Todd Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This English, Scottish, and Irish (of Teutonic origin?) surname derives from the Old English word todde, the Old Norse toddi, the Dano-Norwegian tot, and Dutch tode, meaning fox, bush, or tuft. It is believed to have developed as a nickname for a person who either physically represented a fox (ex. had red hair) or exhibited the personality traits of a fox (ex. slyness and cunning). It is also possible in was an occupational surname for a person who hunted foxes. Another theory is that it is a baptismal surname meaning “the son of Edward” from the nickname Ted. Lastly, some believe it derives from a dweller at the sign of the fox (buildings in medieval times and Middle Ages had signs for identification since not all people were literate). One source asserts the Todd family were first found in Berwickshire where they owned land and titles.
The following is an excerpt from WeeToddy.com: “The first to assume the word as a surname was perhaps a keen sportsman. He followed the hounds, or may have been a fox hunter. Tod is a name occurring in the writings of Wycliffe, also Todman, We have other forms of the name, Todt or Todte and Todde, also the compounds Todcastle, Todenham and Todlebru”.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Tod, Toodd, Toddie, and Toaddy. In the Domesday Book, a survey of England and Wales published after the Norman Conquest, lists names of Todi and Toti, as personal (first) names.
Sir William Henry Wilson-Todd, 1st Baronet (1828-1910), MP
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Todd ranks 423rd in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following four states: South Carolina, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.
The surname Todd frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (319th), Scotland (216th), Wales (535th), Ireland (1,933rd) and Northern Ireland (216th). In England, it ranks highest in counties Durham, Westmorland, Northumberland, and Cumberland. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Peebleshire and Kinross-shire. In Wales, it ranks highest in Glamorganshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in King’s County. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Antrim.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (740th), New Zealand (180th), Australia (419th), and South Africa (1,988th).
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer of this last name was Hugo Todd in Norfolk, England in 1168 AD. Other early bearers include Richard Todd (Northumberland 1231 AD) and Richard le Todde (Worcestershire 1275 AD). The Writs of Parliament list one John le Tod. The Register of the University of Oxford lists one Abraham Todde of Newcastle in 1575. An early marriage involving this surname was Jane Todd to Robert Baker in London in 1597. Another early marriage was David Todd to Margaret Ashleby at St. Mary Somerset, London.
Todd Family Tree & Todd Genealogy
The following is a discussion of two different noble, royal, landed, or aristocratic families bearing this last name.
Halnaby Hall, built ion 1661, demolished in 1952
© Country Life Picture Library
Todd of Tranby Park and Halnaby
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Todd family tree traces back to Thomas Todd who lived at Swanland, near Hull, England during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). A one Thomas Todd, son of married Elizabeth Watson and had four children with her: Robert, William, John, and Elizabeth. He died and was succeeded by his son John. John Todd was an Esquire of Tranby Park and a Justice of the Peace who was born in 1789. In 1843, he purchased the estate of Halnby Hall, North Riding, England from Sir John Milbanke. In 1827, he married Jane, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Rutherford, son of Archibald Rutherford, and had only one child with her, a daughter named Jane Marian Rutherford. William Henry Wilson-Todd was an Esquire of Halnaby Hall and Tranby Park, county York, England (in modern day United Kingdom, once called Great Britain), a Justice of the Peace in North Riding, and a Captain of the 39th Regiment who was born in 1828. In 1855, he married Jane Marian Rutherford, daughter and heiress of John Todd, and had the following children with her: William Pierrepont (b. 1857), Elizabeth Jane, Aileen Frances Mary, Evelyn Fridzaeda, and Margaret Annie. He was the son of Joshua Wilson of Roseville, county Wexford, a Colonel in the army, who by his wife (Frances Maria Robinson), assumed, by royal license, the additional surname and coat of arms of Todd in 1855. The family motto was Oporter vivere; and Semper vigilans. The Todd family crest for this line of the family is blazoned in the medieval art of heraldry as follows: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Todd, Argent, within a bordure vert three foxes’ heads couped gules; 2nd and 3rd; Wilson, argent, on a chevron between three mullets gules as many pallets or. Crests: 1st; Todd: A fox sejant; 2nd, out of a mural coronet or, a demi-lion rampant gules holding in the dexter paw a trefoil or.
Todd-Thornton of Westbrook
The Todd family had long been seated in the north of Ireland and is said to be of ancient Scottish descent or lineage. William Thornton Todd was an Esquire of Bunerana Castle, county Donegal, Ireland, the son of Daniel Todd and Letitia Thornton, who in 1799, married his cousin Wilhelmina, daughter and heir of Daniel Patterson of Londonderry and of Fox Hall, and had the following children with her: 1) Daniel (his heir), 2) William (Captain 85th Light Infantry), 3) James Henry (of Westbrook), 4) Andrew Thornton (married Ms. Fitzgerald, daughter of Major Buter Fitzgerald of Toronto, and later Miss Evans, daughter of the Reverend George Evans of Dungannon and had issue), 5) Jane Wilhelmina (married Reverend Hamilton Stuart of Drumasple, county Tyrone and Rockfort, county Donegal), 6) Angel (married Arthur Darley, Esq., Captain of the Royal Navy, of Swanbrook), 7) Mary, and 8) Eliza (married Hamilton Lane, Esq., son of Wiley Lane, of Lane’s Park, county Tipperary). The eldest son, Daniel Todd, was an Esquire of Bunerana Castle, Justice of the Peace, and Deputy Lieutenant who was born in 1804. He died in 1863 and was succeeded by his brother, James Henry. James Henry Todd-Thornton was an Esquire of Westbrook, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Captain of the 40th Regiment, and Major of the Donegal Militia who, in 1850, married Anna Letitia, daughter of Captain Daniel Geale of the Royal Navy, had the following children: James Henry Brooke (1855), Frederick Geale (1861), Daniel Bickley Thornton (1863), Wilhelmina, Mary, Alice, Clara, and Edith. In 1866, by royal license, he assumed the surname and arms of Thornton and Todd. The Todd family crest of this branch of the family is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, argent, on a bend gules between two cinquefoils sable three escarbuncles or, for Thorton: 2nd and 3rd, argent, on a chevron between three foxes’ heads erased gules a mullet or, for Todd. Crests: 1st, a griffin’s head erased sable beaked and collared or, charged on the neck with an escarbuncle gold, for Thornton; 2nd, a Fox passant proper charged on the shoulder with a torteau, motto over, Faire sausdire, for Todd. Motto: Nec temere nec timide. They were seated at Westbrook, Buncrana, county Donegal, Ireland.
Other Todd Pedigree & Family Trees
George Todd was born in Dundee, Angus, Scotland in 1450. He married Elspeth Mason and had a son with her named William. This William was born in the same town in 1470 AD. He married Mary Lundie and had two sons with her: John and John. His son, John was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1520. He had a son named Reginald. Reginald Todd was born in Yorkshire, England in 1545. He had a son named William. This William Todd was born in Pontefract, West Riding, Yorkshire, England in 1569. He married Mary Tudor and later Isabel Rogerson and had four sons: William, John Sr., Joseph, and John. His son John Todd (or Todd) was born in Sling, Southampton, England sometime after 1605. He married Elizabeth Paynter and had two sons with her: Benjamin Tudor and Joseph Tudor Jr. He ended up going to Bermuda. His son Joseph Tudor Todd Jr. was born in Eling, England around 1645. He went to colonial America where he married Joane Swift in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1681. They had the following issue: Joshua John B., Caleb (had daughter named Jemima who married a Cornelison), Thomas (had daughter named Sarah), Elizabeth, and Mary. His son, Joshua John B. Todd, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in about 1681. He married Judith Brandon and Jane Pringle. He had the following sons: Samuel, Caleb Robert (had sons John and Joshya R.), John B., Thomas, and Benjamin (had James, John, Elizabeth, Peter, Joseph, Benjamin, Thomas Charles, Mary, Aaron, and William). His son Thomas was born in Bucks, PA in around 1723. He married Elizabeth Swayne and later Elizabeth Cummins. He had two issue: Elizabeth (Cox) and William. He died in combat serving in the American Revolution as part of the North Carolina Troops. His son, William Todd, was born in North Carolina in 1758. He married Jemima Hard Gray and had a son with her named Josiah. He enlisted in the Continental Army in 1780 and served in the North Carolina Regiment of the 1st Battalion. He held the rank of officer. For his service, he was granted lands in what would become the state of Tennessee. His son, Josiah Todd, was born in Bertie, North Carolina in 1778. He married Nancy Asbill and later Zilpha Thomas. He had issue named James, Atha, Hardy Floyd, and Lucinda. His son, Hardy F., was born in Collirene, Lowndes County, Alabama in 1830. He was a share-cropper and a deacon in Primitive Baptist Church. In 1865, he married Mary King Sawyer, and had one issue: Atha Poindexter This son, Atha Poindexter Todd was born in San Sabo County, Texas in 1876. In 1900, he married Mary Gosna Wilson and they had a son named Dexter. Dexter Lamar Todd was born in Texas in 1918. According to Wikitree.com, “Dexter was a star football player in highschool but dropped out of school in tenth grade. He wanted to be a doctor, but the local M.D. suggested he consider going into the mortuary business as a more realistic career. He earned his GED and then applied to the Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science, returning to work for Fred Buntin at the Buntin Funeral Home in Clarendon, Texas”. He married and had a son named Mark. His son, Dr. Mark D. Todd, was born in the 1950s.
Archibald Todd or Todd was born in Scotland around 1695. In 1715, at Cockpen, Midlothian, he married Margaret Moffatt. Their son, William Todd, was born in Milnholm, Cockpen in 1717. He married Helen Lawson and had a son with her. This son, Archibald Todd II, was born in Antrim County, Ulster, Ireland around 1745. He married Jean Dowdle and had the following issue prior to his death in South Carolina, colonial America: Archibald III, John, Mary Sarah (Bennett), and Robert Andrew. His son Archibald III was born in Ireland in 1763. He married a woman named Nancy. He passed away in Flushing Township, Ohio in 1852.
Early American and New World Settlers
Robart Todd, age 20, came to Virginia, colonial America aboard the Hopewell in 1622. He was a servant of William Tiler. Other settlers in colonial times include Christopher Todd (Boston 1637), Joshua Todd (New England 1639), Mathew Todd (Virginia 1646), Elizabeth Todd (New England 1719), Alexander Todd (New England 1720), Archibald and Jean Todd (South Carolina 1772).
In Canada, one of the first settlers bearing this last name was Nicholas Todd, who came to Nova Scotia in 1749. In Australia, Francis Todd, a blacksmith by trade, came to New South Wales around 1830. In 1837, Mary Ann Todd came to Adelaide aboard the Navarino. In 1839, William Todd came to Adelaide aboard the Indus. In 1843, George Todd, a convict from Southampton, England, came to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania) aboard the Anson. In New Zealand, Robert Todd came to the city of Wellington aboard the Success in 1839. In 1840, Archibald Todd came to Wellington aboard the Bengal Merchant.
Early Americans Bearing the Todd Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains one entry for this surname:
1) Bookplate of Henry Alfred Todd, Professor at Columbia University: A fox salient. Crest: A bird rising. Motto: By cunning not craft.
Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907 contains two entries of this surname:
1) Henry Alfred Todd was born in Woodstock, Illinois in 1854. He received a B.A. from Princeton and a Ph.D. at John Hopkins University and was a Professor of Romance Philology at Columbia University. In 1891, he married Mariam, daughter and co-heiress of John S. Gilman of Baltimore, and had three issue with her as follows: Wallingford (1897), Paul W. (1899), Lisa Gilman, and Martha Clover. Arms: Vert, a fox rampant argent. Crest: A dove rising argent. Mottoes: By cunning not be craft; Astute cum virtue. He lived in New York City and also Brocklebank, Norfolk, Connecticut. He was the son of Reverend Richard K. Todd and Martha Clover (daughter of Lewis P. Clover). He was a descendant of Sir William Todd, Lord Mayor of York, 1487 AD).
2) Christopher Todd, who came to New Haven, Connecticut in 1639. He was the son of William Todd (born 1593) of Pontefract, Yorkshire, England. Arms: Argent, within a bordure vert three foxes couped gules. Crest: On a cap of maintenance gules. Crest: On a cap of maintenance gules turned up ermine a fox sejant proper.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) do not contains any entries for this last name:
1) Christopher Todd who came from Tranby Park, Yorkshire, England who came to New Haven, CT in 1639. Crest: On a chapeau gules turned up ermine a fox sejant proper. Motto: Oportet vivere.
2) Ambrose G. Todd, Esquire, of New York, who bore the same arms as Christopher. For quarerings see under John Alden, of Plymouth, and Thomas Wight, of Dedham, Massachusetts.
3) Daniel Todd who came from Yorkshire, England in 1777. Arms: Argent, within a bordure vert, three foxes’ heads couped gules. Crest: On a cap of maintenance a fox sejant proper. Motto: Oportet vivere.
4) John Todd of Rowley, 1664, lived in Massachusetts. Arms: Vert, a fox rampant argent. Crest: A dove rising. Motto: By cunning, not by craft.
5) Henry Alfred Todd, Esquire of New York, who bore the same arms as John Todd of Rowley, MA.
I have identified five Todd family mottoes:
1) Oportet vivere (It behoves us to live)
2) Semper vigilans (Always watchful)
3) Faire sans dire (To do without speaking) or (Deeds not words)
4) By cunning not craft
5) Astute cum virtue (Astute idea of virtue?)
There are hundreds of notable people with the Todd surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Albert E. Todd (1878-1928) who was the Mayor of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada from 1917-1919, 2) Albert May Todd (1850-1931) was an American chemist, businessman, and political who was born in Nottawa, Michigan and was known as “The Peppermint King of Kalamazoo”, 3) Mary Ann Todd (1818-1882) was the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, born in Lexington, Kentucky, daughter of a banker named Robert Smith Todd, 4) Sir Charles Todd (1826-1910) was an Australian astronomer born in Islington, London, England who worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in the 1840s and also at the Cambridge University observatory from 1847 to 1854, having worked on things such as telegraphy and undersea cables, 5) Dolley Payne Todd (1768-1849) who was the wife of President James Madison, who is considered to have define the role of First Lady, and is well known for saving a painting of George Washington when the British burned down the White House during the War of 1812, 6) Jackson A. Todd (1951) who was a former pitcher in the MLB, having played baseball for the New York Mets in 1977 and the Toronto Blue Jays from 1979-1981, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 7) John Blair Smith Todd (1814-1872) who was a General in the Union Army during the Civil War (also served in the Mexican American War and Seminole) and a delegate from Dakota Territory in the US House of Representatives, born in Lexington, Kentucky, 8) John Todd (1818-1894) who was a US Congregationalist minister, co-founder of Tabor College in Iowa, an abolitionist, and a conductor on the Underground Railroad, 9) Lemuel Todd (1817-1891) who was a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Pennsylvania from 1855-1857 and from 1873-1875, and 10) Paul Harold Todd Jr. (1921-2008) who was a soldier, politician, and businessman who served in the US House of Representative for Michigan from 1965 to 1967, the grandson of “The Peppermint King”.
Anthony Todd (1717-1798), Secretary to the Post Office
John Todd (b. 1666)
Thomas Todd (1765-1826), Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
Mary Todd (1818-1882), wife of Abraham Lincoln