Wood Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Wood Meaning
The name in England is mainly locational, describing
someone who lived atte wode or at or by a wood. This
meaning gave
rise to other surnames, such as Bywood, Underwood and Atwood. The
could also be occupational for a woodcutter or forester.
In Scotland, the
surname root may have been the Old English wod, describing
someone who
is wild or crazy. An example of the use of this term is the pun
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “And heere am I, and
within this wood.”
Early surname spellings were Wod and Wode. The main spelling variant today is Woods.
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Select Wood Ancestry

England. The surname first appeared in England in
the 13th century. Walter de la Wode was recorded in Hertfordshire
in 1242
and Roger del Wode in Yorkshire in 1274.

The later name distribution has been
more north than south.

Two prominent Wood families came from Yorkshire and

  • a Yorkshire Wood line
    began with George Wood of Monk Bretton near Barnsley in the mid-1500’s.
    Charles Wood of this family, a 19th
    colonial administrator, was made Viscount Halifax.
    Edward Wood, better known as Lord Halifax,
    was a leading appeaser to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.
  • the
    Staffordshire Woods

    started with three brothers in Burslem in the early 18th century,
    Ralph, Aaron,
    and Moses. They were prominent in the development of
    pottery industry.

One Wood family record began with
Richard Wood in Ripon in north Yorkshire in the late 1500’s. This
moved to London in the early 18th century and later bought Melton Hall

John Wood from
made a fortune in the cotton industry
Glossop, Derbyshire in the early 19th century. His grandson
Samuel Hill
great grandson
Denis, and great great grandson Peter have all been chairmen of Arsenal

One Wood line in NE Scotland may have had Norman
connections with the de Boscos that had moved north into Scotland from
England. The early
spelling of the name was Wod. As the
Woods of Balbegno in Kincardineshire and Bonnytoun in Angus, they were
landowners in the region. William Wood,
a 15th century merchant, came from this family.

His son Andrew
was a
successful sea captain and pirate whose victories over the English,
notably off
the Firth of Forth in 1490, made him a Scottish admiral and granted him
lands at
Largo in Fife. Wynd
in Fife remained in Wood family hands.
other Wood descendants, generally strapped for cash,
disposed of these
and relocated themselves to Perth where they prospered.
Many subsequently settled in England. Sir
Mark Wood of Gatton Park in Surrey was
made a baronet in 1808.

Ireland. The surnames Wood and Woods may
have either been an English or Scottish implant or an anglicization of
Gaelic word coill meaning wood. The names have mostly
been found
in the Ulster counties of Monaghan and Tyrone. The Woods spelling
is more
common in Ireland than in England.

John Woods from Yorkshire was in Ireland with
Cromwell and held Dunshaughlin castle in county Meath. One
line of his family later resided at
Milverton Hall, just north of Dublin. Other
Woods departed Ireland for America in the 1720’s.

Abraham Wood was perhaps the first Wood to
step ashore in America, arriving at the Jamestown colony in Virginia in
1620 as
a ten year old boy. He later became a
fur trader and early explorer of what became West Virginia.

James Wood came to Virginia in 1735 and gave
his name to the town of Winchester in Frederick county after his home
in England. His son James was a General in
Revolutionary War and served as Governor of Virginia from 1796 to 1799. Wood county in Virginia was named in his

Michael Woods
come to America from Ireland in 1724, settling initially in
Pennsylvania. In 1734 he led a
pioneering group
across the Blue Ridge Mountains through what became known as Woods’ Gap
into the
Shenandoah valley of Virginia. Woods
made his home near Woods Gap where he died in 1762.
His descendants were to be found at various points
south and west in the 1800’s.

early Wood arrivals in New England were:

  • Edmond Wood from Halifax
    in Yorkshire who came on Winthrop’s fleet to New England in 1630 and
    later, in
    1644, settled in what became Hempstead on Long Island.
  • and William Wood from Derbyshire who arrived
    in 1638 and was one of the first settlers of Concord,
    Massachusetts. The
    Woods remained there for more than a hundred years before migrating
    north to
    Maine in 1774.

Roger Wood was in Bermuda as early as 1622 and was
later Governor of the island. His son
Thomas established the Wood home Bosco
at Spanish Point. This family
was to become merchants and traders across the Americas, from
Newfoundland to
South America. Richard Wood moved to
Canada in the 1860’s. He built an oil
refinery at Oakville in Ontario, which unfortunately then blew up.

Canada.  Alexander Wood, a Scottish merchant who came to Ontario in 1793, is remembered in his home-city of Toronto even though he left no descendants. Wood was tagged with the nickname Molly Wood after an alleged rape case in 1810.  There is an area today in Toronto which is known as Molly Wood’s Bush and forms part of Toronto’s gay community.

There were rumors that Robert Wood, a timber merchant in Quebec at this time, was the illegitimate son of an English royal prince, Edward, and a French lady.  Family tradition has it that he was given to the prince’s former servant, Robert Wood, to be raised as his son.  But this Robert Wood really does seem to have been his father.


Wood Miscellany

Admiral Wood’s Sea Victory in 1490.  One of Sir Andrew’s most famous sea battles was in 1490.  It began in the Firth of Forth and ended next day off the
River Tay, the numerically superior English force having been
overwhelmed and
their vessels captured.  It was said that minstrels celebrated
Europe with the following lay:

“The Scotsmen fought like lions bold,
And many English slew;
The slaughter that they made that day
The English folk shall rue.

The battle fiercely it was fought
Near the craig of Basse;
When next we fight the English loons,
May naewaur come to pass.”

Wynd House.  The current owners of Wynd House in the borough of Elie in Fife are descendants of Admiral Sir Andrew Wood, the famous 15th
century merchant seaman.  William Wood
bought the house in 1650.

The Wood
family later set up a merchant bank in Glasgow and in 1828 another
William Wood
left Scotland for New York to set up the branch there.
Although he lived the rest of his life in New
York, his thoughts would often return to Fife.
In 1861, as an elderly man, he penned a poem Thoughts
on Elie

“The dear old house in Elie,
Oh! would that I were there
Close by the southern window,
In the quaint morocco chair.”

Wynd House has been owned by descendants
of William Wood ever since, even though they have always lived in America.  But the current owner of Wynd
House, John
Walter Wood, reversed the westward trend of Woods when he settled in
after marrying an Irishwoman, Charlotte Cusack Jobson. 

The Wood Potters of Staffordshire.  Early in the 18th century, there were three brothers  Ralph, Aaron and Moses Wood – in the town of Burslem in Staffordshire:

  • Ralph
    “the miller of Burslem,” was the
    eldest, born in 1715.  He achieved renown
    round about 1750 with his Staffordshire figures, and especially his
    Toby Jugs.
  • Aaron,
    born in 1717, was the finest mold maker in the Staffordshire
    He was also the father of the even more celebrated Enoch, whose fame
    rested not
    only upon his great skill as a modeler but also on his ability as a
  • and
    from Moses, the third of the three
    brothers, can be traced the beginning of an unbroken succession of
    generations of Master Potters.

Enoch Wood was a man of great enterpriser whose
craftsmanship and flair for invention served to build up the
business which began in 1790 and continued through his life as his
wares became
more sought after, especially in America.
He lived into his eighty-third year and died in 1840.

Absalom Wood, a
descendant of Moses, founded a new Wood pottery business in 1865.  His company flourished and was employing
around 1,000 workers at his Burslem plant in 1910.
It continued to operate until 1981.

John Wood of Glossop.  The Wood name had been recorded in the Glossop parish records in Derbyshire since 1620.  But
this John Wood had been born at Gatehead near Marsden in Yorkshire in
1785, the
son of John Wood, a wool clothier, and his wife Betty.

John had lived in Manchester and Liverpool
before arriving in Glossop around the year 1815.  A
story went around that when he arrived in Glossop
he was so poor that he could not afford either a pair of clogs or
shoes, but
that he had one of each on his feet.  This
does not seem likely.

got his start
in Glossop at the age of thirty when he rented two idle cotton mills
there, the
Thread mill and the Old Water mill.  His
business boomed and he started to acquire mills.  His
Howardtown mills became the
largest spinning and weaving combine in Glossop and he was to dominate
Derbyshire cotton industry.

was a careful and mindful owner.  In 1830
the spinners in the district went out
on strike and there was rioting.  The
who were brought in to calm the situation were billeted at one of
mills.  So careful was Wood that no fire
should take place owing to the carelessness of the soldiers that he
slept many
times in the room where the bales of cotton were stowed.

company John Wood & Sons was continued
by his sons after his death in 1854.

Michael Woods and Woods’ Gap.  Michael
Woods had originally come to Pennsylvania in 1724
with his brother William and widowed sister Elizabeth.
He had married Mary Campbell and they reportedly
had eleven children (of which six were recorded in his will when he

1734 he led a group of 25-30 sturdy pioneers across the Blue Ridge
into the Shenandoah valley of Virginia, a trek of some 200 miles.  They are believed to have been the first
whites ever to have gone on that route via an old Indian trail that
became known
as Woods’ Gap (so designated in 1757).

subsequently took up large land
holdings within the vicinity of Woods’ Gap.
The original name of his plantation was Mountain Plain.  The Mountain Plain church, built in 1747, was
put up on part of his land.  His wife
Mary had been murdered by Indians in 1742.
Woods himself died at Mountain Plain in 1762.

niece Magdalena who died in 1800 lived to
be ninety years old.  She was noted by contemporaries as being a strikingly
beautiful woman with blond hair and possessing great charm.  She was often seen astride a famous black
stallion, wearing a hunter’s green riding cloak with gold buttons and a
with many plumes.

Rev. Neander Woods, a descendant of this family who was born in 1844,
in his 1905 book The Woods-McAfee
that Michael Woods was a descendant of the Cromwellian
soldier Sir
John Woods in Ireland.  Others have
suggested a Scots Irish origin.

said that Magdalena was by the 1750’s (because of her second marriage
to Benjamin
Borden) the richest woman west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Maybe that was the family gossip but it was
not true. 

Fernando Wood of New York.  Fernando
Wood’s line began in America in 1670 when Henry
Wood, a Welsh Quaker and carpenter, arrived with his family at Newport,
Island.  He did well in the new country
and later settled in New Jersey with a substantial landholding at
Peashore near
present-day Camden.

the next three
generations, the family fortunes declined.
Henry Wood fought in the Revolutionary War, but this caused a
break with
his Quaker brethren.  His son Benjamin
struggled unsuccessfully in various businesses in Philadelphia in the

this humdrum background
came Fernando Wood, born in Philadelphia in 1812, with his unusual
forename having been chosen by his mother from a character in an
English gothic

his way in New York, the
dapper Wood was first a bar owner who then bought ships and made a
fortune in
California.   He
retired from business in the 1850’s to
devote himself to politics.  He was the
“Grand Sachem” of Tammany Hall from 1850 to 1856 and elected the Mayor
of New
York in 1857.  He proved to be a colorful
figure in the rough-and-tumble of New York politics over the next

the time of the Civil War, he was brash,
often opposing Lincoln’s actions.  He was
in reality a known provocateur if he thought he could get away with it.   His brother Benjamin was less subtle.  He was editor of New York Daily News, which
was closed for abetting treason in 1861-62, and a strong anti-War
Democrat.  Fernando himself survived being
on the losing
side in the War and continued to represent New York in Congress until
his death
in 1881.


Wood Names

  • Sir Andrew Wood was a 15th century privateer who became Lord High Admiral for Scotland.
  • John Wood built the PS Comet, Europe’s first commercial steamship, on the Clyde in Scotland in 1812.
  • Alexander Wood, a doctor in
    Edinburgh, was in 1853 the first to introduce the hypodermic syringe.
  • Fernando Wood, first elected in
    1854, was one of the most colorful mayors of New York.
  • Sir Henry Wood was a prominent English conductor who started the annual Proms season.
  • Natalie Wood was a well-known American actress.
  • Tiger Woods is considered the greatest modern-day golfer.

Select Wood Numbers Today
  • 186,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Warwickshire)
  • 130,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Wood and Like Surnames  

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.




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