Reed has more than one spelling - Reed, Reid, Read, and Reade - and more than one explanation.
One is descriptive, from the Old Scots and Old English reid meaning "red" and describing someone with red hair or a ruddy complexion. The other is locational, from the Old English ried meaning a clearing and describing someone who lived in a woodland clearing. There are also various place-names called Reed, Read or Rede with different derivations.
The Reid spelling is mainly Scottish. Reid numbers are also high in Northern Ireland and in Canada, reflecting probable Scottish immigration there. Read is the main spelling in America.
Reed/Reid/Read Resources on
- George Reade. Reades of Congleton in Cheshire.
- The Reed Family. Reeds from Ulster to Pennsylvania.
- Reids from Rinmore and Beyond. Reids from Aberdeenshire.
The Border Reeds of Troughend in Redesdale were one of the reiver families and date from the 1400's and possibly earlier. Parcy Reed, commemorated in song, was the last of these Reeds in the late 1590's (although the name did continue in the area). After his murder his ghost was said to haunt Redesdale. Later, the following ballad appeared on a Selkirkshire gravestone:
The Read and Reade names, meanwhile, seem to have been strongest in south and eastern England.
The Reades in Berkshire were probably related to an earlier John Rede, born in Buckinghamshire in 1331, and the Redes who held the manor of Boarstall there in the next century. Found in Berkshire from the 1450ís, the Reades acquired Barton Court at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and held it until the Civil War when the manor was destroyed by Parliamentary forces. They were later to be found at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire. Charles Reade the Victorian writer was a descendant of these Reades and narrated the family history in his memoirs.
Reades, while less numerous than Reads, were concentrated more in the county of Cheshire. The Reades of Blackwood Hill in Horton parish date from the 17th century. From the Reades of Baddiley came George Reade, the cotton and silk manufacturer at Congleton in the early 1800ís.
Scotland. Reid is the main spelling in Scotland.
Some of the early Reids came from Aberdeenshire. "Red" was found as a surname there as early as 1317. Among these Reids have been:
- a long-established Reid legal family in Aberdeen who bought
castle in the early 1700's.
- the Rev. Lewis Reid who was the minister
Strachan from 1704 to 1762. His son Thomas Reid was a well-known
- a Reid family which started with William Reid, born in
- and Sir James Reid, Queen Victoriaís physician, who was the son of a village doctor in Aberdeenshire.
America. Early Reads in New England were William Read from Kent and Thomas Read from Hertfordshire, both of whom came with Winthrop's party in 1630. Many of their descendants ended up in Maine, those of William at Windham and those of Thomas at Freeport. William Reade of the Reades of Brocket Hall settled in Woburn, Massachusetts in 1635.
John Reed from Cornwall was a Parliamentary officer during the Civil War who, after the Restoration of the King, decided to leave England for America. He settled first in Rhode Island and later in Norwalk, Connecticut. He died on his homestead there in 1730 at the grand old age of 97. A descendant, Moses Read of Salisbury, was a Loyalist who took his family across the border into Ontario in 1784.
John Reid meanwhile departed Aberdeen for New Jersey in 1683, prospered as a surveyor, and was an early settler in Freehold, Monmouth county. His son John was a tavern keeper there and his descendants have lived at the Reid Homestead near Englishtown since the Revolutionary War. Sarah Tabitha Reidís diary of daily life in Monmouth county in the years after the Civil War has recently been discovered. The Reid sod farm can be found in Freehold today.
The Read family of Delaware was a prominent political family in the 18th and 19th century in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The first of this line was Colonel John Read from a well-to-do Berkshire family who came to America in the 1720ís and was one of the founders of Charlestown, Maryland. His son George was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and US Senator for Delaware.
Reed, however, is the most common variant of the name in America. The Reed name was adopted by some Pennsylvanian German families in the 1700's, most notably John Reed (Johannes Ried), a Hessian mercenary and British army deserter who in 1799 made the first gold discovery in America. The Reed Gold Mine is today an historic site in Cabamus county, North Carolina.
Australia. George Frederick Read was a merchant who settled in Tasmania in 1818 and took an active role in the development of the young colony. His son George was sent by his father to Victoria where he became a sheep rancher. His daughter Sarah married Lieutenant Smith of the Royal Navy in 1844 and they also moved to Victoria.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Select Reed/Reid/Read Names
Parcy Reed, commemorated in song, was the last of the Border Reeds in the late 1500's.
Thomas Reid was an influential philosopher in the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century.
Charles Reade was the Victorian novelist who wrote The Cloister and the Hearth.
Joseph Reid invented the Reid oil burner.
George Reid, born in Scotland, became Prime Minister of Australia in 1904.
Walter Reade was the founder of the Walter Reade Organization which owned and operated a chain of theaters in New York and Boston.
Carol Reed was an English film director. His best-known work was probably The Third Man, released in 1949.
Select Reeds/Reids/Reads Today
- 142,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
- 125,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 107,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Select Surname List
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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