Susannah Gibbons, daughter of the Chief Justice of Cape Breton, and his political career there was underway.  Archibald and Susannah were to have eleven children.

His oldest son, Edmund Murray Dodd, was Sydney township’s first elected representative and later served as a judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.  In turn, his son, Murray Dodd, became a Conservative MP for Sydney and also a judge.  Meanwhile, two of Archibald’s other sons, John and Phillip, became superintendents on Scatarie and Sable islands.  Allison Mitcham’s 1989 book Island Keepers told their story.

Reader Feedback – Allan Dodds.  My father Professor James Allan Dodds was born and raised in Sunderland and still keeps a home there as well as in California. During his life, he became a prominent plant virologist at The University of California, Riverside.  Now his is Professor Emeritus there.  Claire Khajavi.

Dodd Names

  • Lottie Dod was, in 1887, the youngest woman ever to win the Wimbledon ladies tennis championship, at the age of fifteen.
  • Sonora Dodd was responsible for the founding of Father’s Day in America in 1910.
  • Johnny Dodds was an acclaimed jazz clarinetist of the 1920’s.
  • Thomas Dodd was US Senator for Connecticut in the 1950’s during the McCarthy era.
  • Ken Dodd is a popular English comedian from Knotty Ash in Liverpool.

Dodd Numbers Today

  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 19,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Dodd and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.  Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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