Ward Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Ward Meaning
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

Select Ward Ancestry

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

The Wards of Givendale.  The first on record was Osbert de Varde of Givendale near Ripon in Yorkshire in the year 1130.
He was said to have been a descendant of Fouques de Vardes of

A descendant Sir Simon Ward, who succeeded
his father in 1306, fought against the Scots and was captured after the
of Bannockburn.  On his release after
ransom was paid, he was made the Governor of Pontefract castle in 1324.

The Ward line at Givendale continued until
the death of Sir Christopher Ward in 1521.
He left one daughter and three granddaughters, but no sons. However, a possibly related Warde line
continued at Tanshelf Court near Pontefract.
Bernard Ward of Cheshire was said to have come from a cadet
branch of
this family.  He went to Ireland in 1570
and founded the family that became Viscount Bangor..

William Ward’s Luck.  His father Edward Ward was the forebear of the Wards at Bixley, acquiring the property at the time of the dissolution of the
monasteries and building Bixley Hall.

was bountifully blessed with progeny.
Nine sons and three daughters had fallen to his share.  To lighten the burden of this heavy freight,
one of them William, the sixth son, was heaved overboard and dispatched
to push
his fortune in London.”

apprenticed as a jeweler and in time became a wealthy jeweler and
goldsmith to
the Queen.  It was said that he arrived
at this position through a lucky accident which occurred as follows:

Ward was standing by his shop door in
Lombard street when a man in a sailor’s habit passed by.
He asked the usual question, whether there
was anything he wanted.  The answer was –
he could not tell until he knew whether he had occasion for something
he had to
dispose of, which he would show him if he should be pleased to go into
the back

Ward was thereupon surprised
by a great number of rough diamonds that were poured out of a bag upon
counter by the sailor.  He was asked the
same question – if he had occasion for or would buy any such things and
at what
price?  He answered he would buy and they
agreed a fee.  Mr. Ward then invited the
sailor and all the ship’s crew to supper at a neighboring tavern; where
treated them generously.  The sailor
whispered to him at parting, that he had such another parcel for him in
morning if he would be pleased to buy.
And he gladly bought these goods too.

He soon fell to work upon the stones which fully
answered his
expectations.  They so much added to his
fortunes that he soon raised his reputation and became one of the most
financiers in London.”

piece of good
fortune then came about as follows:

chanced that Edward Lord Dudley, having much impaired his fortune by
living, was advised by his friends to apply to Mr. Ward, as an honest
substantial banker, for a loan of 20,000 pounds.  Mr.
Ward told his Lordship that the money would
be ready upon the producing of satisfactory security.
He then told his Lordship that his finances
would be better supported if he agreed to the marriage of his only son
and his
Lordship’s grand-daughter Frances.  This
so happened and the two families and estates became united.”

Aodh Buidhe Mac an Bhaird aka Hugh Ward.  Hugh
Ward’s father Geoffrey was Toparch of
Lettermacward and head of the Tirconnell branch of the ancient family
of Mac an
Bhaird.   For a long time this family
cultivated literature and filled the office of Ollav or
chief historian to the O’Donnells.

Hugh himself was born in 1593.  His chief
interest throughout his life was
centered on the history and literature of Ireland.
The plan of publishing the lives of the Irish
saints and other ancient records of Ireland was his.
Searching out manuscripts in Ireland and
abroad, he intended a comprehensive history of Ireland, both civil and
ecclesiastical.  His publications
accomplished much of that goal.  He was
in fact the pioneer and founder of the school for Irish archaeology
that arose
in the 17th century.

He also wrote Latin
hymns and epigrams with elegance and many poems in Irish of great
beauty and

James Ward and His Sons in Virginia.  James Ward
was fifty eight and a widower when he came to Philadelphia from Donegal in
Ireland with his three sons – James, William and John – in 1730.  They made for the Scots Irish outpost in
Augusta county, Virginia.  Sadly
there is a record of a petition by James Ward there in 1758, then aged
almost blind and unable to provide for himself.

eldest son James settled in Greenbriar
county, West Virginia.  James’s grandson
John was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in 1758 at the age of three.  He was raised by an Indian family and given
the name of White Wolf.  In 1774 he
fought against his father James in a battle where his father was killed.  He died later in another skirmish that
involved his brother James.

line had a more settled time of it in Wythe county, Virginia, although
William was captain of the local militia at the time of the
War.  These Wards stayed in Virginia over
the course of the 19th century.  A branch
did migrate to Kentucky.

history was recounted in Lilburn Everett Ward’s 1978 book Ward
Family History.

The Artemas Ward House.  The Ward house in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts was built by Nahum Ward in 1727 to house tenants for his farm.
Artemas Ward moved into the house in 1763.  On
his return in 1785 as a General after his
success in the Revolutionary War, the building was expanded to
accommodate both
his household and that of his son Thomas Walter Ward.

served as Sheriff of Worcester for eighteen
years.  His son Andrew Ward was
Shrewsbury’s Town Clerk and wrote The
History of Shrewsbury
in 1847.
Charles Ward of the family fought and was killed in the Civil
War.  The General’s great grandson was the
and advertising executive Artemas Ward of the early 1900’s.

main structure was occupied by Ward family
members until 1909.  From 1909 until 1954
descendants of the general lived in a second structure situated behind
colonial home.  The property itself was
donated by the family to Harvard University in 1925.
It now functions as a museum.  One
of the most interesting exhibits is an
old shay (one horse carriage), made around 1800, that belonged to
Thomas Ward, the son of the General. 

Captain Thunderbolt aka Fred Ward.  His father Michael Ward had been caught with stolen liquor in London in 1814.  He was tried at the Old Bailey, found guilty and sentenced to death, although the
sentence was
later commuted to life transportation.
He arrived in Sydney on the Indefatigable
in 1815.

and his wife later settled in Wilberforce and nearby Windsor along
the Hawkesbury river.  Fred West, born in
1835, was the youngest of their children.
In 1856 Fred’s nephew John Garbutt became the ringleader of a
horse and cattle stealing operation and enticed other members of the
Ward family, including Fred, to join him.
John Garbutt and Fred Ward were later captured and each received
sentence of ten years with hard labor at the Cockatoo Island penal

Fred managed to escape from Cockatoo Island in 1863 and, over
the following six and a half years, robbed mailmen, travellers, inns,
and stations all across northern New South Wales.  Known
as “Captain Thunderbolt,” he gained
some support from the public because of his “noble” ways and the façade
of a
Robin Hood morality claiming only to rob the rich.
He seemed to lead a charmed life evading
police on countless occasions until the law
caught up with him.  On 25 May 1870, after robbing travellers near
the Big Rock,
he was shot and killed by a police constable.

Baxter’s 2011 book Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady has given a romantic view of these
bushranger years.


Ward Names

  • John Ward, born in Canterbury in 1571, was a composer of madrigals.
  • 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 1872.
  • Joseph Ward was New Zealand’s Prime Minister twice in the early 20th century.
  • 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 Ward Numbers 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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