Wood Surname Genealogy

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.
Select Wood Resources on The Internet

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

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

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
modern-day golfer.

Select Woods 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)


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