Wade Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Wade Meaning
The Wade name in Yorkshire seems to have come from the Nordic myth of Wada, a legendary sea giant. Many of the sites attributed there to Wade were in areas that were settled by the Danish Vikings.
Outside of Yorkshire, Wade may have come from the Anglo Saxon wad, meaning a meadow for animals to feed, but more likely from wadan, meaning a ford or crossing and describing someone who lived near a ford. 
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Wade Ancestry

England. The Wade name has
cropped up in Yorkshire and also, to a lesser extent, in London and the
west country.

Yorkshire Wades
have always
been numerous in Yorkshire, it is thought from the Saxon Duke
Wada. He is said to have given his name to Wade’s Castle
(Mulgrave Castle near Whitby) and to Wade’s Grove, although the latter
was more of a size with the legendary giant who gave his name to Wade’s

“In the
midst of the bleak beauty of the Yorkshire wolds and the Cumberland
dales, you will find a hamlet called Kilnsea. Here, not
many miles from Whalley, where Duke Wada was defeated, and in the heart
of that wild Northumbria, where folk stories of Wada were
numerous and curious, were early settled the Wade family.”

The Wade (or Waad) name dates here from 1379 in poll tax records.
They were first established at Plumtreebanks in Addington and then,
after the dissolution of the monasteries, at Kilsnea. But they
lost out in the Civil War by being Royalist supporters and their
fortunes never really recovered.

From this family came Armagil
Wade, the Elizabethan voyager to Newfoundland in 1536 on The Minion, and his son, Sir
William, the governor of the Tower of London at the time of the
Gunpowder plot. They were not universally liked. “That
busybody Wade and that beast Waad” was one description. Sir
Walter Raleigh, who had been imprisoned in the Tower, called its
governor “that villain Wade.”

London There
were early Wade sightings in London. John Wade
was a sheriff and alderman of London in the 1390’s. He appears on
subsidy rolls as “J. Wadeblad.” The name cropped up later in
Essex, Suffolk, and Oxford.

SW England.
A Wade presence in
Cornwall dates back to 1313 when a man named Wade was granted a market
and two
fairs in the manor of Pawton. The Wade bridge was built across
the river
Camel in 1460 and Wadebridge became an important town for local wool
and sheep farmers.

Wades were recorded as holding lands at various places around
Bristol in the 14th century. Later Wades
at Filton near Bristol included John Wade, a major in Cromwell’s army
during the
Civil War, and his son Nathaniel, a plotter and conspirator who somehow
to escape from being executed.

A Cornish Wade family lived at Trethevy Court in
Tintagel. They included Arthur Wade, mayor of Tintagel in
However, the 19th century represented bad times for Cornwall.
Court is but a ruin today and most of the Wades have emigrated, to
America, or Australia.

Wales. The first
references to Wades in Pembrokeshire come in the early

In the mid 19th century, there were John
Wade running the
Blacksmith’s Arms in Pembroke;

James Wade
spinning his stories
there (he was one of the region’s best known story tellers);
Frank Wade
organizing the musical entertainment for the area. His shop front
proclaimed a company of organ builders and musical instrument dealers,
but his actual business might have been something more modest than that.

Ireland. The Wades who
had fought with Cromwell in Ireland benefited from the subsequent land
grab, William Wade with Kilawally in West Meath and Henry Wade with
Clonebraney in Meath:

  • the
    Kilawally Wades produced General George
    Wade who was instrumental in crushing the Jacobite rebellion of 1715
    and later supervised the new road system for the Highlands.
  • the
    Wade presence in Clonebraney continued until 1911. But the place
    is now just a ruin.

America. Wades in America
could be of English, Irish, Dutch or German descent.

Virginia Various
English Wades arrived
in Virginia in the 1630’s, William Wade on the St. Christopher, Edward and Robert
Wade on the Paul, and John
Wade on the Constance.
Edward’s descendants later migrated to Tennessee and Georgia.

John Wade came
to Virginia sometime in the 1740’s. His descendants settled in
Ohio. Walter Gingery’s 1918 book Wade Family History covered the
line of Wenman and Margaret Wade.

Other Wades
from Virginia can be traced to Kentucky, Illinois, North
Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Missouri, and Texas.
Some of
these Wades
became Waids.
David Wade was an early
settler in Texas. Although he himself died of an accident in
1858, his Wade family lived on in Fayetteville.

Elsewhere Another
line started with Benjamin Wade on Long Island in the 1650’s and
migrated to
New Jersey and later to Seneca county in upstate New York.
Jephtha Wade was born there in 1811, the
youngest of nine children. His father
died soon afterwards and he left home at the age of twelve for a series
1847, he acquired his first job in the telegraph industry.
He would make his fortune in this field over
the next twenty years, eventually forming the Western Union Telegraph

Wades in the
Revolutionary War
Irish-born William Wade fought on the
side. His cocked hat, pierced by an American musket ball at the
Battle of Bunker Hill, has been kept and is held by one of his
descendants. Whilst in New York, William fell for Ann Dean, one
of the belles of the city, and resigned his commission. Their
daughter Frances was also a famous beauty. A miniature of her,
painted by Edward Greene Mabone, still exists.

There were
Wades on the American side. Daniel Wade’s property in New Jersey
was taken and destroyed by British troops in 1780. Another Wade,
James Wade, fought against the British from Bunker Hill to the final
victory at Yorktown. He was a dirt poor farmer after the
war. But one of his sons Benjamin Wade, who started off as a
laborer on the Erie Canal, studied law and eventually rose to be the
Senator for Ohio. A vocal radical Republican, he was actively
involved in national politics before and after the Civil War.

Other Wades The Wades
America came not just from England, but from Holland and Germany as
well. The name here originated from very different roots,
the Middle Dutch or German wade
meaning garment or large net. These immigrants left their own
distinctive marks.

A New World
Dutch barn stands on the Wade farm
property in Readington, New Jersey. Sylvanus Wade and his family
were early immigrants into Wisconsin. Their Wade House Stagecoach
, built in 1850 in Sheboygan on Lake Michigan’s western
shore, now
exists as a museum to their way of life.

Caribbean. Solomon Wade came
to St. Kitts in the 1840’s and built up a thriving business there
around sugar plantations. He married his black housekeeper Mary
James in 1855 and they raised six children. The family connection
with St. Kitts extended to his grandson Charles Paget Wade who lived in
St. Kitts until his death in 1956.

Other prominent
Wades in the Caribbean have been locally-born, in Montserrat and

  • Wally
    Wade came from nothing in Montserrat to develop an inter-Caribbean
    shipping and trading
    business in the 1930’s. Later Wades of the family left
    Montserrat, most notably
    Tony Wade who, against all odds, became a successful black entrepreneur
    in 1950’s Britain.
  • while in
    2007 the Bermuda airport was renamed the
    L. Frederick Wade airport in honor of the former Bermuda PLP leader.

Australia. Mary Wade
was only eleven in 1790 when she was transported as a convict to
Australia on
“that floating brothel,” the Lady
. She lived first in the Norfolk Island penal
colony and then at a place near the Hawkesbury river. Here she
raised a family which numbered twenty one children.

She is in
fact credited with being the matriarch of one of the largest families
in the world. They grew to include five generations and over 300
descendants during her lifetime and many thousands today, including the
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. A group compiled the
book, Mary Wade to Us: A Family
,” in 1986.


Select Wade Miscellany

Wade Myths.  The origins of Wade lie in Nordic myth and saga.  Scholars speculate that he was originally a sea giant known to the coastal tribes around the North Sea and Baltic regions.

The most informative early reference is contained in the 13th century
Norwegian saga of Thidrek.  One day a certain king Vilkinus was
walking through the forest when he was stopped by a young woman.
Later they met again when she rose out of the sea and stopped his
boat.  She told him she was to bear his child and was taken
onboard.  After the child’s birth, she disappeared.  The
child was named Vathe (Wade) and grew up to be a giant with an affinity
for the ocean.  Later Wade had a son and the saga also recalls how
he forded the deep channel of Groenasund between two Danish islands,
with his little Weland on his shoulder.

On the North York Moors near Whitby, one of Wade’s stones
at Barnaby is still standing, as is the one at Goldsborough.
Legend has it that these two stones marked the position of the giant’s
head and feet.   Tales of Wade still exist in local
folklore.  He was said to have lived in the area with his wife
Bell.  One built Old Mulgrave castle, the other Pickering
castle.  Bell had an enormous cow which she had to take out on the
moors to milk.  To help her, Wade built a road over the moors
which is still there.  In building the trackway, he scooped out
earth, thus creating the Hole of Horcum.  The excess earth he cast aside, thus creating Blakey Topping.

Early Wade Wills in Yorkshire

Year Name Place
1530 Thomas Wade Leeds (Headrow)
1626 Christopher Wade Rossett
1636 Francis Wade Kilsnea
1639 John Wade Wigton (Harewood)
1640 Christopher Wade Screvine
1652 Samuel Wade Addington
1653 George Wade Bickerton

The Murder of William Wade.  On the morning of July 14, 1677 William Boteler was visited at his London lodging house by a man named Parsons whom he later described as “a person of debauched life and ill
fame.”   Parsons suggested that they should ride to Bishop’s
Stortford, stay at Betty Ainsworth’s Reindeer Inn, and get
merry.   Boteler at first refused the invitation but later
agreed to go.  It was during the journey north to Hertfordshire
that Parsons told Boteler of a quarrel he’d had with Captain Wade and
that he wanted revenge in the form of a duel.

They stayed at the Reindeer Inn on Saturday and Sunday night.  On
the Monday, Parsons suggest that they visit Wade at his home at Manuden
nearby.   Parsons said that it might be better if Boteler
went into the house alone and spoke with Wade while he waited in a
field outside.  Boteler did so, met with Wade, and explained the
situation.  Wade said that he would go and meet with Parsons and
left, taking his sword with him.  At this point, Boteler mounted
his horse and rode off.  However, within a short while, he was
passed by Parsons riding at full gallop.  As he passed, he cried
out: “He’s fallen,” and rushed away.

Parsons escaped to Holland and it was Boteler who stood trial for the
murder.  He was found guilty at Chelmsford Assizes and hanged on
September 10, 1677.

Mary Wade’s Trial and Conviction.  Mary Wade, from a large impoverished family in London, spent her days
sweeping the streets as a form of begging.  At the age of eleven,
she with another child stole three items of clothing (a cotton frock, a
linen tippet, and a linen cap) from a girl when she was collecting
water at a privy.  They then sold the frock to a pawnbroker.
Mary was reported by another child to an officer who then found the
tippet in Mary’s room. Mary was immediately arrested.  Her trial
was held on January 14, 1789 at the Old Bailey where she was found
guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

It so happened, two months later, that the king, George III, was
proclaimed cured of madness.  In celebration, all of the women on
death row, including Mary Wade, had their sentences commuted to penal
transportation to Australia.  She spent 93 days in Newgate prison
before being transported on the Lady

Jennie Wade Killed at Gettysburg.  Jack Skelly and Jennie Wade were childhood sweethearts in Gettysburg
where they grew up.   Then Jack was called up to war when the
Civil War broke out.  Jack had a friend called Wesley who,
however, enlisted on the opposing Confederate side.  When Jack was
wounded in battle, he managed to pass a message to Wesley to take back
to Jennie at Gettysburg.  But Wesley never made it.  He was
mortally wounded in the fighting around Gettysburg and died on the

The same day, Jennie was baking bread at her sister’s
home for the Union soldiers.  A sharpshooter’s bullet passed
through two doors and struck Jennie.  She fell immediately.
Union soldiers heard her cries and rushed to the kitchen.  They
found her dead and carried her body to the basement.  A picture of
Jack was found in her dress pocket.

Nine days later, Jack lost his battle to live.  They
were buried together in the Evergreen cemetery in Gettysburg.  And
they are remembered.  A Jennie Wade House Museum, with but a few
minor changes and repairs, remains much as Jennie Wade must have known
it more than 130 years ago.  Some believe she still haunts the

James Wade’s Stories.  The stories told by James Wade, one of Pembroke’s best known story
tellers, are rather far fetched, but nevertheless delightful.

On one occasion, he recounted that, while fishing on Goodwick beach, a
giant carrion crow swooped out of the sky and carried him in his beak
across the sea to Ireland.  On reaching land, the crow dropped
Wade and he fell into a cannon where he spent the night.  As he
was waking the next morning, the cannon was fired and Wade was rocketed
across St. George’s Channel.  He landed beside his fishing rod at
the exact spot from which he had been plucked!

Stuart C. Wade’s Genealogy.  The following notice appeared in the May 6, 1900 edition of The New York Times.

“An advertisement appeared yesterday requesting that all
Wades in the world should send their names and addresses to S.C. Wade
of 146 West 34th Street, New York City.  Stuart C. Wade is the
compiler of a Wade genealogy, the result of 25 years’ work, research,
and correspondence. The book recounts the lives and lineages of many Wades,
including, in England, Armagil, Sir William, and General George

In America, the list runs from Colonel Nathaniel Wade to
Senator E.F. Wade and then to Jeptha Homer Wade, the first President of
the Western Union Telegraph Company.  This family was prominent in
all of the wars and one volume of the work is devoted only to its

Stuart Wade had published his Wade
, dedicated to Jeptha Wade, that year.  His book
ran to over 960 pages.



Select Wade Names

Armagil Wade was the Elizabethan
voyager who reached Newfoundland in 1536.
General George Wade was the
pacifier of the Highlands after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.
Benjamin Wade was the radical
Republican Senator for Ohio from 1851 to 1869.
Jephtha Wade founded Western
Union Telegraph in 1861 and later became a benefactor to his adopted
city of Cleveland.
Virginia Wade won the Wimbledon
ladies’ tennis championship in 1977.  
, whose forebears
were Wolof slave traders, is a recent President of Senegal.

Select Wade Numbers Today

  • 13,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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