Select Howard Surname Genealogy

The name Howard does not appear to have one single origin, but many.  One theory is that the name is derived from the Norman French names Huard or Heward which came to England after the Norman Conquest. Huardus, Huart and Houardus all appeared as landowners in the Domesday Book of 1086. 

Others see the Old Norse name Haward, from ha meaning "high" and varthr "warden," as an alternative origin, particularly in East Anglia. 

Then there are occupational connotations.  John Howeherde from Derbyshire in 1348 came from "ewe-herd."  Later parish registers find Howard often used for Hayward, the guardian of the hedge in the feudal manorial system.  For instance, the Haywards of Ashton under Lyme in Lancashire became Howards around 1750.

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England.  The first recorded spelling of the family name was probably that of Robert Howarde, dated 1221 in the rolls of Ely Abbey, Cambridgeshire. 

The Howard family who became the Dukes of Norfolk was originally from Norfolk and claimed a connection with the 11th century Saxon fighter Hereward the Wake.  Sir William Howard first appeared in public records as the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1277.  These Howards, the premier dukes of England, are now based at Arundel castle in Sussex.  They have been through their long history staunch Catholics.

Howards were also to be found in Cumberland in the northwest of England.  Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, married into the Dacre family in the 16th century and thereby inherited the vast Dacre estates in Cumberland.  He was soon executed for treason.  But his son William re-established the Howards there. They later became the Earls of Carlisle and built Castle Howard in north Yorkshire. 

A related Howard family held Levens Hall near Kendal for many centuries.  Howards also held the Glossop estate in Derbyshire from 1606 to 1925.  Management here was usually entrusted to the second son of the family.

By the late 19th century the largest number of Howards in England was to be found in the northwest, primarily in Lancashire.   Howards at North Meols near Southport date from about 1500.  They were farmers and their family records were recorded at the local church of St. Cuthbert's.  The Haywards of Ashton under Lyme became Howards around 1750.

One Howard family has traced its roots in Surrey back to Thames Ditton (which contains a Howard Street) in the 1600’s.  Another Howard family of the same timescale was to be found at Little Shelford in Cambridgeshire.  Here as in Lancashire the early spelling may have been Hayward.

.  Howard can be Irish, either brought by the English arriving there, as with the Howards from Dublin who later held Shelton abbey in Wicklow; or in county Clare, being an anglicization of the Gaelic names O'Hiomhair or O’Huer.

.  Howard lines in Maryland traced themselves back to the younger portionless members of the ducal Howards who sought their fortunes in America.

Ann Howard married Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore; and Mathew Howard (who was a Howard from his mother’s side) was in Virginia by the 1630’s before settling in Anne Arundel county in Maryland in 1649, that place being more congenial to Catholics.  Two other Howards from the same roots settled there – Edmund Howard in Charles county and Cornelius Howard in Baltimore county. 

These Howards were part of the Maryland country gentry set.  In the 1790’s John Eager Howard, a son of Cornelius, was Governor and Senator for Maryland and gave his name to Howard county.  His grandson Francis Key Howard, however, was a political prisoner by the time of the Civil War.

There were other Howards of less ducal origins elsewhere.  John Howard, formerly Hayward, arrived from Kent with his brother on the Hercules in 1635.  His family became leading citizens of the town of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. 

Others of these Howards later settled in Vermont
and Maine.  One line led to Oliver Howard, born in Maine in 1830, who was a distinguished US army general during the Civil War and in later campaigns against the Indians in the West.  But he is best known for the founding of Howard University in Washington DC in 1867. This became a premier university for African American students. 

Australia.  James and Elizabeth Howard were immigrants to Sydney from Hertfordshire in England in 1855. Their grandson Walter and great grandson Lyall both fought in World War One.  Lyall's son John Howard was Australia's Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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John Howard became the first Duke of Norfolk in 1483.   
Catherine Howard from this Norfolk family was the fifth wife of Henry VIII and beheaded in 1542.
John Howard was an 18th century English penal reformer.  The Howard League for Penal Reform was named after him.
Leslie Howard was a well-known British actor.
Frankie Howard was a popular English comedian noted for his risque humor.
John Howard was Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007.

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  • 47,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 94,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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