Woodward Surname Genealogy

The Old English words wudu meaning
“wood” and weard meaning
“guardian or “protector” gave us the occupational surname Woodward,
someone who looked after the trees and the game in the forest.
The name Waudard
appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086.
In the Middle Ages woods and forests were an important part of the
economy and were of special interest to Kings for hunting and also as a
source of timber for weapons and building.  It was in the early
14th century that Edward II first introduced wardens to look after his
royal forests.

Woodward Resources on

Woodward Ancestry

The King’s subsidy roll for Gloucestershire in 1370 recorded a large
number of Wodewards in the county.  By the end of the 1400’s the
name was also well established in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, two
heavily wooded counties and favorite royal haunts.

Warwickshire branches claimed descent from John Wodeward, a
ranger in
Arden forest.  Warwickshire
Woodward branches
emerged in
the 15th century at Butlers Marston, Solihull, and Avon Dassett.  Later these Woodwards spread to Shropshire,
Gloucestershire, and Buckinghamshire.

John Woodward, the 17th century naturalist,
came from a “good family” in Gloucestershire.  One Woodward family
traced itself back to
John and Hannah Woodward in Alcester, Warwickshire in the 1730’s.

By the 19th century the Woodward name had spread further north into
Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, while there were Woodward
pockets as well in the southeast.

Kent.  The
Woodwards of Brooke Place in Ashford, Kent could trace
their line back to the early 1500’s:

“The will of Richard Woodwarde dated
February 21, 1516: Desires to be buried at Ashford beside Elizabeth his
first wife.”

Thomas Woodward, a descendant, was Assay Master of the Mint under
Charles I, but lost that position in 1649 and departed for
Virginia.  The Woodwards held Brooke Place until 1757.

  There were a number
of early Woodwards in New England: 

  • Nathaniel

    who came to Boston in 1633.  Most of these
    Woodwards remained in
    Massachusetts.  One branch under Beamsley
    Woodward settled in York, Maine.  Nathaniel’s
    line was followed in Harold Woodward’s 1984 book Some
    Descendants of Nathaniel Woodward.  
  • Richard
    Woodward who came to Massachusetts with his family on the Elizabeth
    1634 and settled in Watertown.  A 19th century
    descendant, born in Maine, was the inventor Amos Woodward who founded
    the Woodward Generator
    company in Illinois in 1870.  
  • and Henry Woodward, a doctor from
    Lancashire, who arrived with his wife-to-be Elizabeth a year later on
    the James,
    surviving a terrible thunderstorm.  They settled first in
    Dorchester and
    then moved onto Northampton.

Another line from Richard Woodward went: first, via Enos Woodward in
1775 to Pennsylvania; second, via Asher Woodward, around 1850 to
Illinois where Alfred E. Woodward was later a Chief Judge of the
Illinois cicuit; and third, to his son Bob Woodward, the investigative
reporter of Watergate fame.

South Carolina.  Another Dr. Henry Woodward, a young ship’s
surgeon, was to be found in
the 1660’s in the sea islands off South Carolina.  He had been
sent there to live among the Indians and learn their language and
culture before the settlers arrived.

A century or so later Thomas
“the Regulator” Woodward organized the South Carolina planters to
protect themselves against the lawless; and then another Thomas
Woodward, born in Georgia in the 1790’s, became well-known for his role
in opening up new areas for settlers elsewhere in the South.  His
life was described in Don Marler’s 2001 book General Thomas S. Woodward and Woodward’s

Maryland.  The
Woodward family of Maryland began with Abraham Woodward, the son of
a London merchant, who came to America in the early 1700’s and settled
in Annapolis, Maryland:

  • this family later made their fortune from
    selling textiles to the Confederate government and then turned their
    attention to horsebreeding after having acquired the Belair estate and
    stud farm.
  • in 1955 Billy Woodward, heir to the estate, was shot
    to death by his wife Ann in what Life
    described as “the
    shooting of the century.”

Meanwhile Dr. Theodore Woodward was the patriarch of one of Maryland’s
most distinguished medical families of the 20th century.

VirginiaHenry Woodward
came to Virginia in 1755, was a neighbor to George Washington in
Stafford county, joined the Virginia militia, and was a hero of the
French and Indian wars.  He was awarded substantial land grants
afterwards.  But little was heard of him again.

Woodards.  There
are also a sizeable number of Woodards in America.  The
Woodard name in England, from the Old English Wudheard and found in East Anglia,
was probably not the name that crossed the Atlantic to America.
Instead, some Woodwards became Woodards, mainly in the South.

Canada.  William Woodward

from Cheshire came to Canada in
1870, headed out west, and homesteaded at Woodward’s Hill in Surrey,
British Columbia.  Meanwhile Charles Woodward, having failed
business in Ontario, came out to Vancouver in 1892 and opened up his
first department store there.  That store became a chain, was
passed down to his son and grandson, and made the family rich.

New Zealand.  Jonas
Woodward was one of the early settlers in New Zealand, arriving there
with his family from London on the Clifton
in 1842.   On his death in 1881, it was said:

“He was one  of the oldest
and most respected citizens of Wellington and his career was one of
singular activity, maintained to the last.”

Woodward Miscellany

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

Woodward Names

William Woodward from
Maryland, who made a fortune selling textiles to the Confederate
government, was a founder of the New York Cotton Exchange.
Joanne Woodward, the actress,
was wife to the actor Paul Newman whom she married in 1958.
Bob Woodward is the
Washington investigative reporter and journalist who first achieved
fame with his Watergate coverage.
Sandy Woodward was the admiral
who commanded the British naval forces in the South Atlantic during the
Falklands War.
was the English rugby coach who guided the team to
World Cup victory in 2003.

Select Woodwards Today

  • 29,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Leicestershire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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