The name Atwood is of Anglo-Saxon/English origin and is considered topographical. It originated from the medieval English words “atte” which is defined or translates as it sounds to mean at and wudu which translates to wood. In the context of this surname it would mean someone who lived near or beside a wooded are or a forest.
Surnames in Britain prior to the Norman conquest were largely unheard of. In the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times, residents found little need for surnames as everyone in these communities new each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people’s names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. The introduction of surnames by the Norman aristocracy after the invasion seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.
There often exists variations in spelling of many surnames, as with many given names which date back to the early centuries. The variation in spelling of both given and surnames during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname Atwood include but not limited to; Atwood; Attewood; Atwode; and Athwood, among others.
The earliest record of any variation of this surname is that of Thomas Attewode which appears in the Somerset tax rolls from 1563. These rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of Queen Elizabeth I, with the oldest dating back to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom. These records span a period of over 700 years and have proven invaluable to researches over the years. Additional tax rolls show records of Agnes Attewode from Oxfordshire in 1273, William Attewood from Norfolk in 1439 and Robert Attwode from Oxfordshire in 1457.
The first recorded immigrant to America bearing the surname or any variation of the spelling was Ann Atwood who arrived in 1635 and settled in Virginia. Philip Atwood landed and settled in Virginia in 1635 and Issac Atwood arrived and settled in Virginia in 1701.
There were also many immigrants to the British Common Wealth countries of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand bearing the surname Atwood. Captain Issac Atwood landed in 1783 and settled in New Brunswick, Canada and John Simmons Atwood arrived in 1831 and settled in Ontario, Canada. Clinton Atwood arrived in 1883 and settled in Auckland, New Zealand.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Atwood are found in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Switzerland. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Atwood live in Maine and Utah.
There are many persons of note who bear the surname Atwood. John Leland Atwood is an American born aerospace engineer and executive. For over thirty-five years, Atwood was the chief engineer at North American Aviation where he helped design; the F-100 jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the P-51 Mustang, which was used during World War II. Atwood also headed the Apollo Space Program.
Kimball Chase Atwood IV was born in Newton, Massachusetts. Certified in both internal medicine and anesthesiology, he performed his internship and residency at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Atwood currently works at Newton-Wellesley Hospital as an anesthesiologist, as a clinical professor at the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and is an associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.