Select Underwood Surname Genealogy

Underwood would describe a dwelling at the foot of a wood, literally below the trees of a forest.   It became a place-name and also a surname.  Its first recording as a surname was a William de Underwode of Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk in 1188.

Select Underwood Resources on The Internet

Select Underwood Ancestry

EnglandThe Underwood name seems to have derived from a number of associated place-names, of which examples have survived in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.  Early Underwoods were recorded:
  • possibly as far back as 1177 at Bixley in Norfolk
  • and possibly as early as 1334 at Weston in Hertfordshire.
Edward and Robert Underwood from Weston prospered as grocers in London in the early 1600’s.  They owned The Woolsack, a huge building in the city which combined a grocery, apothecary, warehouse and dual dwelling house for the two brothers’ families.

By 1881 the principal concentration of the Underwood name (around 30 percent) was in the northern Home Counties and East Anglia, centred on Northamptonshire, with some spillover into London and the rest of the southeast.  There was a high number of Underwoods in the Northamptonshire village of Yardley Hastings. 

A secondary concentration occurred in the area around Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, with some spread up into the West Midlands. 

An Underwood family has flourished on the north Yorkshire moors since the Middle Ages, with probate records surviving for a Hugh Undirwood of Whitby in 1390 and a Thomas Underwode, vicar of Lastingham, in 1461. And, from 1559, there have been Underwoods recorded at the Pickering and Egton parishes near Whitby.  Other Underwoods were to be found from an early time around Selby.

Scotland.  The Underwood place-name (at Symington) and surname were also to be found in south Ayrshire.  James Underwood started up a potato mill at Maybole in Ayrshire in 1831.  His mill was soon the scene of a riot which saw Underwood's equipment and machinery destroyed.

A number of early Underwoods came to New England.

New England
.  Lucien Underwood in his 1913 book Underwood Families of America identified six early Underwood families in New England – four in Massachusetts (in Watertown, Lincoln, Chelmsford and Boston), one in New Hampshire (Newcastle), and one in Rhode Island (Newport).  The four main lines of descent were from: 
  • Martin Underwood who came with his family in 1634 and settled in Watertown  
  • Joseph Underwood who arrived with his brother Thomas in Hingham in 1637 and settled in Watertown in 1645
  • William Underwood who came initially to Concord and moved to Chelmsford in 1652
  • and Henry Underwood who settled near Newport, Rhode Island in 1665.
William Underwood came to Boston from London in 1817 and five years later founded a processed food company there.  He later expanded it into canned foods that were supplied to Union troops during the Civil War.  Afterwards the company began producing a popular spiced ham mixture known as Devilled Ham.  The Underwood company continued to be owned by his family until its eventual sale to Pillsbury in 1982.

Elsewhere.  Thomas Underwood came with his family to Maryland from London around 1650.  He was described as “a poor man with several small children.”  One of these children, Samuel, prospered in nearby Delaware.  His son Alexander, who became a Quaker, moved to Pennsylvania in 1722.  The line from Alexander’s son Benjamin migrated west to Ohio in the early 1800’s.  Carole and Rodman Underwood narrated the latter story in their 2007 book Underwood Families of Caledonia, Ohio.

William T. Underwood came out to Virginia as a merchant's clerk in 1680 and settled in Goochland county.  He was the forebear of two prominent Kentucky politicians of the mid 19th century, Joseph and his brother Warner.  Joseph's grandson Oscar Underwood, born in Kentucky, was a prominent Democratic politician in Alabama during the 1910's and 20's.
John Thomas Underwood, born in London, had emigrated to New York with his father, a chemist who had studied with Michael Faraday, in 1873.  In 1895 John bought out the patent for a typewriter and started his own company, the Underwood Typewriter Company.  In its heyday in the 1910's and 20's, the Underwood was so synonimous with typewriters that Jack Warner the film producer was quoted as saying that screenwriters were "schmucks with Underwoods."  John Underwood's younger brother Horace was a Presbyterian missionary in Korea.

Australia.  Underwoods in Australia started with three brothers, the sons of Thomas and Mary Underwood from south London:
  • James Underwood the convict, who was transported to Australia in 1791.  On release he established Sydney's first private shipyard and an early distillery.  Upon his death in 1844 he left a legendary estate which required no fewer than three Acts of Parliament to resolve. 
  • Joseph Underwood the merchant, who came to Australia to take charge of one of James' ships in 1807.  They both ran ships to the sealing islands in the Bass Straits.  In later years he became the squire of Ashfield Park. 
  • and William Underwood the drunk.  He ran a pub on a corner of his brother Joseph's land, but died drunk on the street there.
Their story was recounted in Liz Parkinson's 2011 book The Underwoods: Lock, Stock, and Barrel.

Select Underwood Miscellany

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

Select Underwood Names

James Underwood, a former convict, was an early entrepreneur in the new colony of Australia.
John T. Underwood was the British/American entrepreneur who started the Underwood Typewriter Company in New York in 1895.
Derek Underwood, known as "Deadly," was an English cricketer of the 1960's and 1970's, one of the foremost spin bowlers of his day.
Rory Underwood, of Chinese-English parentage, played on the wing in the English rugby teams from 1984 to 1996. 

Select Underwoods Today
  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Norfolk)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 4,000 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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