The surname of WOODARD was a baptismal name 'the son of Wodard'. It was also a name given to a forrester, and a nickname for one who tended his herd in the woods. The name was derived from the Old English word WUDUHEARD, and literally meant one who was brave, hardy and strong. The earliest hereditary surnames in England are found shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and are of Norman French origin rather than native English. On the arrival of the Normans they identified themselves by references to the estates from which they came from in northern France. These names moved rapidly on with their bearers into Scotland and Ireland. Others of the Norman Invaders took names from the estates in England which they had newly acquired. The earliest of the name on record appears to be a Wudardus de Rosshebrok who appears in the year 1148-56 at Bury St. Edmunds and Johannes filius Wdardi was recorded in the year 1156 in County Northumberland. Richard de Wodehirde appears in County Norfolk in the year 1273. William Wodard of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. A later instance of the name mentions Thomas Woodard who married Alice Dobbey at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1682. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God, however much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Registered in County Essex.
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