Select Townsend Surname Genealogy

Here are some Townsend stories and accounts over the years:

Townsend and Townshend in Norfolk

The Townshends of Raynham in Norfolk date back to the 12th century: 

"Townshend traditionally meant "at town's end," but in Norman dialect could be "town holder."  The silent "h" was dropped about 1500 as superfluous, but then returned to the family soon after 1580."

Aurelian Townshend, Court Poet

From an early age Aurelian Townshend had a reputation as a writer of graceful verse which gained him many friends amongst courtiers who shared his literary tastes.  He enjoyed a high literary reputation at Charles I’s court and was a particular favorite of the King’s wife Henrietta.  He succeeded Ben Johnson as composer of Court Masques in 1631. 

However, in the confusion of the Civil War of the 1640’s, Townshend simply disappeared.  Some have listed his death date as 1651.  But no one knows.

Colonel Richard Townesend and Castletownshend

Colonel Richard Townesend, an officer in Cromwell's Irish army, stayed in Ireland and built his home in 1665 at Castletown, later Castletownshend, near Skibbereen in county Cork.  Early times there were unsettled.  In 1690 his castle was besieged by MacFineen O’Driscoll and Richard was forced to surrender.  His home was destroyed; but, with the £40,000 he received in compensation, he was able to build a new castle nearby. 

Castletownshend has stayed with the Townsend family since that time.  However, its useful life ended in the 1890’s when the estate, saddled with debts, was put up for auction.  Although bought back by Townshends, it lay forlorn and empty for many years.  All four sites of the castle - Bryan's Fort, now a ruin; the original castle, of which only the foundations remain; its replacement, of which nothing remains; and the Dower House, the present day castle - are situated within a hundred meters of each other. 

Colonel Richard always spelt his name Townesend, which subsequently became Townsend.  In 1870 the then head of the family, the Rev. Maurice Townsend, consulted with Marquis Townshend of Raynham and requested that the whole family incorporate the “h” into their name.  Not all did so and there are consequently Townsends and Townshends in Ireland. 

The history of this family was first recorded in Richard and Dorothea Townshend’s 1892 book An Officer of the Long Parliament.

Townsends in Oyster Bay

Three Townsend brothers - John, Henry, and Richard - arrived in Oyster Bay, Long Island in the 1650’s.  No father has been identified and where the brothers came from is not known. 

The Townsend presence is still there.  It is the site of The Townsend Society of America’s Research Center. The original museum, a turn of the century house, was purchased in the early 1980’s as a repository of the archives with a bequest to the Society by Miss Helen Hart Townsend.   In accordance with her wishes, the museum was dedicated to the memory of her great-grandparents, Samuel and Rebecca Purdy Townsend. 

Also in Oyster Bay there is Raynham Hall, a Townsend family home, and the recreated Townsend Inn, a Masonic Lodge, and next to an old Victorian Townsend house.

Colonel Townsend's Family Recollections

The following were the recollections of Colonel E.C. Townsend of Shullsburg, Wisconsin about his family in 1904. 

“The brothers John, Henry and Richard Townsend came to Oyster Bay, Long Island and afterwards settled in Duchess county. 

My grandfather, Eber Townsend, was a son of Henry Townsend and was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  He was wounded and taken prisoner when the British captured New York City and was one of the soldiers the British intended to execute, had not Washington ordered the execution of two British prisoners for every one of the Americans so treated.  Eber Townsend died in 1826. 

His wife Sarah, my grandmother, was a very large woman, weighing 240 pounds, and of dark complexion.  She remarried after my grandfather’s death and lived to be 103 years old. 

My father, Samuel Townsend, was an American soldier in the War of 1812 and moved to Steuben county, New York in 1814.  She and my mother Sara had eight children, five sons and three daughters.  But Sara died in 1821. 

I am now in my 87th year and when I am called for will be buried in Shullsburg, Wisaconsin."

The Mysterious Eli Townsend

Eli Townsend was descended from Repentance Townsend who had been located variously during his life in the second half of the 18th century in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  One line from Repentance descended to his son Thomas who headed south to Georgia after the War thanks to a land lottery and then to his grandson Edward and great grandson Eli.

Eli of Union county in Georgia, born in 1810,
lived for many years in the Choestoe district along a stream that officially and affectionately became known as Stink Creek.  Some say that the creek got its name because so much whiskey was made there and that the mash could be smelled for miles. 

The records show that Eli was illiterate.  He emerged briefly from obscurity and then faded away.  Family tradition for years maintained that Eli Townsend "disappeared" during the Mexican War in 1847-8. However, research has revealed that he was discharged and returned to his home in Union county in August 1848.  Eli's "disappearing" act may have been started by his family to cover up his deserting his family for another woman. 

The August 1848 discharge paper was the last known record of Eli.  The 1850 census of Union County listed Eli's wife and their seven children but not Eli

Chauncey Townsend in New Zealand

The earliest piece of correspondence held at Wellington city archives is a description by settler, Chauncey Henry Townsend, of his arrival and life in Wellington. 

A newsy, four-page letter sent to a friend in England in 1842 includes gems of information such as this description of the bird life in Thorndon: "also the green parrot - I have shot hundreds and their feathers, my dear Isabella, has made into some excellent pillows."  The letter is cross-hatched - the handwriting goes in both directions on each page - a common practice in the 19th century when paper was hard to get. 

Chauncey's grandfather Joseph Townsend, an evangelical Anglican minister and son of an earlier Chauncey Townsend, had been rector of Pewsey in Wiltshire for more than fifty years, from 1764 to 1816.  He had made a name for himself with his 1786 treatise A Dissertation on the Poor Laws.  He had also started a free medical practice in Pewsey. 

Chauncey himself was born in Pewsey in 1816 and had come to New Zealand as a young man.  He was recorded as a settler living on Tinakori Street in Wellington in 1858.

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