Reed/Reid/Read Surname Genealogy

Reed has more than one spelling – Reed, Reid, Read, and Reade
more than one explanation.   One is descriptive, from the
Old Scots and Old English reid
“red” and describing someone with red hair or a ruddy
complexion.   The other is locational, from the Old English ried meaning a clearing and
describing someone who lived in a woodland clearing.  There are
also various place-names called Reed, Read or Rede with different

The Reid spelling is mainly Scottish.  Reid numbers are
also high in Northern Ireland and in Canada, reflecting
probable Scottish immigration there.  Read is the main spelling in

Reed/Reid/Read Resources on

England.  The Reed name, common in various parts of England,
is in particular a Northumberland name, probably derived from Redesdale.  Brianus de Rede was recorded as living in
Morpeth in 1139 and from him came descendants in Morpeth (Thomas Rede
recorded there in 1384) as well as possibly elsewhere in England

The Border Reeds
of Troughend in Redesdale were one of
the reiver families and date from the 1400’s and possibly
Parcy Reed, commemorated in song, was the last of these Reeds in the
late 1590’s
(although the name did continue in the area).
After his murder his ghost was said to haunt Redesdale.  Later, the following ballad appeared on a
Selkirkshire gravestone:

“Here lies Tam Reid, who was chokit to died, wi’
taking a feed, o’ butter and breed, wi’ ovremuckle speed, when he had
nae need,
but just for greed.”

The Read and Reade names, meanwhile, seem to
have been strongest in south and eastern England.

Berkshire were probably related to an earlier John
Rede, born in Buckinghamshire in 1331, and the Redes who held the
manor of
Boarstall there in the next century
Found in Berkshire from
1450’s, the Reades acquired Barton Court
at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and held it until the
War when the manor was destroyed by Parliamentary forces.
They were later to be found at Brocket
Hall in Hertfordshire. 
Charles Reade the Victorian writer was a descendant of
these Reades and narrated the family history in his memoirs.

Reades, while less
numerous than Reads, were concentrated more in the county of Cheshire.  The Reades of Blackwood Hill in Horton parish
date from the 17th century.  From the
Reades of Baddiley came George Reade, the cotton and silk manufacturer
Congleton in the early 1800’s.

Reid is the main spelling in Scotland.

Some of the early Reids came from
Aberdeenshire.  “Red” was found as a surname there as early as
1317. Among these Reids have been:

  • a long-established Reid legal family in Aberdeen who bought
    castle in the early 1700’s.
  • the Rev. Lewis Reid who was the minister
    Strachan from 1704 to 1762.  His son Thomas Reid was a well-known
  • a Reid family which started with William Reid, born in
    in 1727.
  • and Sir
    , Queen Victoria’s physician, who was the son of a
    village doctor in Aberdeenshire

Reids who migrated to Ulster often became Reeds.

America.  Early Reads in New England were William Read from
Kent and Thomas Read from Hertfordshire, both of whom came with
Winthrop’s party in
1630.  Many of their descendants ended up
in Maine, those of William at Windham and those of Thomas at Freeport.  William Reade of the Reades of Brocket Hall
settled in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1635.

from Cornwall was a Parliamentary officer
during the Civil War who, after the Restoration of the King, decided to
England for America.  He settled first in
Rhode Island and later in Norwalk, Connecticut.
He died on his homestead there in 1730 at the grand old age of
97.  A descendant, Moses Read of Salisbury,
was a
Loyalist who took his family across the border into Ontario in 1784.

John Reid meanwhile departed Aberdeen for New
Jersey in 1683, prospered as a surveyor, and was an early settler in
Monmouth county.  His son John was a
tavern keeper there and his descendants have
lived at the Reid Homestead near
Englishtown since the Revolutionary War.
Tabitha Reid’s diary
of daily life in Monmouth county in
the years
after the Civil War has recently been discovered.  The
Reid sod farm can be found in
Freehold today.

Read family of Delaware was a prominent political family in the 18th
and 19th
century in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  The first of
this line
was Colonel John Read from a
well-to-do Berkshire family who came to America in the 1720’s and was
one of
the founders of Charlestown, Maryland.  His son George was a
signer of the
Declaration of Independence and US Senator for Delaware.

Reed, however, is the
most common variant of the name in America. The Reed name was adopted
by some
Pennsylvanian German families in the 1700’s, most notably John Reed
(Johannes Ried),
a Hessian mercenary and British army deserter who in 1799 made the
first gold
discovery in America.  The Reed Gold Mine
is today an historic site in Cabamus county, North Carolina

Frederick Read

was a merchant who settled in Tasmania in 1818
and took an active role in the development of the young colony.  His son George was sent by his father to
Victoria where he became a sheep rancher.
His daughter Sarah married Lieutenant Smith of the Royal Navy in
and they also moved to Victoria.

Reed/Reid/Read Miscellany

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

Reed/Reid/Read Names

, commemorated in song, was the last of the Border Reeds in
the late 1500’s.
Thomas Reid was an influential
philosopher in the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century.
was the
Victorian novelist who wrote The
Cloister and the Hearth
Joseph Reid invented the Reid
oil burner.
George Reid, born in Scotland,
became Prime Minister of Australia in 1904.
Walter Reade was the founder of
the Walter Reade Organization which owned and operated a chain of
theaters in New York and Boston.
Carol Reed was an English film
director.  His best-known work was probably The Third Man, released in 1949.

Select Reeds/Reids/Reads Today

  • 142,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 150,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 107,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Return to Main Page


Leave a Reply