Townsend Surname Genealogy

Townsend is, as its name suggests, a locational surname, describing
someone who lived at the extremity of a village. Surname variants
are Townshend and Townend.
Townsend Resources on

Townsend Ancestry

The Townshend
in Norfolk dates back to the early 12th century and
Ludoric of Townshend who married the heiress Elizabeth de Hauteville of
Raynham. Raynham Hall was to be the Townshend seat for
generations. The family remained Catholic during Elizabethan
times and lost some of
their estates as a result. The poet Aurelian
was a court favorite of Charles I.

The family hey-day was the 18th century when Charles Townshend, known
“Turnip” Townshend, led the way in agricultural improvements that were
made possible by the passage of the Enclosure Acts. He introduced
a four-field crop rotation system of wheat, barley, a root crop and
clover, thereby substantially increasing farm productivity by avoiding
leaving the soil uncultivated every third year.

Grandson Charles
was briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1766. His is most
remembered for the Townshend Acts, a series of excise taxes on America
which led the way to the break between the two countries. Thomas
Townshend was created Viscount Sydney and gave his name to Sydney,

One Townsend line with Norfolk roots began with Jonathan Townsend, a
brewer in London in the early 18th century. His son Chauncey held
the Government contracts for provisioning troops and settlers in Nova
Scotia, from which he made a considerable fortune. Chauncey’s
descendants included:

  • James Townsend, the Lord Mayor of London in 1772
  • Chauncy Hare Townsend, an eccentric art collector and poet who
    formed a friendship with the writer Charles Dickens. He is best
    remembered today for his bequests to the Victorian and Albert
  • while another line led to the Rev. Joseph Townsend of Pewsey in
    Wiltshire and to Chauncey
    , an early settler in New Zealand.

The other county in England with a
sizeable Townsend population has been Yorkshire.

Ireland. An Anglo-Irish
Townsend family began with Colonel Richard Townesend, an
officer in
Cromwell’s Irish army. He stayed in Ireland and built his home at
Castletown, later Castletownshend, near Skibbereen in county

The main line of descent passed through his son, Colonel
Bryan Townsend, to John Townsend, an Irish politician, and Samuel
Townsend, a British general, in the 18th century. A descendant
Sir Charles Townshend led an ill-fated Anglo-Indian expedition to Kut
in Mesopotamia in 1915.

America. Thomas Townsend
of the Norfolk Townshend family moved to London and then departed for
America in 1637 on the Handmaid.
He settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Some six years later three Townsend brothers – Henry, John and Richard
– arrived in Dutch-held New York. They were
Quakers and their beliefs resulted in a number of conflicts with the
Dutch authorities. Henry Townsend who held Quaker meetings was
arrested, imprisoned and fined. In 1658 the Townsend brothers
moved to
Oyster Bay
on Long Island which was outside the jurisdiction of the Dutch.

Among their descendants were:

  • Dr. Platt Townsend, born on Long Island,
    who moved upstate to Delaware county in the 1790’s
  • John
    Townsend, a prominent
    industrialist in the Albany area in the early 1800’s, thrice
    elected mayor of Albany
  • while another line led to Colonel E.C.
    of Shulsburg, Wisconsin.

Townsends in the South.
One Townsend line began with John Townsend from Berkshire who came
to Philadelphia with William Penn in 1712. Benedictus
Townsend of South Carolina is believed to be related to his
line. Joseph and Clarice Burval’s 2006 book Benedictus Townsend of South Carolina
traced the descent from Benedictus through two of his sons, John and
Light. Later Townsends of this line were to be found in Florida
and Texas.

interestingly-named Repentance Townsend appeared in the Scots Irish
of Augusta county, Virginia in the 1740’s and was also to be found in
county, North Carolina. He ended up in
Abbeville, South Carolina. Later
Townsends migrated to Georgia and Alabama.
Eli Townsend
of Union county,
Georgia fought in the Mexican war in 1847 and then disappeared.

Canada. Micah Townsend of Brattleboro, Vermont was
a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War and received a land grant from
the British Government in Farnham, Quebec. He and his family
moved to Clarenceville nearby. His youngest son Micajah was
ordained as a minister and remained in that position there for some
sixty years.

William Townsend ran away from home in New
York in 1828 at the age of sixteen. He ended up in Nova
Scotia. He started a chandlery and
hardware business in Yarmouth and later became a civic leader in the

South America
. Andrew
Townsend was an architect who came to Peru and designed the
neoclassical cathedral at Chiclayo. His descendants are still to
be found in Peru, notably the politician Andres Townsend and his
daughter Arel.

Townsend Miscellany

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

Townsend Names

Charles Townsend, known
as “Turnip” Townsend, led the agricultural improvements in England in
the 18th century by his introduction of a four-field crop rotation
Pete Townshend was the
guitarist and songwriter for The Who
Bill Townsend is an
internet developer of search engines such as
Lycos and the social network
site that formed the basis of LinkedIn.   Sue Townsend is an English novelist, best known for her Adrian
Mole books.

Select Townsends Today

  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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