Select 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.  

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England.  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. 

Various 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, Worcestershire, 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 Woodward 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 in 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 Reminiscences.   

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 in 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."

Select Woodward Miscellany

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

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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.
Clive Woodward 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)

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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