This ancient English surname of WOODY was an occupational name for 'a hewer of wood', a wood-cutter. The name was originally rendered in the Old English form WUDU-HEAWERE. Many of the modern family names throughout Europe reflect the profession or occupation of their forbears in the Middle Ages and derive from the position held by their ancestors in the village, noble household or religious community in which they lived and worked. The addition of their profession to their birth name made it easier to identify individual tradesmen and craftsmen. As generations passed and families moved around, so the original identifying names developed into the corrupted but simpler versions that we recognise today. The name is also spelt WOODYEAR, WOODYEARE, WOODYER and WOODGER. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Robert le WODEHYEWERE, who was recorded in County Essex in the year 1301, and Walter le WODEHEWER, was documented in Bedfordshire in 1309. 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. Later instances of the name include Richard WOODYERE, who registered at Oxford University in 1605, and John WOODGER, enrolled there in 1663. 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.
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