Reed/Reid/Read


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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 incidence of these names has varied in the UK, America and elsewhere (the table below shows the apporximate numbers today).

Numbers (000's)
UK
America
Elsewhere (1)
Reid
  68         
  34           
  78
Reed
  40
  84
  14
Read (2)
  34
   7
  15
 (1)  Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
 (2)  Including Reade.

The Reid spelling is mainly Scottish.  Reid numbers are also high in Northern Ireland and in Canada, reflecting probable Scottish immigration there. 

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England.  The Reed name, common in various parts of England, is in particular a Northumberland name, probably derived from Redesdale.

The Reeds of Troughend in Redesdale were one of the Border 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 continued in the area).  After his murder his ghost was said to haunt Redesdale.  Later, the following ballad appeared on a Selkirkshire gravestone:

"Here lies Tam Reid, who was chokit to died, wi' taking a feed, o' butter and breed, wi' ovremuckle speed, when he had nae need, but just for greed."

The Read and Reade names, meanwhile, seem to have been strongest in south and eastern England.  Reades were at Barton Court in Berkshire from the early 1400ís to around 1600 (the place was later destroyed By Parliamentarians during the Civil War) and at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire until the mid-1700ís.

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.  A long-established Reid legal family in Aberdeen bought Barra castle in the early 1700's.  The Rev. Lewis Reid was the minister at Strachan from 1704 to 1762 (his son Thomas was a well-known Scottish philosopher). And one family account started with a William Reid, born in Glenbuchat in 1727.

Scots Reids who migrated to Ulster often became Reeds.

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.

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 John Read, from a well-to-do Berkshire and Hertfordshire 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 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
.

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.
Elizabeth Jesser Reid was a 19th century English social reformer, best remembered today for the founding of Bedford College.
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)

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Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Scott
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
Thompson
Butler       
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Walker
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 
Sanders
Young

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 500 surnames.

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