Underwood Surname Genealogy

Underwood would describe a dwelling at the foot of a wood, literally
below the trees of a forest. It became a place-name and
a surname. Its first recording as a surname was a William de
Underwode of Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk in 1188.

Underwood Resources on

Underwood Ancestry

The Underwood name seems
to have derived from a number of associated place-names, of which
examples have
survived in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Early
were recorded:

  • possibly as far back as 1177 at Bixley in
  • and possibly as early as 1334 at Weston in Hertfordshire.

Edward and
Robert Underwood from Weston prospered as grocers in London in the
1600’s. They owned The
, a huge building in the city which combined a grocery,
apothecary, warehouse and dual dwelling house for the two brothers’

By 1881 the principal concentration of the Underwood name
(around 30 percent) was in the
northern Home Counties and East Anglia, centred on Northamptonshire,
with some spillover into London and the rest of the southeast.
There was a high number of Underwoods in the Northamptonshire village of
Yardley Hastings.

A secondary concentration occurred in the area around Wiltshire and
Gloucestershire, with some spread up into the West Midlands.

An Underwood family has flourished on the north Yorkshire moors since the Middle Ages, with probate records surviving for a Hugh Undirwood of Whitby in 1390 and a Thomas Underwode, vicar of Lastingham, in 1461.
And, from 1559, there have been Underwoods recorded at the Pickering
and Egton parishes
near Whitby. Other Underwoods were
to be found from an early time
around Selby.

Scotland. The Underwood
place-name (at Symington) and surname were also to be found in south
Ayrshire. James Underwood started up a potato mill at Maybole in
Ayrshire in 1831. His mill was soon the scene of a riot
which saw Underwood’s equipment and machinery destroyed.

. A number of early
Underwoods came to New England.

New England. Lucien Underwood in his 1913
book Underwood Families of America
identified six early Underwood families in New England – four in
(in Watertown, Lincoln, Chelmsford and Boston), one in New Hampshire
(Newcastle), and one in Rhode Island (Newport).
The four main lines of descent were from:

  • Martin Underwood who came with his family in
    1634 and settled in Watertown
  • Joseph
    Underwood who arrived with his brother Thomas in Hingham in 1637 and
    settled in
    Watertown in 1645
  • William Underwood who came initially to Concord and moved
    Chelmsford in 1652
  • and Henry Underwood who settled near Newport, Rhode
    Island in

William Underwood came to Boston from London in 1817 and
five years
later founded a processed food company there.
He later expanded it into canned foods that were supplied to
Union troops
during the Civil War. Afterwards the
company began producing a popular spiced ham mixture known as Devilled Ham. The Underwood
company continued to be owned by
his family until its eventual sale to Pillsbury in 1982

Underwood came with his family to Maryland from London around 1650. He was described as “a poor man with several
small children.” One of these children,
Samuel, prospered in nearby Delaware.
His son Alexander, who became a Quaker, moved to Pennsylvania in
1722. The line from Alexander’s son
Benjamin migrated west to Ohio in the early 1800’s.
Carole and Rodman Underwood narrated the
latter story in their 2007 book Underwood
Families of Caledonia, Ohio

William T. Underwood came out to Virginia as a
merchant’s clerk in 1680 and settled in Goochland county. He was
the forebear of two prominent Kentucky politicians of the mid 19th
century, Joseph and his brother Warner. Joseph’s grandson Oscar Underwood,
born in Kentucky, was a prominent Democratic politician in Alabama
during the 1910’s and

John Thomas Underwood, born in London, had emigrated to New York with
his father, a chemist who had studied with Michael Faraday, in
1873. In 1895 John bought out the patent for a typewriter and
started his own company, the Underwood Typewriter Company.
In its
heyday in the 1910’s and 20’s, the Underwood was so synonimous with
typewriters that Jack Warner the film producer was quoted as saying
that screenwriters were “schmucks with Underwoods.” John
Underwood’s younger brother Horace was a Presbyterian missionary in

Australia. Underwoods in
Australia started with three brothers, the sons of Thomas and Mary
Underwood from south London:

  • James
    Underwood the convict
    , who was transported to Australia in
    1791. On release he established Sydney’s first private shipyard
    and an early distillery. Upon his death in 1844 he left a
    legendary estate which required no fewer than three Acts of Parliament
    to resolve.
  • Joseph Underwood the merchant, who came to Australia to take
    charge of one
    of James’ ships in 1807. They both ran ships to the sealing
    islands in the Bass Straits. In later years he became the squire
    of Ashfield Park.
  • and William Underwood the drunk. He ran a pub on a corner
    of his
    brother Joseph’s land, but died drunk on the street there.

Their story was recounted in Liz Parkinson’s 2011 book The Underwoods: Lock, Stock, and Barrel.

Underwood Miscellany

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

Underwood Names

James Underwood, a
former convict, was an early entrepreneur in the new colony of
John T. Underwood was the
British/American entrepreneur who started the Underwood Typewriter
Company in New York in 1895.
Derek Underwood, known as
“Deadly,” was an English cricketer of the 1960’s and 1970’s, one of the
foremost spin bowlers of his day.
Rory Underwood, of
Chinese-English parentage, played on the wing in the English rugby
teams from 1984 to 1996.

Select Underwoods Today

  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Norfolk)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply