Greenwood's of Co Norfolk
A genealogical study of the Greenwood's of Co Norfolk, England. Because my own Greenwood's moved around a fair bit, in order to make a comprehensive study as possible of the family it was necessary to examine and chart all the Greenwood families of Co Norfolk, from before 1500 to after 1900.

Surname Index Page Norfolk Index Descendents of Erasmus Greenwood Other Greenwood's

Caution - these files are large, both Greenwood files are around 1M in size so please be patient while the files display

Reproduction for the purpose of financial gain is prohibited. Redistribution of this material to a genealogical listing/service which resells or charges for access is also prohibited. This material is public domain, unless specified otherwise in the sources, and cannot, by international copyright law ("Intellectual Rights") be copyrighted by a third party. I make no claim regarding the accuracy of this chart; the original sources are not free from error and a degree of guesswork is involved in genealogy.

2015, David Powell, <>

"This famous surname is of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It is particularly popular in the county of Yorkshire, and whilst believed to be a topographical name for someone who lived in a forest, may have originated from a now "lost" medieval village in the county called Greenwood or similar. The name derives from the words "grene" meaning literally the green sward, and "wudu", a wood. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below), and early recordings include those of Johanna de Grenewod and Ricardus de Grenewod both in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire in the year 1379. A later example taken from the early surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London lists the marriage of Henricus Greenwood to Agnete Rende, on the April 23rd 1599, at the church of St. Martins in the Fields, Westminster. One of the early colonists to New England was John Greenwood. He was aged only sixteen, when he sailed from London aboard the ship "Bonaventure" bound for Virginia in 1634. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John del Grenewode. This was dated 1275, in the "Court Rolls" of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling."[Internet Surname Database]

The Greenwood's of Co Norfolk for the most part fall into 5 distinct geographical groups, centred on the towns of Kings Lynn, Swaffham, East Dereham, Norwich and Aylsham. Greenwood's are, of course, found elsewhere in Norfolk, but these 5 groups account for over 90% of all recorded Greenwood BDM events that I have been able to find. Many of the remaining Greenwood "events" are most likely strays from these 5 groups. There is a 6th region, of sorts, the town of Great Yarmouth. I have not included that as a distinct group since the Greenwood's that appear there can be traced back to the other groups. Whether these apparent groupings (and the relative absence of Greenwood's elsewhere) are real or an artefact of incomplete coverage is unknown, however note that the existence of the groups are supported by census records in the 1800's, which essentially have complete coverage, even if BMD coverage may be incomplete.

Records post 1800 are almost complete, especially with FreeBMD (>99% complete) and the various census records. This is further enhanced by parish records from a number of independent transcription projects. There is also a wealth of PRs from pre-1700 available in the IGI. Not all parishes are indexed in the IGI, of course, but some of the gaps are filled by other transcription projects. That, unfortunately, leaves the crucial 1700-1800 period where available records for Norfolk appear to be very poor (as of 2008). Whether this is due to available records yet to be transcribed or the records themselves having been lost is unknown. Many of the transcribes PR's I have found have actually been taken from BT's (Bishop Transcripts) and AT's (Archdeacon transcripts), prepared at the time from summaries send by the parish priests into their local bishop and/or archdeacon. The fact that transcribers have resorted to BT's and AT's suggests the original parish records are no longer available. This is perhaps not surprising since Norfolk has not "enjoyed" the population boom that other parts of England have experienced over the past 200 years or so. The population of the whole county has only doubled since the early 1800's and that increase has been very uneven across the county - vast swathes of the county now lie uninhabited or very sparsely whilst most of the population is now found concentrated in the three major population centres: Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn. The remainder of the county is full of abandoned churches, some still lovingly maintained by the local villagers as community centres, shrines to the past and tourist attractions, but all too many have long since fallen into ruin. The fate of the records of those churches is dubious at best. Even with the surviving parishes, preservation of parish records seems to be spotty. In one parish in my own line at one time an "enlightened" rector for some unknown reason destroyed many years of parish records prior to his appointment. He was "retired", but by then the damage had been done.

The end result of all this is that there are tantalising hints that quite a few of the unconnected Greenwood families below may in fact be related, but pending the publishing of more records, those hints must alas remain just hints and suggestions.

The name "Greenwood" is quite widespread across England, from coast to coast. This suggests the name has no single origin and instead falls into the same category as Smith, Brown and the like. Much has been written suggesting all Greenwood's are descended from Wyomarus de Greenwode {presumably a Norman} who established a home at Heptonstall in West Yorkshire. The claim goes that descendants of Wyomarus and of villagers in the nearby village that took on his name have given rise to all the English Greenwood's today. This claim dates back to a book published in 1914 when it was standard practice for "genealogists" (generally in the US) to come up with the claim that everyone of a particular surname is descended from a certain Norman nobleman with a similar sounding surname (ignoring the fact that the Norman invasion pre-dated the formation of surnames). While it sounds romantic, such claims rarely hold up to the light of less fanciful examinations and I doubt the Greenwood claims are any more solid that the many others I have encountered.[See Wikipedia for a summary of the Wyomarus de Greenwode claim] It is much more likely that the surname "Greenwood" has a more diverse origin, similar to Smith (named after an occupation), the first name of an ancestor (eg: Roberts) or a topographical term (eg: Banks). In the case of Greenwood, I suspect the latter origin - "greenwood" is a now fairly obsolete but once common word to describe a forested area - thus someone who lived in or near a forest could come to be known as "Fred from near the greenwood" and, eventually, "Fred Greenwood". Pre-20th century stories of Robin Hood often referred to him as the "greenwood lord" (ie: "forest lord"). The fact that Norfolk, with it's large areas of fens and overall low lying land, has always been full of forested lands makes it unsurprising that the name would be so common in that county.

An unknown number of the "Greenwood" BMD records are almost certainly actually Green's - I have found quite a few cases where Green's appear in the records as Greenwood's and vice versa. That may go a long way towards explaining many of the isolated and otherwise unaccountable BMD events left over after construction of the following charts and perhaps even some of the 1-2 generation family groupings charted below.

The Various Greenwood Lines of Co Norfolk:

Other researchers:

People who have an interest in the Greenwood family, not necessarily related to my Greenwood's. This is not a comprehensive list, just a listing of those whom I have been in contact with. Some of these email addresses may no longer be valid.

Relevant web pages: