Howard Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Howard Meaning
The name Howard does not appear to have one single origin, but
many. One theory is that the name is derived from the Norman
French names Huard or Heward which came to England after the Norman
Conquest. Huardus, Huart and Houardus all appeared as landowners in the
Domesday Book of 1086.
Others see the Old Norse name Haward, from
ha meaning “high” and varthr “warden,” as an alternative
origin, particularly in East Anglia. Then there are occupational connotations. John Howeherde
from Derbyshire in 1348 came from “ewe-herd.” Later parish
registers find Howard often used for Hayward, the guardian of the hedge
in the feudal manorial system.
For instance, the Haywards of
Ashton under Lyme in Lancashire became Howards around  1750.
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England. The
first recorded spelling of the family name
was probably that of Robert Howarde, dated 1221 in the rolls of Ely

The Howard family who became the Dukes of Norfolk was
originally from Norfolk and claimed a connection with the 11th century
fighter Hereward the Wake. Sir William Howard first
appeared in
records as the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1277. These
the premier dukes of England, are now based at Arundel castle in
They have been through their long history staunch Catholics.

Howards were
also to be found in Cumberland in the northwest of England.
Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, married into the Dacre family in the
16th century
and thereby inherited the vast Dacre estates in Cumberland. He
was soon executed for treason. But his son William re-established
the Howards there. They later became the Earls of Carlisle and built Castle Howard
north Yorkshire.

A related Howard family held Levens Hall near Kendal for many
centuries. Howards also held the Glossop estate in Derbyshire
from 1606 to 1925. Management here was usually entrusted to the
second son of the family.

By the
late 19th century the largest number of Howards in England was to be
found in
the northwest, primarily
in Lancashire
Howards at North Meols near Southport date from about 1500. They
were farmers and their family records were recorded at the local church
of St. Cuthbert’s. The Haywards of Ashton under Lyme became
Howards around 1750.

One Howard family has traced its roots in Surrey back to Thames
(which contains a Howard Street) in the 1600’s. Another Howard
family of the same timescale was to be found at Little Shelford in
Cambridgeshire. Here as in Lancashire the early spelling may have
been Hayward.

Ireland. Howard can be
Irish, either brought by the English arriving there, as with the
Howards from
Dublin who later held Shelton abbey in Wicklow; or in county Clare,
being an
anglicization of the Gaelic names O’Hiomhair or O’Huer.

America. Howard lines in Maryland
traced themselves
back to the younger portionless members of the ducal Howards who sought
fortunes in America.

Ann Howard married Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore; and
Mathew Howard (who was a Howard from his mother’s side) was in
by the
1630’s before settling in Anne Arundel county in Maryland in 1649, that
place being more congenial to Catholics. Two
other Howards
from the same roots settled there – Edmund Howard in Charles county and
Cornelius Howard in Baltimore county.

These Howards were part of the Maryland country gentry set. In the 1790’s John Eager Howard, a son of
was Governor and Senator for Maryland and gave his name to Howard
county. His grandson Francis Key Howard, however, was
a political prisoner by the time of the Civil War.

were other Howards of less ducal origins elsewhere.
John Howard,
formerly Hayward, arrived from
Kent with his brother on the Hercules in
1635. His family became leading
citizens of the town of Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Others of these Howards later settled in Vermont and
Maine. One line led to Oliver Howard,
born in Maine in 1830, who was a distinguished US army general during
the Civil
War and in later campaigns against the Indians in the West. But he is best known for the founding of
Howard University in Washington DC in 1867. This
became a premier university for African American students.

James and
Elizabeth Howard were immigrants to Sydney from Hertfordshire in
England in 1855. Their grandson Walter and great grandson Lyall both
fought in
World War One
. Lyall’s son John Howard was Australia’s
Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007.


Howard Miscellany

Howard Beginnings.  The Howard
line was begun by Sir William Howard, the Chief
Justice of Common Pleas in the
reign of King Edward I.  Sir William is
recorded in 1277 when he bought land at East Winch in Norfolk.   From 1285 he was council to the
of Kings Lynn. In 1298 he purchased a manor house and methodically
built up his holding in the parish by purchase, acre by acre.  He also added to his possessions by marriage,
both his wives being heiresses.  Sir
William died in 1308 leaving his family firmly established. His eldest son Sir John Howard was
grandfather of the first Duke of Norfolk.

Belted Will and Castle Howard.  The
earliest name by which Castle Howard in north
Yorkshire was known seems to have been Henderskelfe, meaning “Hundred
Hill.”  This old castle was built in the
14th century
and later passed into the Dacre family.

estate then fell into the Howard hands in 1566 when Thomas Howard, the
3rd Duke
of Norfolk, married Dacre’s widow Elizabeth.   However,
his Catholic plotting on behalf of
Mary, Queen of Scots at this time brought him into a collision course
with the
English Crown and he was executed for treason in 1572.

third son William, who came to be known
as “Belted Will,” married step-sister Elizabeth Dacre in 1577. They had married very young and, for a long period
of their early married life, they had a turbulent time. During
the remainder of Elizabeth’s reign, the
Catholic William and his brother Arundel were continually subject to
charges of
treason.  They never received any public
employment and were kept in a state of poverty.

when James I came to the throne in 1603, their prospects
brightened.  William received the
of Lord Warden of the Marches, an important and responsible position
given the
strife that continued to exist on the English/Scottish border.  He was rigorous in the discharge of these
duties.  It was his boast that the
“rush-bush should guard the cow” and he saw to this by sending his
prisoners straight to Carlisle and the hangman there.

Howard line was back in favor and they
later became the Earls of Carlisle.  When
the ancient castle of Henderskelfe burned down in the late 1600’s, a
new and
resplendent building, Castle Howard, was raised on its site.

Howards in Lancashire.  The 1881 British Census
showed 29,400 Howards, of which 6,640 or 23% resided in Lancashire.  The leading parishes with Howards there were:

  • North
    Meols near Southport with 515 Howards
  • and
    Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester with
    401 Howards.

of these parishes had
had a long history of Howards.

John Howard’s Letter in Bridgewater.  In 1645 John Howard’s name appeared as one of the
54 original proprietors of the grant of land afterward known as
Bridgewater.  In 1656 he was one of the
two surveyors of highways for this town.

In 1652 he was thought to have received the following letter from his
mother back in England.  She spelled her
name Hayward, as her son had done before he had embarked for the New
World in

“London, August 16, 1652.


a fit opportunity by a friend to send
to you, I could not, out of my motherly care to you and your brother,
do less
than write these few lines to you to certify you that both I and your
are in good health, praise be to God, and that I earnestly desire to
hear from
you both, how you do and how and in what condition you are both.

sister desires to be remembered to you
both and she and I have sent you some small tokens of our love for you.
I have
sent George three bands and a handkerchief and a handkerchief to
yourself.  And I have sent you a shilling
to pay for the
writing of a letter, if by long silence you have forgotten.

wonder, son, you should have so forgotten
your mother whose welfare she tended to more than anything in the
world.  Your sister has sent you a book of
father’s and a bible for George.  Did we
conceive that you were alive, we would have sent you better tokens.

with my blessing to you both,
desiring to hear from you and whether you ever intend for England, and
how your
cousin Sarah is doing, with my daily prayer to the Lord for you, I

Loving Mother,
Mary Hayward.”

Francis Key Howard in Prison.  Francis Key Howard was the grandson of John Eager
Howard, the Revolutionary War colonel and Governor and Senator for
and Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote the lyrics to America’s
anthem The Star-Spangled Banner.

He became embroiled in Civil War
politics.   He was the editor of the Baltimore
, a Baltimore
newspaper that was sympathetic to the Southern cause (Maryland at that
time was
a swing state in the conflict).  His
editorials incurred the wrath of President Lincoln and he was arrested
and imprisoned at
the outbreak of the War.

He later wrote
an embittered piece about his experiences as a political prisoner:

I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd
and not
pleasant coincidence.

On that day forty-seven years before my grandfather, Mr.
Francis Scott Key, then prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the
bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning the hostile
drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the
country, the
Star Spangled Banner

As I stood
upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my
position with
his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had then so proudly
hailed, I
saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a
despotism as modern times have witnessed.” 

The Howards in World War One.  Two Aussie Howards, father and son, enlisted in the Great
War and fought their war on the Western Front.

In 1914 Walter Howard had joined as a
private at
the age of 44 in the 55th Battalion of the 5th Division.
His son Lyall signed up in 1916 at the age of
19 and was assigned to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion.  In
an extraordinary situation of chance
during the mass movement of troops near Cléry in 1918, the paths of
father and
son crossed. Against the odds, Walter and Lyall met on the eve of the
Battle of
Mont St. Quentin in what has been described as a one-in-a-million
handshake on
the battle zone.

Lyall kept a war diary
and his entries were picked up in Les Carlyon’s book The
Great War.  
These entries
were always brief: “shoved
in old barn,and “inoculated again,and first
day in trenches.  One
laconic entry underscored the horrors the soldiers faced: Will wounded and dies.”   Will was Lyall’s best friend.

Walter received bullet wounds to his
leg and
abdomen in 1918 and was lucky to survive.
Lyall endured a mustard gas attack and spent ten weeks in
hospital.  The gassing caused him chronic
bronchitis and
skin rashes which would continue to plague him after the war.  In fact memories of the war stayed with him
long after the war was over.

His son John Howard, who was born in 1939 and rose
to become Australia’s Prime Minister, spoke about his war-time

“There’s just this pithy or laconic entry in his diary. It’s
so Australian – ‘Met dad at Clery.’ They didn’t verbalize their
experience in
the way men do now. It’s one of the big changes in Aussie blokes. I
think it’s
a good thing. They don’t bottle it all up, but they did in those days.”


Howard Names

  • John Howard became the first Duke of Norfolk in 1483.
  • Catherine Howard from this Norfolk family was the fifth wife of Henry VIII and beheaded in 1542.
  • John Howard was an 18th
    century English penal reformer. The Howard League for Penal Reform was named after him.
  • Leslie Howard was a well-known British actor.
  • Frankie Howard was a popular English comedian noted for his risque humor.
  • John Howard was Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007.

Select Howard Numbers Today

  • 47,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Surrey)
  • 94,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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