Origin of the Name
Woody is derived from the Ancient Anglo-Saxon two syllable word "wudu". The name and derivatives meant "the substance of trees"; i.e. wood, a forest and a tree. It was most often used as a modifier, as in wudu-aelfenne (wood-elves) and wudu-aeppel (wood-apple). Toward the end of the fourteenth century, wudu gradually became wode/woode, 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/woode became a one syllable word. Since most very early surnames were based on the bearer's occupation or residence, the word is found as part of many names; however, some of those people with the surname derived from the original wudu chose to retain the two syllable pronunciation. So, although the spelling has changed, the pronunciation of Woode/Woody/Woodie/Wooddy/Woodey has remained unchanged since the time of Chaucer. Although the name Wood is very common in the United Kingdom, Woody is very uncommon. In fact, the Woody surname is over 100 times more common in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom. Some very early English Woody's: Roger Wody c. 1255; Thomas de la Wdhaye c. 1275; Robert atte Wodeheye c. 1333; John Woodye c. 1568.
What's In a Name?
In many cases, the transcription of old documents is a difficult task at best. As they are today, the writers of documents were sometimes impatient and sloppy. What's more, the spelling of names was often left to the census taker, minister, clerk, justice or other person that was recording the information. Today, the power of print provides weighty evidence to many researchers and finding the identical information in several printed sources provides indisputable evidence. They seem to forget that almost all of what they read in print had to be transcribed from the written page. Although the great majority of transcribers strive to accurately decipher source documents, even they can and do disagree among themselves. To fully appreciate this situation, every researcher should try their hand at transcribing some old documents. In addition, as printed documents have been and are still being copied (i.e.: retyped and published on the internet), additional mistakes invariably occur.
Here is a sampling of the names that one should be aware of when researching the
Woody surname: Wooddy, Wooddie, Woddy, Wody, Woode, Woodde, Woodee, Wooddey, Woodie,
Wooday, Woodya, Woodye, Woodly, Wooly, Waddy, Wady, de Woody and other variations on this
theme. In addition, the letters W and M were infrequently confused by
transcribers, so be aware
of Moody and variations.
Other Researchers of the Henry & William Woody Lines
The Tyree Tree with Angle, Byrd, Dillion, & Woody Branches by Dorothy Chambers Watts, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1978. Mildred Motley Woody of Rocky Mount, Virginia contributed to the Randolph & Patience Woody line. Mary Ellen Gilliland Woody of Springfield, Missouri contributed to the John & Prudence Woody line.
The Gertrude Casler Mann Collection and The E. Marvin Raney Collection. These collected papers are available at the Franklin Co., Library, Rocky Mount, Virginia.
Anita Lotts of Albert Lea, Minnesota has researched the Wyatt Woody line in western North Carolina. One of her primary sources was The Heritage of the Toe River Valley by Lloyd Bailey.
"John Woody - Veteran, Battle of New Orleans" by Roger V. Logan, Jr., Boone County Historian, Vol. IV, No. IV, 1981
the Woody Block - The Woody Family Descending from William Woody (1760-1817)
by Jeri Davis Lipov, Columbia, Maryland, 1996. The descendants William's son,
John Wooddy, of Arkansas. This research is
available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library as
Film # 2055363 Item 1.
Other Woody Lines
Several other Woody lines have been researched:
In 1738, John Woody and Mary Lindley were married in Baltimore (later Harford) County Maryland. Slightly earlier in 1736, John was documented in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the home of Mary, and adjacent to Baltimore County, Maryland. The Woodys later moved to the Haw River region of North Carolina where John died. A starting point for this line might be A Stream of Time and Kinfolk and Where They Lived by Vivian R. Woody.
Richard and Ann Woody came to Boston c. 1640 and their descendants are documented for several generations. There is a popular theory that John Woody of Haw River, North Carolina was a descendant of Richard and Ann. Unfortunately, professional research has failed to uncover any evidence at all to substantiate this theory. See Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes.
William Woody and Lady Sarah Parcel first settled on the Potomac River c. 1750, but soon moved to North Carolina. The basis for any research is Revolutionary Soldiers, Jonathan Woody and Jacob Frederic Lagenauer, compiled by Ruth Lessley and Ruby Kansler as transcribed from the diary of W. C. Berry. This transcription is available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library as Film # 1428709. A very through researcher of this line was Verl Fredrick Weight. His work is available as a Pedigree Resource File (Submission # 26672-0526106191613) on the LDS FamilySearch site and from the LDS Online Store as CD #129.
Other researchers who have contributed significant information to the above lines are: Hugh E. Whitted, R. H. Hutchison, Francis Woody Werking, Mary Dell Wallace, the author of a newsletter called The Woody Family Tree: Let's Climb it Together (available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library as Film # 6100040) and James E. Smith, the author of Woody Cousins.
Obviously, some or all of these lines were in Virginia at same time as the Virginia Woody's. It is quite possible that some or all may be connected to the Henry and William Woody lines. There are some tantalizing facts that suggest a connection; however, to my knowledge, there is not a shred of proof to support this theory. In addition, recent yDNA evidence indicates that there were three completely unrelated Woody lines in Colonial America.
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Revised Jan 14, 2012