Ward Surname Genealogy

The English surname Ward has two and possibly three

  • the first being
    occupational, a weard or guard or keeper of the watch
  • the second
    topographical, one who lived by a werd or marsh
  • while an early Ward family
    in Yorkshire claimed a Norman descent, from Fouques de Vardes of

Ward in Ireland came about during the English
occupation, being an anglicization of earlier Gaelic names.

Ward Resources on

England. Robert le Warde, recorded in the 1273
Oxfordshire rolls, was a guard; while Walter de la Warde, in the
Suffolk rolls
of the same year, lived by a fen.
The early spelling of the surname was Warde, although it
generally later
became Ward.

Wards were substantial landowners at Givendale near Ripon in north
Yorkshire in the late 13th century. Sir
Simon Ward was sheriff of Yorkshire in 1315.
This line died out in the early 1500’s.

First records of another Ward line began in Norfolk in 1363 when John
Ward obtained the manor of Kirby Bedon through marriage. This
family was described as lesser Norfolk gentry. However, they took
a step upward when Edward Ward was able to take possession of Bixley
Hall at the time of the dissolution of the
monasteries. The main branch of this Ward
family continued
as local gentry there until the 18th century. Sir
Edward Ward who died of a fever in 1742 at the young age of
21 was
much lamented.

In the early 1600’s William Ward, a sixth son of
this family who
saw no prospects at home, departed for London where he became
apprenticed as a
jeweller. In time he became a very
wealthy jeweller and goldsmith to royalty:

  • his son Humble Ward married into the well-born Dudley family.
  • and their descendants, based at Sedgeley in
    Staffordshire, became the Earls of Dudley.

The first Earl of
Dudley was
briefly British Foreign Secretary in 1827.
Many later Wards were Conservative politicians.
The actress Rachel Ward came from this

John Ward, of uncertain origins, served in the British capture of
Gibraltar in 1704 and stayed on. His
descendants were merchants there and later in London.
George Ward became a large landowner on the
Isle of Wight.

The 19th century surname distribution
showed the Ward name to be found more in the north of England, with 30%
Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Ireland. Ward appeared in
Donegal and Galway as
an anglicization of the Gaelic mac an Bhaird, meaning “son of
bard.” The Mac an Bhairds, dating from the 11th
originally served as the bards to the O’Donnells in Donegal and the
O’Kellys in Galway and were among the
families of late medieval Ireland. Aedh Buidh Mac an
in his anglicized form, Hugh
was born in Donegal in 1593 and is considered the father of Irish
archaeology. Other Donegal
names such as MacWard and Deward became Ward as well over the course of

The Wards of county Down, the head of whose family was
Viscount Bangor,
came from England, however. The line began with Bernard Ward from
Cheshire who had been appointed Surveyor General of Ireland by Queen
Elizabeth. In 1570 he acquired Castle Ward in Strangford, county
which was to be the family home. A later Bernard Ward rebuilt the
in the 18th century.

America. Andrew Ward may have been the
first Ward in
America, arriving in 1633 and later settling in Fairfield, Connecticut
where he
died in 1660. He obviously was a person
of some importance as there is a special monument to him in Fairfield’s
old burying

William Ward came to Sudbury in 1639 and later settled in Marlborough,
Massachusetts. Nahum Ward, a sea
captain, bought land in what became the town of Shrewsbury, which was
Artemas Ward, the Major General during the Revolutionary War, was
His home there is now the Artemas Ward House. A
later Artemas Ward became a successful
businessman in the early 1900’s:

“It was said that Artemas Ward gave over four
million dollars to Harvard University on condition that they erect a
statue in
honor of General Ward. Harvard provided
the money for a statue, but not enough to give the general a horse.”

one line of these Wards had moved north to New Brunswick in Canada in

More than half of the Wards that came to America sailed from Irish
ports. Some early arrivals, Scots Irish,

  • James
    who came from Donegal to Philadelphia around 1730 and
    settled with his three sons in
    county, Virginia.
  • and John Ward also from Donegal, who settled in Amberson
    Valley in Pennsylvania sometime in the 1760’s.

Ward had come
to South Carolina from Antrim in Ireland around 1730.
He married there the daughter of a Cherokee
chief, but was later banished from the tribe.
Their daughter Nancy married his nephew Bryant.
However, this marriage also did not

  • Nancy, known as “Beloved Woman,”
    a much-respected mediator between the Cherokees and white settlers and
    lived onto
  • while Bryant died in Georgia in 1808.
    descendants through his son John were
    part of the Cherokee forced emigration from Georgia in the 1830’s

Ward emigrated from Donegal in 1860 and went to work in the Pittsburgh
iron and steel mills. The family story is that he had a stroke at
mill and his 14 year old son Michael had to go to work in a glass
factory to support the family.

West was a convict from London brought to Australia in 1815. His youngest son was the famous Australian
bushranger Fred Ward.

Ward Miscellany

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

Ward Names

John Ward, born in Canterbury in 1571, was a composer of
Jack Ward was an English pirate
who became a Barbary
Corsair at the turn of the 17th century.
Artemas Ward was one of
Washington’s most trusted generals in the Revolutionary War.
Montgomery Ward was the
American businessman who founded the mail order firm of his name in
was New Zealand’s Prime Minister twice in the early 20th
Barbara Ward was a 20th
century British economist involved in the problems of
developing countries.
Stephen Ward was the London society
osteopath in the 1960’s who committed suicide when the Profumo scandal
broke out.

Select Wards Today

  • 126,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 97,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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