Kidd Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Kidd Surname Meaning

Kidd is both an English and Scottish surname. Kidd in England derived from the Old English kid, a young goat, and was probably a nickname for a lively, frisky person. In Scotland, the name was regional to Angus on the east coast and was a pet form of Christopher. Kyd was an early spelling in both England and Scotland.

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Kidd Surname Ancestry

Scotland. Kidd is an old Angus surname found in both Dundee and Arbroath in Forfarshire. The first recorded was Robert Kidd of Dundee in 1357. Sande Kid and Thoma Kyd appeared at an inquest at Forfar in 1450. The Burgess Roll of Dundee noted twenty Kyds and Kidds in Dundee during the 1500’s. One rumor is that these Kidds had originated from Flemish immigrants who had settled in the Dundee area.

John Kyd or Kidd was born in the small village of Kettins in Angus sometime in the 1620’s. A seaman, he married Bessie Butchard in 1646, but was lost at sea in 1659. Their young son William was thirteen years old at the time. He grew up to be the famous pirate Captain Kidd.

“Some historians have deemed his piratical reputation unjust, as there was evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd’s fame sprang largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial in 1700.”


At this trial, Captain Kidd was found guilty on charges of murder and five counts of piracy and was hanged in London. Kidd’s male line died out when his only son John was killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.



A Kyd family held the barony of Craigie near Dundee during the 17th and 18th centuries. Captain James Kyd of the Royal Navy sold the family estate in the late 1700’s. One Kidd family line goes back to David Kidd who married Lilias Fleming in Dundee in 1753; another to John Kyd who married Joan Reid in Arbroath in 1768. The Kidd name had also extended to Fife by this time. One line at Kilconquhar in Fife has been traced back to David Kid, born around the year 1640.

William Kydd, a shoemaker, married Mary Shand in Arbroath in 1864 and their son William Shand Kydd was born in the same year. In 1891 he founded the Shand Kydd wallpaper company in London which was to make the family fortune. When he died in 1936, he left over £200,000, worth about £11 million at today's prices. His wallpaper business was taken up by his son Norman, said to have been the originator of flock wallpaper, and then by his grandson Peter.

England.  Kidds in England seem to have their origins in the Craven district of NW Yorkshire. The Craven 1377 tax inspectors found five Kyd families there – in Clapham, Giggleswick, Gisburn, Ingleton and Settle. The main numbers in the following centuries were in Giggleswick and Settle, including:

  • Richard Kidd, born in Giggleswick in 1530, who came from a large family of sheep farmers, weavers, and wool traders.
  • John Kidd who was one of the first Quakers in Settle in 1652. His grandson Benjamin was a well-known Quaker minister in the next century.
  • and Thomas Kidd, born in 1770 and educated at Giggleswick School, who became a distinguished classical scholar.

Over time the Kidd name spread north into Durham and west into Lancashire.

Ireland. Sometime in the 1630’s Walter Kid, a linen merchant from Scotland, came to Dunluce in county Antrim. His descendants moved to Millmount Keady in Armagh in the 1740’s.

Meanwhile Richard Kidd from Settle in Yorkshire was first recorded in Dublin in 1637. These Kidds later spread southward to the Wicklow/Wexford border. The principal concentration was at Askamore in county Wexford where they were substantial landowners.

“Thomas Kidd, born in 1750 and a fifth generation Kidd there, lived to be a hundred. He was, according to family lore, married three times – fathering eight children by his second wife and three by his
third wife, the last being born when Thomas was eighty one.”


Another line via Peter Kidd, a clothier in Dublin, led to a Quaker family in Limerick and to Dr. Joseph Kidd, born there in 1824. He moved to London in the 1850’s where he established a homeopathic practice. He was physician to both W.E. Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli
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America. The first Kidd in America was probably Roger Kidd, a servant to Robert Scotchmore, who came to Virginia on the George in 1623. But Roger died in 1632, leaving no descendants.

Thomas Kidd, also an indentured servant, came to Virginia from Cambridgeshire in 1648. He settled in Middlesex county and did leave descendants. The main line of descent was via his younger son William and his six sons. These sons later spread across Virginia and their descendants to North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri.

Irish. John Kidd appears to have come to America from Ireland in the 1740’s, eventually settling at South Fishing Creek in York county, South Carolina. He fought during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of King’s Mountain and, according to his grandson, was crippled for life.

His son John and wife Sarah migrated first to Kentucky, returned to South Carolina, and then in 1831 departed for new lands in Antioch, Georgia where they built a church and school in the community.

Other Irish arrivals were:

  • Andrew Kidd who came with his wife Martha from county Tyrone, eventually settling in Cecil county, Maryland in 1754. His descendants moved first to Virginia and then to Illinois and Indiana.
  • and Samuel Kidd who came to America from county Armagh in 1808, first stopping in Virginia and then moving with his wife Pamela to Ohio in 1813. Their son George fought with the US army in Texas, but died there of yellow fever in 1844.

Canada.  Alexander Kidd and his wife Christiana came to Ontario from Scotland in 1815, first staying in Perth county and then moving to Dummer township, Peterborough county in 1831. Their descendants have held regular reunions.

Also arriving in Canada around this time was Andrew Kidd from Kilkenny in Ireland (his father Robert having been killed during the 1798 Irish uprising) . He settled with his family an an area known as the Derry in the Ottawa valley. Andrew’s descendants are still farming there today. Dr. George Kidd covered these Kidds in his 1943 book The Story of the Derry.

William Kidd from Ireland was a pioneer settler at Burritt’s Rapids in Oxford county, Ontario. His son Edward and grandson Thomas were active in local politics there.

This William was also the forebear of a Kidd family that would later become famous in England. The line here extended:

  • to William Ennis Kidd, a padre in World War One who was awarded the Military Cross in 1916
  • and to Major Thomas Kidd who married Janet Aitken, Lord Beaverbook’s daughter, in 1942. Their son Johnny was an English show-jumping champion and international jetsetter who made his home in Barbados. Johnny’s daughters were the models Jemma and Jodie Kidd.

Joseph Kidd meanwhile left Ireland for Ontario in 1824, settling near Lake Simcoe.

Australia. Alexander Kidd from Dundee came on the Denmark Hill to Sydney in 1828. He was a shipwright by trade working along the Manning river.  

“The Mary Ann, built by Alexander in 1842, was a two masted 38 ton schooner. The vessel traded between the Manning and Sydney until 1849 when she was wrecked off Harrington.”


James Kidd, a gardener from Fife, was convicted of forging a one pound note and transported to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on the Burrell in 1830. His family followed. He ended up as the Superintendent of the Sydney Botanic Gardens
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New Zealand. Two Thomas Kidds from Ulster migrated to New Zealand:

  • the first from Keady in county Armagh came to Auckland with his family in 1859 on the Shalimar. Their story was recounted in G.E. Kidd’s 2009 book The Kidd Family in New Zealand. 
  • the second Thomas Kidd, from county Down, arrived in 1863. He fought in the Maori wars but did not stay. He settled instead ten years later in British Columbia in Canada.

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Kidd Surname Miscellany

English 1377 Tax Rolls in Craven District

Location Name
Clapham Willelmus Kyd and wife
Mariota Kyd, unmarried woman
Giggleswick Willelmus Kyd and wife
Gisburn Robert Kyder and wife
Ingleton Thomas Kyd and wife
Settle Simon Kyd and wife

John Kidd, Quaker of Settle.  John Kidd was a clothier in Settle, Yorkshire who became a Quaker in the early days of George Fox’s ministry.  The Settle Quaker meeting notes in 1704 had the following report of the first arrival of Quakers in their town.

“In about the year 1652 or 1653 it was so ordered that another servant and minister of the Lord called John Camm came into Settle on a market day and in the market place began to preach the doctrine of repentance.  But they soon fell upon him with violence and did beat and buffet him very much.  After some time he was conducted to the house of John Kidd of Upper Settle where there was a meeting in the evening and things relating to the kingdom of God were plainly laid down by him.”

The times were no less kind to Quakers in the 1670’s and John Kidd was fined for attending a Quaker meeting “fifteen shillings – for which the officers took two coats and covercloth, part of a hide of leather, and one pair of shoes.” Undeterred, John kept his home on Albert Street open for Quaker meetings.

John’s grandson Benjamin by his second son William was a Quaker minister for thirty eight years, preaching in his early years in America.  He died in Banbury in 1751. Another grandson Richard became a miller in Godalming, Surrey.  And his son Benjamin was a Quaker minister in Reading.

Kyds and Kidds in the Burgess Roll of Dundee.  The Burgess Roll of Dundee recorded twenty Kyds and Kidds in Dundee during the 1500’s.  Among their number were:

Date Name Occupation
1552 William Kidd merchant
1554 Archibald Kidd merchant
1555 Thomas Kidd clothcutter
1573 Alexander Kidd spurmaker
1580 William Kyd reader and vicar of Dundee
1590 John Kidd burgess

Captain Kidd’s Execution.  Captain Kidd was hanged on May 23, 1701 at Execution Dock on Tilbury Point. Following tradition the crowds passed him rum and Kidd was blind drunk when he swung from the gallows. It was said that he died hard as the rope
broke from his weight and fell to the ground. He was tied up a second time, re-hung, and died.

The following lament, entitled Captain Kidd’s Farewell to the Seas, was penned on his execution:

  • “My name was Captain Kidd, when I sailed, when I sailed,
  • And so wickedly I did, God’s laws I did forbid. When I sailed, when I sailed.
  • I roamed from sound to sound, and many a ship I found And them I sunk or burned.  When I sailed.
  • I murdered William Moore, and laid him in his gore, Not many leagues from shore.  When I sailed.
  • Farewell to young and old, all jolly seamen bold, You’re welcome to my gold.  For I must die, I must die.
  • Farewell to Lunnon town, the pretty girls all round, No pardon can be found, and I must die, I must die.
  • Farewell, for I must die. Then to eternity, in hideous misery, I must lie, I must lie.”

Thomas Kidd, from Ireland to British Columbia.  Thomas Kidd was born in county Down in Ireland in 1846. At the age of 17 he left home and took passage on a sailing vessel for New Zealand, where he arrived after 100 days at sea.  Shortly after his arrival he enlisted in the Third Regiment of the Waikato Volunteers which had been organized to put down a Maori uprising.

Upon his discharge in 1866 he left for California, where he engaged in farming and later logging in the redwood forests.  He
left California in 1874 and took passage for British Columbia, arriving at Victoria.  He soon moved to New Westminster where he began farming on 160 acres of land. He subsequently acquired further tracts. There are still living on parts of these farms members of the first, second and third generations of his family.

In 1881 he was elected to councilor of Richmond, a position which he held for many years.  He lived on to the age of 84, dying in 1930.  In 1971 his great grandson Gilbert was alderman of Richmond and three years later mayor of the town.

Reader Feedback – Joseph Kidd, from Ireland to Ontario.  In 1824 Joseph Kidd traveled to Canada aboard the Maria, landing in Gananoque, Quebec on August 1st.  His family moved to what would become Ontario very shortly after, his son John purchasing around 1,000 square acres of land near Lake Simcoe.

They came from Ireland, as members of what is now known as the Askamore branch of the Kidd family in South Ireland having lived in Carnew.  They had originated not from Scotland like many North Ireland Kidds, but from the town of Settle in the Yorkshire region of England. The family had, from its roots largely been involved in textiles, from tailoring, to hat making.

Joseph Kidd is recorded to have been present at or more likely nearby the Scullabogue Barn Massacre, and being a Protestant, was likely serving with Loyalist forces in the area. He submitted complaints after the 1798 rebellion that his house and barn had been torched by Catholics as well. There are not many Kidds of Ontario at the present, but Joseph Kidd’s descendants are definitely one of the larger “clans” present here.

Cameron Kidd (ckidd208@gmail.com)

The Shand Kydds.  William Shand Kydd was born in Arbroath in Scotland in 1864.  After serving an apprenticeship there, he moved first to Edinburgh and then to London where he married Alice Sim, also from Arbroath.  In 1891 he launched the Shand Kydd wallpaper company which was to make the family fortune.

His son Norman expanded the wallpaper business.  He was the man said to have invented flock wallpaper.  The wallpaper factory was in Highgate; while he made his home at Horton Hall in Buckinghamshire, a large moated farmhouse of 18th century origins.

Norman’s son Peter who inherited the family business sold it in 1962 and moved to Australia where he became a sheep farmer.  After selling the sheep farm and returning to England, he began an affair with the wife of Earl Spencer and they married in 1969.  He thus became the stepfather of Earl Spencer’s daughter Diana, Princess of Wales.  However, his marriage did not last and they divorced in 1988.

Peter had a half-brother Bill by Norman’s second wife who perhaps became even more famous.  In his youth he was a champion amateur jockey who later bred horses at the farm adjoining the family estate at Horton Hall.  He was married to Christina, the sister of Lord Lucan’s wife, and he had a cameo role in the events following Lord Lucan’s sensational disappearance in 1974 after the murder of his child’s nanny.

What of the next generation?  One heir, Adam, died of a suspected drugs overdose in Cambodia in 2004; the other, Johnnie, is a renowned photographer with over seventy works in the National Portrait Gallery.

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Kidd Names
  • Captain William Kidd was a famous and notorious Scottish pirate who was hanged in 1701. 
  • William Shand Kydd from Arbroath started the Shand Kydd brand of wallpaper in London in 1891.   
  • Michael Kidd, born Milton Greenwald, was an American film and stage choreographer who staged some of the leading Broadway and film musicals of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Kidd Numbers Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 12,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 8,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Kidd 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.

BirdFoxKiddShakespeare
BrownGayLightfootSwift
CoxGouldMoodyWagstaff
CroweGrayPeacockWilde
DrinkwaterHardySavageWren

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