Rhodes Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Rhodes Meaning
Rhodes, from the Old English rod meaning “clearing,” may describe someone who lived by a clearing; or it is locational – from the early place-name of Rodewelle in Lincolnshire or from the later Rhodes in Yorkshire or Lancashire.
Early spellings were Rhode, Rhoads, Rodes and Roads, as well as Rhodes. The pronunciation tended to be “Roids.” The
surname has no connection with the English word road meaning
“highway.”  Rhode is also a surname in Germany where it is thought to have come from a town or village of that name near Lubeck.

Rhodes Resources on

Rhodes Ancestry

There was an early Rhodes presence in Lincolnshire. Gerard de
, a feudal baron, resided at Horncastle in Lincolnshire
in the
early 13th century. Much later on, Daniel
Rhodes was three times mayor of Boston in Lincolnshire between 1665 and

the Rodes family also held sway in Nottinghamshire where William de
Rodes was
the first rector at Clifton in 1242. By
1500 they were established at Staveley in Derbyshire.
Sir Francis Rodes built Barlborough Hall near
Chesterfield in 1584. The line of Rodes
baronets here became extinct in 1743.

However, the largest number of Rodes and Rhodes came from Yorkshire,
mainly, it would appear, from the West Riding. Almost half of
the Rhodes in England were living in Yorkshire at the time of the 1891
census. An early name was Thomas de Rodes of Thorp near
Rotherham, recorded in
the 13th century.

It was said that well-educated Yorkshire ministers would correct the
name and spelt it “Rhodes,” inserting the “h” and thereby quietly
demonstrate their knowledge of Greek. Yorkshire Rhodes from the
17th century included:

  • the Rhodes at Gomersal near Bradford who date from
  • the Rhodes family beginning with Thomas Rhodes, born around
    1724 at Ledsham near Castleford.
  • another Rhodes family beginning with John Rhodes, born in 1786
    at Flockton chapel near Wakefield.
  • William Rhodes the playwright,
    known for his popular burlesque Bombastes
    , born in 1772 in Leeds.
  • a Rhodes family that was
    landed gentry at that time at Bramhope Hall near Leeds.
  • while the
    famous cricketer Wilfred

    came from the village of Kirkheaton near

Elsewhere. Cecil Rhodes’
has been traced back to James Rhodes in
Staffordshire in the mid-1600’s. These Rhodes
later moved to London and then to Essex. Cecil set out
with his brother Herbert in 1871 to prospect for diamonds in the Cape
Colony. There he was to stamp his name on history.

. It was said that a Rhodes was Sebastian
Cabot’s pilot and it was after him that the state of Rhode Island was
named. Two early New England settlers were:

  • Zachariah Rhodes from Lancashire who
    had been imprisoned for a short time in Boston for openly remarking:
    “the court has naught to do in matters of religion” and, being banished
    from Massachusetts, moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1644.
  • and Henry Rhoades, also from Lancashire, who arrived in the late
    1630’s and
    settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Both Zachariah and Henry have a
large number of descendants.

Early Rodes/Rhodes
arrivals from the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire area were:

  • John Rhodes who arrived in Virginia via the Channel
    Islands in the 1630’s and settled in Middlesex county.
  • Francis Rodes who arrived in
    Maryland in
    1671, but may have returned to England later. His
    younger brother Charles came to Virginia in the 1690’s
    and did
  • while John Roades, a Quaker,
    arrived in Fayette county, Pennsylvania also in the 1690’s.

Swiss and German.
The John Rhodes, a Mennonite minister, who came to the Shenandoah
valley in Virginia from Switzerland in 1729 was originally, it is
believed, Hans Denk Roodt. He was killed in an Indian
massacre in 1764.

“John Rhodes was shot while standing in
his doorway. Eve Albright Rhodes and a son were killed in the
yard. Five other children were killed. Eight children

A marker was erected on the site where this happened in 1985.

Ellis Rhode published his The Rhodes
Family in America
in 1959. It covered the descendants of
John Rhode who came to South Carolina from Germany in the 1770’s and
later moved to Ohio and Indiana. Family tradition has it that he
came to America as a young man and enlisted in the Revolutionary
War. Many other Rhodes (or similar sounding names) came from Germany to
in the 18th century.

New Zealand. The four Rhodes
– William, Robert, George, and Joseph – were the
sons of William Rhodes, a tenant farmer in Yorkshire. They had
come to New Zealand in the days before organized settlement (William
arriving as early as 1836) and played an active part in the early
political, business and farming life of the country. It was said
that they were men of shrewd judgment, bustling energy, and full of
Yorkshire determination. All of them amassed considerable
wealth. Their descendants today in New Zealand are numerous.


Rhodes Miscellany

Gerard de Rodes and His Line.  The Rodes family was said to have had Flemish origins.  Gerard de
Rodes held the barony of Hornchurch in Lincolnshire in the early 13th
century at the time of King John.  He was a leading baron of the
time, even though his name did not show on the Magna Carta roll (he was
apparently away on ambassadorial duties).

These Rodes spent much of their time in Flanders, but fought for the
English Kings.  Sir John de Rodes returned to serve in King
Edward’s army against Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn; and Sir John
Rodes, appointed master of the household of Edward the Black Prince,
fought at Crecy in 1346 and Poitiers in 1356.

Later Rodes established themselves in Nottinghamshire and included the
Elizabethan judge Sir Frances Rodes.  John Roades of this line
became a Quaker and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1686.

Cecil Rhodes’s Ancestry.  The earliest traceable direct ancestor of Cecil Rhodes was James Rhodes who lived in Snape Green, Staffordshire, around 1660.

James’s grandson William came to London around 1720, farming property
the Gray’s Inn and Regent’s Park areas.  He
died in 1787 and, in common with three subsequent generations, was
at St. Pancras Old Church.  These three
included son Thomas, grandson Samuel, and great grandson William.

William and his two brothers started a
brick-making business in Hackney in the early 1800’s.
William patented his own improvements to the brick
process in 1824.  His children were born
in Hackney.  The family later lived as
tenants of Leyton Grange in Essex from 1829 to 1843.

His eldest son, Francis William, was vicar of
Bishops Stortford in Essex where most of his children were born. These included:

  • Herbert, who joined his younger son prospecting
    for diamonds in Kimberley, but was accidentally killed while pioneering
    in the
    Lake Nyasa area
  • Francis William, who
    joined the British army and, after fighting in various places in
    Africa, gained
    the rank of Colonel in 1889
  • and Cecil
    John Rhodes himself.

Wilfred Rhodes the Cricketer.  Wilfred Rhodes was Yorkshire cricket personified in the great period of the county’s domination, shrewd, dour, but quick to
seize an
opportunity.  For Yorkshire he scored more than 30,000 runs,
averaging 30 an
innings and took 3,608 wickets at 16 runs each.  In his first Test
match for
England in 1899 he was last in the batting order.  Twelve
years later he went in first and
against Australia was Hobbs’ partner in the record first-wicket stand

In his old age he lost his eyesight
and found his tongue.  He accepted his
affliction philosophically, and consoled himself by a flow of genial
never before heard from him.  He attended
cricket as long as health would permit.

German Rhodes in America.  There were many German immigrants to America in the 18th
century who had names like Rhodes or adopted the Rhodes spelling.  Among them were:

  • Henry
    Rhoads, who was
    born In Germany in 1739 and died in Logan County, Kentucky in 1814.  He has been called “the godfather of
    County, Kentucky.”
  • Henry
    who came from Frankfurt to America in 1750.  He
    died on the voyage; but his two sons, Harmon and John
    Henry, made it
    and settled in Huron, Pennsylvania.
  • and
    Rhoades, who came
    from the Palatinate to America also in 1750.  He
    stayed first in Pennsylvania and then moved onto New

A.G. Rhodes and Rhodes Hall.  In the
early days of Reconstruction, a young man named Amos Giles Rhodes moved
into Atlanta
from Kentucky, bringing with him all he owned: a horse and buggy, $75
in cash,
and (according to company lore) “a gold watch of uncertain value.”

In the fall of 1875 he contracted with the
owner of a small furniture manufacturing company to produce a line of
furnishings and he opened the first Rhodes Furniture Store in
Atlanta.  He was just
twenty five years old.

Most of his
customers were poor.  But he had a
brainwave.  He introduced one of the first
installment payment
plans in
business history.  His company began to
grow along with Atlanta and it soon became a leading business of this
young city.

Rhodes Hall is A.G. Rhodes’s legacy.
This Romanesque Revival house occupies a prominent
location on
Peachtree Street in Atlanta and is listed on the National Register of
Places.  The building was inspired by the
Rhineland castles that Rhodes had admired on a trip to Europe in the
late 1890’s.  It was built with Stone
Mountain granite,
incorporating medieval Romanesque, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts
designs, as
well as the necessary adaptations needed for an early 20th century

The Rhodes Brothers in New Zealand.  William Barnard,
the oldest of the four Rhodes brothers,
had led the way
to New Zealand and encouraged his brothers to follow. To one of his
he offered this advice:

must be enterprising, obliging, and not
afraid of hard work, nor show any improper pride.  Above
all things avoid public houses and

William made his first visit to New Zealand in
1836 on a whaler.  He returned three
years later on the barque Eleanor,
bringing forty Durham cattle with which to establish the first cattle
station on
South Island.  In
1840 he set himself
up in Wellington,
wharf there and started trading
as W.
B. Rhodes and Co.

George Rhodes, the second of the brothers to
reach New Zealand, arrived in 1843 and was joined on
South Island by Robert in
1850; while William directed the company affairs from Wellington.
The fourth brother Joseph, who had run away to
sea as a youth,
joined his brother William in 1843 and was
a butcher
in Wellington.  He
afterwards spent some years in Australia, but
returned to New Zealand and became a man of property in Hawke’s Bay.

Robert’s son Robert Heaton, who later became Sir
Heaton Rhodes, began a long political career in New Zealand in 1899 and
ministerial rank from 1912 to 1925.  He
pedigree cattle at Otahuna in Taitapu and owned one of the finest known
collections of New Zealand postage stamps.



Rhodes Names

  • William Rhodes was the
    first very successful entrepreneur of the New Zealand colony.
  • Cecil Rhodes was a British
    colonial financier and statesman in South Africa. As Prime
    Minister of the Cape Colony in the 1890’s he helped to extend British territory north into what was then called Rhodesia.
  • Wilfred Rhodes was a Yorkshire
    and England cricketer who took over 4,000 wickets with his slow bowling over his career.
  • Zandra Rhodes is a contemporary English fashion designer.

Select Rhodes Numbers Today

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 33,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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