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Woody One-Name Study
The worldwide study of the Woody surname & variants including
Wooddy, Woodey, Woodie, Woddy, deWoody, Woode (two syllables), etc.

Created: August, 2011
Hosted by Dave Woody

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        The Woody One-Name Study (ONS) is a research project focusing on the world wide occurrences of the Woody surname and variants, as opposed to a particular pedigree lineage or pedigree. The project is a natural extension of the Woody DNA Project, Woody Family Roots and The Woody Family of Old Virginia. The Woody DNA Project includes basic lineages, while Woody Family Roots and The Woody Family of Old Virginia include extensive lineages. The Woody Family of Old Virginia is a one-name study of all Woodys with roots in Colonial Virginia.

        The objective of this one-name study is to collect data, information and images that assist in achievement of the goals listed below:

        The vast majority of Woodys and variants are found in the USA; however, there is a considerable population of Woodys and variants in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, India, France and other countries worldwide. Significant research has been done and published for several extensive Woody lineages in the US. This project will not republish these lineages, but will provide links and/or references to appropriate web sites, books and other media. The project will also publish images of source documents and people associated with these lineages, as well as, a list of researchers and their areas of interest.
        As with a DNA project, a successful one-name project depends on cooperation between people with different goals, backgrounds and varying levels of experience; however, a cooperative effort between people studying the same surname can be a benefit to all involved. We would like to include web links and book references to Woody (or variant) lineages from all over the world. We would also like to include images of documents, people, etc. Please send us these references and images and we will include them on the this web site.


Origin & Development of the Woody Surname

        As seen in the will of Thomas Woody, the Woody surname has been recorded in the British Isles since 1605; however, it is virtually impossible to find this name in books that focus on the etymology of surnames. Also, notice the three different spellings of the name in the will and probate proceeding. Currently, the most common variation of this surname in the British Isles is Woodey and we did find a modest discussion of this name in A Dictionary of British Surnames.
        However, an examination the ancient spelling and meaning of the word "wood" proved more interesting and productive. The surnames of Wood and Woody both seem to be derived from the Ancient Anglo-Saxon two syllable word "wudu". T
he name and derivatives meant "the substance of trees"; i.e. wood, a forest and a tree. It was also often used as a modifier, as in wudu-Šlfenne (wood-elves) and wudu-Šppel (wood-apple). Toward the end of the fourteenth century, wudu gradually became wode, but retained the two syllable pronunciation. In his poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer made use of the rhyming potential of the two syllable word, but after his death in 1400, wode largely became a one syllable word. Wode then became Woode and the "e" was eventually dropped by many people. Since most early surnames were based on the bearer's occupation, residence or perhaps even demeanor (wudu also meant wild and crazy), wood is a part many names (i.e. Greenwood, Attwood, Woodnut, etc.); however, some of those people with the surname derived from the original wudu chose to retain the two syllable pronunciation. By the 16th century, Woodye seemed to be a more common variation. So, although the spelling has changed, the pronunciation of  Woody, Woodie, Wooddy, Woodey, etc. has remained unchanged since the time of Chaucer.
        The above explanation seems to be very logical and plausible; however, the yDNA results of the Wood DNA Project and the Woody DNA Project (see below) do not support this theory.
     In the late 1600s,  the name of James Woody/Wooddy was recorded as Woode in the Parish Register of  St. Martins Parish, New Kent County, Virginia. We have heard that the name Woode is still being used with both the single and double syllable pronunciations, but we don't have any confirmation of this assertion. Perhaps our readers can enlighten us.
        It is also interesting to note that the 2002 surname statistics for England, Wales and the Isle of Man include five instances the ancient surname Wudu.


Name Variants, Deviants and Mistranscriptions

        In many cases, the transcription of old documents is a difficult task at best. As they are today, the writers and transcribers of documents were sometimes impatient and sloppy. What's more, before widespread literacy, the spelling of names was often left to the census taker, minister, clerk, priest, justice or other person that was recording the information. So it should not come as a surprise that a wide variety of variations have been recorded for many surnames. What is somewhat surprising to us is that many literate English writing people were so seemingly indifferent to their spelling. As Bill Bryson writes: "Most people throughout much of the history of the English language have seemed remarkably unconcerned about the niceties of spelling -- even to the point of spelling one word two ways in the same sentence. People were even casual about their names. More than eighty spellings of Shakespeare's name have been found. Shakespeare himself did not spell the name the same way twice in any of his six known signatures and even spelled it two ways in one document, his will." Another good example of this indifference is the 1605 will of Thomas Woody noted above.
        We have registered Woody, Woodey, Wooddy, Woodie, Woddy and Woode with the Guild of One-Name Studies. Some other variants and deviants that we have encountered are: Woodys, Wooddey, Wooddie, Woodies, Woodye, Wooddye, Woodyes, Woodde, Woodis, Woodia, Wodey, Woddey, Wody, Wodys, Woddie, Wodye, Woddye, Woady, Wuda, Wudy, deWoody and others. Additionally, The capital letters of "W" and "M" were/are frequently mistranscribed, so Woody and variants were recorded as Moody and variants, as well as the reverse. Also, Waddy and Woddy were/are also mistranscribed, in both directions.


 Surname Frequency & Distribution

         Data extracted from the 2002 Office of National Statistics Surname Database for England, Wales & the Isle of Man. The database contains almost 270,000 surnames, shared by 54.4 million people. Listed are surname occurrences and rank:

        Woodey - 157 - 24895
        Woode - 101 - 32945
        Woody - 31 - 68493
        Woddy - 5 - 230412
        Wudu - 5 - 230412

The above figures give a population frequency of about .00055% for all of the recorded variants.

        The US Census Bureau provides surname statistics from the 1990 census based on population frequency and frequency rank:

        Woody - .007% - 1664
        Woodie - .001% - 15008
        deWoody - .001% - 15538
        Woode - less than .001% - 53340
        Woodey - less than .001% - greater than 88799
        Wooddy - less than .001% - greater than 88799

The above figures give a population frequency of about .01% for all of the recorded variants. This is roughly 18 times the frequency for the UK figures from 2002.

        The web site PublicProfiler claims a database of 300 million people and one million surnames in twenty-six countries. Most of this data comes from telephone listings. Statistics for surnames are given in frequency per million (fpm) for the eight countries with the most occurrences of a particular surname. Also, maps show the occurrences in six levels (high to low) for all the countries and political divisions of those countries. Below is the data for the Woody surname in fpm:

    United States - 68.23
    Canada - 2.96
    United Kingdom - .66
    Germany - .6
    Netherlands - .43
    Ireland - .43
    India - .27
    France - .1

        We are somewhat surprised that India was in the top eight and that Australia and New Zeeland were not.
Although the name Wood is very common in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, Woody/Wooddy/Woodey/Woddy are rather uncommon.
        The names of Woody and Woodey are included in a compilation of an 1881 survey of names based on the postal areas of Great Britain. The greatest concentrations were found in the Bristol, St. Albans and London postal areas of southern England. The 1881 British county centric census includes Woody and Woodie and, except for St. Albans, this data correlates well with the postal area data. Woody, Woodie and Woodey are included in a compilation of the 1891 England and Wales census and Lancashire and Hampshire Counties were added to the areas of higher concentration.
The web site PublicProfiler contains surname distribution maps derived mostly from somewhat recent telephone listings. The map of England and Wales shows an almost uniform low distribution across all the political divisions.

         With the significant exception of the 17th century Woodys found in the Boston area, the Woodys and variants of Colonial America were found predominantly in the southern states. The 1990 US census shows a somewhat more uniform distribution; however, the southern states were still somewhat dominant. Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado had the highest distributions with about one Woody per one thousand citizens.


Historical References     

        Some early English Wudu derivatives from various books focused on surnames:  Roger Wody, c. 1255; Thomas de la Wdhaye, c. 1275; Geoffrey Wody, c.1275; Richard le Woodye, c. 1296; John Woodye, c. 1568.

       The UK National Archives Index has hundreds, if not thousands, of references to Woodys and variants. For instance, using the locations of Surrey and Sussex noted in the abovementioned will of Thomas Woody we found, among many others, the following examples of interesting data:

Will of Rychard Wooddy, Yoeman, Lingfield, Surrey, 6 Feb, 1584

Will of William Wooddy, Mariner on Ship Diamond, Rotherhithe, Surrey, 22 Sept, 1666

Suit of John, son and heir of William Woodye , Middlesex, Surrey, 1556-1558

John Wody, debtor, Horley, Surrey, 4 Jun 1428

Suit of William, son and heir of Thomas Wody, Hartfield, Sussex, 1518-1529

John Woody, Gentlemen, debtor, Crawley, Peasmarsh & Ifield, Sussex, 21 Nov 1470

Will of Richard Wooddye/Wooddy, Yoeman, Hollington, Sussex, 28 Jun, 1628

Will of Robert Woodye, Yoeman, Frant, Sussex, 17 Jul, 1615

        Images of the references may be purchased from the Archives for about ú3.5 each.
        The numerous Woody and variants records in the Archives may help explain the large population frequency difference between the surname Woody (and variants) in the US and UK. It is our experience that the people recorded in archives had accumulated at least modest wealth: They purchased and sold land, made wills and were involved in lawsuits, all indicators of at least modest wealth. This wealth was almost always connected to land ownership. Also, our experience shows that people of even modest wealth tended to have smaller families than non-land owners. Toward the end of the 18th century, there were very few Woody (and variant) land owners in the US.  The large majority of the non-land owners were itinerant farmers and they tended to have very large families and, as a result, many descendants. So it is very possible that the Woodys (and variants) of the UK simply tended to have smaller families much earlier that the Woodys (and variants) of America and over many generations, this tendency was responsible for the current population frequency difference. Do our readers have another explanation? If so, please share your thoughts.


Woody DNA Project

        The Woody DNA Project  was initiated in 2007 and is open to any male Woody or man believing that he is the son of a Woody male. Female Woody descendants can help by strongly encouraging their male Woody relatives to join the project. To-date, all of the project participants have come from the United States, but we encourage Woodys from all over the world will join the group. By using the project to order your yDNA testing, you will receive a substantial discount.
            While most of the Woodys tested so far are in the R1b1 haplogroup which has deep ancestral origins
in Western Europe, one large segment of Woodys is in the I2a haplogroup, which has Scandinavian deep ancestral origins.
            A point to ponder is the lack of significant correlation in the yDNA results of the surnames of Woody and Wood. If ancient relatives chose different spellings of their name, one might assume that the yDNA results of their descendants would reflect this. In the United States, some closely related branches chose both Woody and Wooddy in the 18th century, but the yDNA results of their descendants are, of course, very similar.


Online Woody Lineages
(Please inform us of Woody (& variants) links)

Descendants of William Woody
by Anna Owen Mosley (William Woody of North Carolina)

Descendants of William Woody
by Pat Lawson Kittelt (William Woody of North Carolina)

The Woody Family of Wise & Parker Counties, Texas
 by Julie Perkins Murphy (Richard Woody of Boston)

Woody Cousins
 by James E. Smith (Richard Woody of Boston)

Johnsons and Woodys of North Georgia
 by Anonymous (Richard Woody of Boston)

The Woodys -- from 1600 to ..............
 Bruce Glenn Woody (Richard Woody of Boston)


Woody Books & References
(Please inform us of Woody (& variants) books & references)

The Tyree Tree with Angle, Byrd, Dillon, & Woody Branches by Dorothy Chambers Watts. (Henry Woody of Virginia)

The Gertrude Casler Mann Collection and The E. Marvin Raney Collection. (Collected papers) (Henry Woody of Virginia)

John Woody - Veteran, Battle of New Orleans by Roger V. Logan, Jr. (John Woody of Arkansas)

Chips from the Woody Block - The Woody Family Descending from William Woody (1760-1817) by Jeri Davis Lipov. LDS Family History Library  Film # 2055363 (William Woody of Virginia & Tennessee)

Stream of Time 1638-1975
and Kinfolk and Where They Lived 1638-1968 by Vivian R. Woody. (Richard & Ann Woody of Boston and John & Mary Lindley Woody of Baltimore County, Maryland)

Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes. (Richard & Ann Woody of Boston, Massachusetts)

Revolutionary Soldiers, Jonathan Woody and Jacob Frederic Lagenauer, compiled by Ruth Lessley and Ruby Kansler as transcribed from the diary of W. C. Berry. LDS Family History Library, Film # 1428709. (William & Sarah Parcel Woody of North Carolina)

The Woody Family Tree: Let's Climb it Together (Newsletter) by Mary Dell Wallace. LDS Family History Library as Film # 6100040.  (All Woody branches)

A Branch of the Family Tree: a Genealogy of the Woodie (Woody) Family of Northwestern North Carolina and the Known Descendents who have Scattered thru out the United States by Verl Fredrick Weight. LDS Family History Library Film # 879653 (William & Sarah Parcel Woody of North Carolina)

Gracey/Woody: A Genealogy and Narrative History of two Families, that of Immigrants Patrick Gracey--1740 and Richard Woody--1638 by E. Boehms Skelley. (Richard & Ann Woody of Boston and John & Mary Lindley Woody of Baltimore County, Maryland)

The Twelve Tribes of Woody
by Drucilla Hamrick Woody & Mark Elbert Woody.
(Richard & Ann Woody of Boston and John & Mary Lindley Woody of Baltimore County, Maryland)

Daniel Wheeler Woody - His Ancestors and Descendants by Anna May Rathbun. LDS Family History Library Film # 1421699 (Richard & Ann Woody of Boston and John & Mary Lindley Woody of Baltimore County, Maryland)



British Surnames and Surname Profiles, Compiled from 1881 British Census statistics, (online:
Bryson, Bill. The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way, Avon Press, New York, 1991
Horobin, Simon & Smith, Jeremy. An Introduction to Middle English, Edinburgh University Press, Ltd., Edinburgh, 2002
Learning Center - UK Name Distribution, Compiled from 1891 England & Wales Census, (online:
PublicProfiler - WorldNames
Reaney, P. H. & Wilson, R. M. A Dictionary of British Surnames, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, Henley & Boston, 1976
Smith, Benjamin E. & Whitney, William Dwight. The Century Dictionary - An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, The Century Company, New York, 1889-1911
Surnames of England and Wales - the ONS List, Compiled from
Office of National Statistics database of surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Man in September, 2002 (online:
United Kingdom National Archives (online: )
U.S. Census Bureau; Population Division, 1990 Names File (online:

Please send  your questions, corrections, additions & comments to


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Revised Jun 5, 2015