Woodruff Surname Genealogy

The root
of the surname Woodruff is the Old English word wudurofe
meaning woodruff, a plant whose
leaves gave off a sweet smell.  Woodruff
may either have been topographical, for someone who lived on a patch of
where woodruff grew, or a nickname for someone who used woodruff as a
perfume.  A variant spelling is Woodroffe.
One early Woodruff family in Yorkshire was
initially Woodrove and this may have derived from the occupational name
reeve,” a bailiff in charge of woodlands.
Select Woodruff Resources on The Internet

Woodruff Ancestry

Woodruff name in England was to be found in the 1881 census in two parts of the
country mainly:

  • the
    West Riding of
    Yorkshire extending into Lancashire (the largest numbers by that time
    were in
  • and
    SE England, focused on London and Kent.

and Lancashire
.  A Woodrove
family originated at Normanton in the West Riding of Yorkshire near
Wakefield.  In 1377 John Woodrove
acquired Woolley Hall and this house was to remain with the family for
the next
two hundred years.

The best known of these Woodroves was Sir Richard Woodrove who was the High Sheriff of
Yorkshire from
1510 to 1518.  The family later ran into
problems due to their association with Thomas Percy, one of the
ringleaders of
the Rising of the North in 1569 (a later Richard had married his
daughter), and
Woolley Hall was sold by the Woodroves.

The Woodruff name appeared at Walton le
Dale in Lancashire in the 18th century and later at nearby Preston. William Woodruff,
the noted historian,
was born in the cotton mill town of Blackburn in 1916.

SE England.  The Woodrove name
resurfaced in London.  David
Woodroffe was apprenticed as a haberdasher in London and became a
freeman of
the Haberdashers’ Company in 1526.  His
son Sir Nicholas was Lord Mayor of London in 1579.
The line via another son Robert led to
Matthew Woodruff, early emigrant to America.

The Woodruff name had started to appear in the
small village of Fordwich, just outside of Canterbury in Kent, in 1521.  Many Woodruffs were buried at its Church of
St. Mary the Virgin.  John Woodruffe was
a churchwarden there in 1636 and then emigrated to America.  A later John Woodruff was mayor in 1775.  And an enthusiastic clergyman, the Rev. C.
Eveleigh Woodruff, wrote a history of the village in 1895.
Woodruffs were also appearing by this time
along the coast at Ramsgate and Deal.

America.  Early Woodruffs came to
Connecticut and (via
Long Island) to New Jersey. 

Connecticut.  Matthew Woodruff came to
Connecticut from London in 1636 and later made his home to Farmington.  His house still stands in Farmington on land
that he purchased in 1653.  His lineage
in America was covered in Mackenzie and Stewart’s 1925 book Woodruff
.  Two notable descendant
lines led to:

  • Wilford
    Woodruff, born in Farmington in 1817 who joined the Mormon church in
    1833, made
    the journey to Salt Lake valley, and served as the fourth President of
    Church in 1889.
  • and,
    from Samuel Woodruff who settled in Southington (South
    Farmington), came George Waldo Woodruff who migrated south to Columbus,
    in the 1850’s.  George’s son Ernest made
    the crucial investment in the Coca Cola company in 1919.
    His grandsons Robert and George were to run
    the company from 1923 to 1954.

line via
Nathaniel Woodruff led to Major General Mitchell Woodruff of Litchfield
Connecticut; his son George, US Representative for Connecticut, and his
grandson Timothy, three times Lieutenant Governor of New York state.  A line also led via the Rev. Jeremiah
Woodruff to Rollin Woodruff, Governor of Connecticut in 1907. 

New Jersey
.  John Woodruff was one of
the original settlers
of Southampton on Long Island, arriving there with his family from Kent
1640.  His younger son John remained on
Long Island (although his descendants settled in Westfield, New
Jersey); while his
older son John migrated to Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1664.   Four Woodruffs from this New Jersey
family –
Seth, Timothy, Jacob and Thomas – fought in the Revolutionary War.  Ceylon Woodruff’s 1967 book Woodruff
covered this family

Another Woodruff arrival in New Jersey was Thomas Woodruff who came to
Salem, New Jersey in 1679.  A family
Bible, known as the Nathan Woodruff Bible, was handed down to John
Woodruff, a Methodist deacon in Butler county, Ohio in the 19th century.

Long Island came William E. Woodruff, born there in 1795, who headed
south to
the newly created state of Arkansas in 1819.
He printed the first edition of the Arkansas
in 1819.  In acknowledgement
of his pioneering efforts in promoting the new state, Woodruff county
Arkansas was named after him.

A number of Woodruffs from New Jersey headed
westward to Ohio after the Revolutionary War.
Seven Woodruffs served in the Ohio militia during the War of
1812 and
the following Woodruffs arrived there later:

  • David
    Woodruff from Cumberland county in
    Muskingum county
    in 1813
  • Cornelius
    Woodruff from Elizabethtown who was with David Woodruff in Muskingum
    county and
    later made his home in Union county.  
  • Nathan Woodruff from Salem county in Butler county in
  • and
    Lieutenant Benjamin
    Woodruff from Bergen county in Jackson
    around 1820.

were forty Woodruff burials in the Woodruff cemetery in
Watertown township, Washington county – the earliest adult there being
Woodruff in 1835.

Amos Woodruff departed Rahway, New Jersey for Memphis,
Tennessee in 1845.  He started a
carriage-making enterprise which proved to be very successful and he
into other lines of business.  He built
what is now known as the Woodruff Fontaine House on “Millionaire’s Row”
on the
outskirts of the town in 1870.  His
daughter Mollie Woodruff now
haunts this

.  The
Woodroof name started to appear in Virginia in the early 1700’s.  George Woodruff was born in Brunswick county,
Virginia in 1780.  He married Sally
Manning there in 1808 and they departed for Madison county, Alabama
around the
year 1815.  George was a farmer.  After his wife died he married again and
settled in his later years in Franklin county, Missouri.

One line in South
Carolina began with Joseph Woodruff, a Revolutionary War veteran, who
was an
early settler in the Spartanburg district.
The town of Woodruff there took its name from him.
His son Samuel migrated first to Tennessee
and then to Mississippi.

Canada.  From the
Connecticut line came Ezekiel Woodruff, a Loyalist during the
Revolutionary War
who moved his family to the Niagara peninsula in 1795.
His sons Richard
and William Woodruff
built and operated the first
steam-powered grist mill
in Ontario.  Both of these sons fought in
the War of 1812.

Woodruff Miscellany

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

Woodruff Names

Richard Woodrove

of Woolley Hall was the
High Sheriff of Yorkshire from 1510 to 1518.

Wilford Woodruff
as the fourth President of the Mormon church
1889 until his
death in 1898.
Robert W. Woodruff
President of the
Coca-Cola Company from 1923 until 1954.
He was also a major philanthropist in his home city of Atlanta.
William Woodruff
grew up in abject
poverty in Lancashire to become a Fulbright scholar and a Professor of
World History
in America. 
Maurice Woodruff
was a well-known English clairvoyant and
astrologer in the 1960’s

Woodruffs Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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