The surname of GREENWOOD was a locational name 'the dweller at the greenwood or forest' from residence nearby. The name was derived from the Old English GRENEWODE. The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. Early records of the name mention Grenewode (without surname) listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. John del Grenewode, 1275 Yorkshire. Johannes de Grenewode (farmer) was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. An eminent member of the name was Arthur Greenwood (1880-1954) the English politician, born in Leeds, and educated at Leeds University. He became an MP in 1922, and deputy leader of the parliamentary Labour party in 1935. He was made a life peer in 1970.
Arms registered in Norwich and County York, 1594.
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