Select Townsend Surname Genealogy

Townsend is, as its name suggests, a locational surname, describing someone who lived at the extremity of a village.  Surname variants are Townshend and Townend.
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Select Townsend Ancestry

EnglandThe Townshend name in Norfolk dates back to the early 12th century and Ludoric of Townshend who married the heiress Elizabeth de Hauteville of Raynham.   Raynham Hall was to be the Townshend seat for generations.  The family remained Catholic during Elizabethan times and lost some of their estates as a result.   The poet Aurelian Townshend was a court favorite of Charles I.

The family hey-day was the 18th century when Charles Townshend, known as "Turnip" Townshend, led the way in agricultural improvements that were made possible by the passage of the Enclosure Acts.  He introduced a four-field crop rotation system of wheat, barley, a root crop and clover, thereby substantially increasing farm productivity by avoiding leaving the soil uncultivated every third year. 

Grandson Charles was briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1766.  His is most remembered for the Townshend Acts, a series of excise taxes on America which led the way to the break between the two countries.  Thomas Townshend was created Viscount Sydney and gave his name to Sydney, Australia.    

One Townsend line with Norfolk roots began with Jonathan Townsend, a brewer in London in the early 18th century. His son Chauncey held the Government contracts for provisioning troops and settlers in Nova Scotia, from which he made a considerable fortune.  Chauncey's descendants included:
  • James Townsend, the Lord Mayor of London in 1772
  • Chauncy Hare Townsend, an eccentric art collector and poet who formed a friendship with the writer Charles Dickens.  He is best remembered today for his bequests to the Victorian and Albert Museum. 
  • while another line led to the Rev. Joseph Townsend of Pewsey in Wiltshire and to Chauncey Townsend, an early settler in New Zealand.
The other county in England with a sizeable Townsend population has been Yorkshire. 

Ireland.  An Anglo-Irish Townsend family began with Colonel Richard Townesend, an officer in Cromwell's Irish army.  He stayed in Ireland and built his home at Castletown, later Castletownshend, near Skibbereen in county Cork. 

The main line of descent passed through his son, Colonel Bryan Townsend, to John Townsend, an Irish politician, and Samuel Townsend, a British general, in the 18th century.  A descendant Sir Charles Townshend led an ill-fated Anglo-Indian expedition to Kut in Mesopatamia in 1915.

America.  Thomas Townsend of the Norfolk Townshend family moved to London and then departed for America in 1637 on the Handmaid.  He settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. 

Some six years later three Townsend brothers - Henry, John and Richard - arrived in Dutch-held New York. They were Quakers and their beliefs resulted in a number of conflicts with the Dutch authorities.  Henry Townsend who held Quaker meetings was arrested, imprisoned and fined.  In 1658 the Townsend brothers moved to Oyster Bay on Long Island which was outside the jurisdiction of the Dutch. 

Among their descendants were:
  • Dr. Platt Townsend, born on Long Island, who moved upstate to Delaware county in the 1790's
  • John Townsend, a prominent industrialist in the Albany area in the early 1800's, thrice elected mayor of Albany
  • while another line led to Colonel E.C. Townsend of Shulsburg, Wisconsin.
Townsends in the South.  One Townsend line began with John Townsend from Berkshire who came to Philadelphia with William Penn in 1712.   Benedictus Townsend of South Carolina is believed to be related to his line.   Joseph and Clarice Burval's 2006 book Benedictus Townsend of South Carolina traced the descent from Benedictus through two of his sons, John and Light.  Later Townsends of this line were to be found in Florida and Texas.

The interestingly-named Repentance Townsend appeared in the Scots Irish stronghold of Augusta county, Virginia in the 1740ís and was also to be found in Anson county, North Carolina.  He ended up in Abbeville, South Carolina. Later Townsends migrated to Georgia and Alabama.  Eli Townsend of Union county, Georgia fought in the Mexican war in 1847 and then disappeared.

Canada.  Micah Townsend of Brattleboro, Vermont was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War and received a land grant from the British Government in Farnham, Quebec.  He and his family moved to Clarenceville nearby.  His youngest son Micajah was ordained as a minister and remained in that position there for some sixty years. 

William Townsend ran away from home in New York in 1828 at the age of sixteen.  He ended up in Nova Scotia.  He started a chandlery and hardware business in Yarmouth and later became a civic leader in the town. 

South America
.  Andrew Townsend was an architect who came to Peru and designed the neoclassical cathedral at Chiclayo.  His descendants are still to be found in Peru, notably the politician Andres Townsend and his daughter Arel.

Select Townsend Miscellany

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

Select Townsend Names

Charles Townsend, known as "Turnip" Townsend, led the agricultural improvements in England in the 18th century by his introduction of a four-field crop rotation system.
Pete Townshend was the guitarist and songwriter for The Who group.
Bill Townsend is an internet developer of search engines such as Lycos and the social network site that formed the basis of LinkedIn.
Sue Townsend is an English novelist, best known for her Adrian Mole books.

Select Townsends Today
  • 21,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 24,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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