Select Underwood Surname Genealogy

Here are some Underwood stories and accounts over the years:

Early Underwoods in England

Lucien Underwood in his 1913 book Underwood Families of America had the following to say about early Underwoods in England.

“The name Underwood appears on the face of it to have arisen from some locality where the family lived and very probably originated independently in connection with different families who happened to live in similar surroundings. The origin of the name is even more apparent in some of the more ancient forms in which it appears.  In old records it was written in several ways - as Underwode, Underode, Underwoode, and even as Under-the-wode and Under-the-wood.

The earliest trace of the name in documents was found as far back as 1177 in the pedigree of Underwood of Bixley in Norfolk in the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum.  In 1476 Underwood from Hertfordshire was mentioned in the Visitation of London.  At the Herald's College in London there is a pedigree of Underwood from Weston, Hertfordshire, signed by Robert Underwood in 1634 who made the following note: 'Vide Visitation of Hertfordshire where the family hath remained 300 years.'  This would put the date of the family in Weston family back to about 1334.

The principal families in England by the name of Underwood of whom there are more or less extensive pedigrees preserved are the Underwoods of Weston in Hertfordshire, the Underwoods of Hereford, and the Underwoods of Bixley and Hevringham in Norfolk.

Besides these there is also an Irish family the extent of whose pedigree cannot be stated. The Duchess of Inverness, morganatic wife of the Duke of Sussex, uncle to Queen Victoria, was descended through her mother from the Irish line and assumed the name and arms of Underwood."

Underwood Name Distribution in the 1881 English Census

The table below shows the distribution by county of the Underwood name in the 1881 English census.


Underwoods in Pickering and Egton in Yorkshire

From the beginning of the surviving parish registers in 1559 there were Underwoods recorded in Pickering parish in north Yorkshire.  Although a viable tree can be constructed for the early family, some of the critical links are missing.  The James Underwood who married Margaret Watson in Pickering in 1642 was undoubtedly part of this earlier family.  His son Thomas moved to Egton, marrying Mary Smallwood there in 1684.  He was by trade a roper.  Thomas and his second wife Ann were buried in the old churchyard at Egton in 1729 and their gravestone survives there. 

Thomas's descendants have flourished in the Egton area down to the present day.  Paul and Alison Underwood run the Horseshoe Hotel at Egton Bridge on the river Esk.

Underwoods in Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire

The largest concentration of Underwoods in the 1881 census, a count of 171, was in the village of Yardley Hastings in Northamptonshire.  The christening of John Underwood was recorded there in 1726. 

One Underwood family goes back possibly even further in the village.  An Australian connection exists here with the transportation of George James Underwood and two of his friends in the 1840’s for the killing of a gamekeeper.   Others of this family emigrated to Canada.

James Underwood's Early Shipping Ventures

In the early years in Sydney, some very enterprising convicts, after they had served their terms of imprisonment, went into the shipping business.  There were seals on all of the islands, all waiting to be killed for their skins, and there were plenty of casks of whale oil, ready to be sent back to England, and there was also plenty of sandalwood growing on the islands in the Pacific. 

Three ex-convicts - James Underwood, Henry Kable and Simeon Lord - owned quite a number of small sailing ships; and they had a band of sealers on the various Bass Strait and other islands killing seals for their skins. 

Then they embarked on a bigger enterprise. They bought a small ship, the Sydney Cove, in England.  By the time that they had had her repaired and fitted out, she had cost them over £7,000.  And they had to borrow most of this money.  Still, the Government agreed to employ the Sydney Cove to carry female convicts and an escort of soldiers from the NSW Corps. 

In November 1806 the Sydney Cove, sitting at Deptford on the Thames, was sent down to Portsmouth to receive the women and girls.  In addition to the 109 female convicts and the NSW Corps soldiers, the passengers included Joseph Underwood, James’s brother, and his wife and two children and also their mother.  The party arrived at Port Jackson after an uneventful voyage in June 1807.

The fee for the convict carriage was £2,961 and this marked the beginning of James Underwood’s rags-to-riches story.  

Oscar Underwood, the Ku Klux Klan, and the 1924 Democratic Convention

Oscar Underwood was Alabama’s senator from 1915 to 1927.  He was a longtime opponent of the Klan.  In 1914, when the Klan organized a parade in Birmingham during that year's National Democratic Convention, Underwood called it: 

“An effort to intimidate me, the Alabama delegation and the Democratic party.  It will not succeed.  I maintain that the organization is a national menace.  It is either the Ku Klux Klan or the United States of America.  Both cannot survive.  Between the two, I choose my country.” 

By 1924 Underwood was one of very few anti-Klan officeholders left in the South.  He led the anti-Ku Klux Klan forces at the 1924 Democratic Convention where he was running as its Presidential nominee.  Even before the convention considered its platform, the speech nominating Underwood called for the condemnation of the Klan and produced a lengthy floor demonstration. 

The convention was marked by a deadlock between the supporters of the Irish Catholic New York Governor Al Smith and Georgian politician William McAdoo.  As the convention labored through 103 ballots, Alabama, as the first state alphabetically, cast its votes first, each time without variation: "Alabama casts 24 votes for Oscar W. Underwood."   Underwood therefore became a symbol of the convention's deadlock.  Finally the convention turned to John W. Davis whose work as a Wall Street lawyer proved less of a political hurdle for the delegates.

The Underwood Typewriters

The Underwood typewriter was the creation of German-American inventor Franz X. Wagner.  Its name came from John T. Underwood, a manufacturer of ribbons and carbon paper who bought the company early in its history. 

The scarcest and most valuable Underwoods are the No. 1 and No. 2 models.  About 12,000 of these were made between 1896 and 1900.  They were labeled "Wagner Typewriter Co." on the back and they differed in a number of other subtle ways from later Underwoods. 

Underwood models 3, 4, and 5 were made from 1900 until 1932. The No. 3 was a wide-carriage machine, the No. 4 typed 76 characters, and the No. 5 typed 84 characters. 

By 1920, almost every typewriter made in America was imitating the Underwood.  The No. 5 was the quintessential Underwood.  Millions of these machines were used by secretaries, journalists, government officials and writers throughout the first half of the 20th century.  Later Underwoods were superficially modernized, but retained the same basic mechanism.  The name "No. 5" was even given to some of these later typewriters, in honor of the model that made the company's fortune. 

The founder of the company, John T. Underwood, became so wealthy that he built a stately home in the neighborhood of Clinton Hill in Brooklyn.  Following his death in 1937, the estate was donated to the city and transformed into Underwood Park.

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