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About the study
Complementing my surname research, I'm equally interested in the social history of my ancestors. I was horrified to discover that my great grandfather's town of Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, had the lowest life expectancy (just 27 yrs) in the whole of England during the 1840's, the contaminated water supplies leading to repeated outbreaks of cholera. I doubt that today's Wisbech children are aware that under their large, grassed play area just outside the town, are the cholera burial pits.
Since joining The Guild of On-Name Studies, I've concentrated on the Darwoods and welcome contact with all those who share our unusual surname, wherever in the world they currently live. Please read the final paragraph of this Profile which gives details of the latest and most exciting genealogy development - the opportunity to join our new Darwood DNA Project.
Others believe Darwood to be an occupational name, meaning those who guarded (ie door-ward) the king's room, and this has some credibility in ancient Scottish records where in 1228, Alan Durward was granted a large estate in the Dee valley. My Family folklore suggested that all Darwoods originated from just two English families although with the benefit of recent research, this is unlikely to be true.
Historical occurrences of the name
East Anglia, Gloucestershire and NW England together with London
The first recorded Darwoods that I've found appear in 1528, with The Protestation Returns of 1641 and The Hearth Tax of 1674 showing many Darwood families occurring in Huntingdonshire where my ancestors lived. Other early records show Darwoods in Gloucestershire and London at a similar time.
Checking through various Census records (and correcting mistranscriptions) shows:
- in 1841, there were 109 Darwoods in England and Wales
- by 1881, this had risen to 164 Darwoods, predominately in London, East Anglia and Cumberland
- in 1911, the Darwoods totalled 223
- the 1939 Register (an 'emergency Census' at the outbreak of WWII) shows 232 Darwoods - this Register excludes those who were born less than 100 years ago unless their Death has been verified
- by 2002, an official database indicates 362 Darwoods living in England and Wales, confirming that ours remains a fairly unusual surname
- a further 30 Darwoods live in Canada, 83 in the US and a sprinkling in Australia and S Africa.
I have records of 683 marriages registered between 1837 and 2009 including copies of many Certificates - perhaps I can help your research by sharing a copy.
Distribution of the name
Agents of the Canadian government toured East Anglia during the mid to late 19th century, offering inducements of land and money to persuade young families to emigrate and Darwoods now in Vancouver, were among the many families to do so. Darwoods also emigrated to Australia (and not just as criminals!) whilst more recently, some have emigrated to South Africa.
A Darwoods House was sold in St Ives in 1945 and Darwoods Place still exists there, a Darwood Court is in Huntingdon and another in N. London. A Darwood Street appears in Plymouth, a Darwood hotel in Ayr Scotland whilst in Derbyshire, there is a Darwoods Lane near Bathhurst Colliery. Further afield, there are Darwoods Gardens in Harrison County, Mississippi, and the Sheriff's office in Augusta, California is in Darwood Drive - no significance, of course!
Our name also appears in Julia Parks' romantic, historical novel: To Marry an Heiress - "it will take a fortune to restore Darwood Hall to glory and a fortune is at the heart of his father's latest scheme to snare Montgomery a wealthy wife", published in the US in 2003. When I contacted Julia, she told me Darwood Hall no longer exists, if it ever did.
I need your help, please. Although I do have many records, I've hit various brickwalls in my research on the Darwoods - your information could be vital in moving us forwards, so please make contact.
I have complete Darwood records of all BMD references from 1837, the various census records from 1841, the Boyd Marriage lists and a huge amount of un-indexed Darwood material, collected over the years. As time becomes available, I try and match all these Darwoods into one of the 29 Family trees that I have currently identified and my aim, with your help, is to link these various trees together - although this is taking me a lifetime, it is very rewarding. I will be delighted to help you with a specific query by referring to my substantial paper records, but please don't ask for a copy of everything I hold!
There were Darwoods sentenced to transportation in the 19th century for what today would be regarded as a petty crime; in 1838, blacksmith John Darwood of Huntingdon was transported for assault to Australia and settled there after completing his sentence. In 1844, Sarah Darwood, aged 20, was convicted of infanticide - fortunately, her sentence was six months whereas Rebecca Smith of Wiltshire was hanged in 1849 for a similar crime. More recently, another John Darwood, poultry farmer, was convicted of manslaughter in 1939 for shooting dead a suspected chicken thief in Essex.
These 'criminals' are outnumbered by the many Darwoods involved in public life over the years, including Sir John Darwood, a High Court judge and his wife who ran a successful horse-racing business at Newmarket. Most Darwoods were ordinary country folk; farmers, blacksmiths, shoe/bootmakers, millers and publicans living and working in The Fens of East Anglia, with the trawlermen of Grimsby, the miners of Cumbria and Durham and the coffee-house keepers and carriage builders of London living out their lives often in difficult economic situations, yet each of whom is a part of our rich ancestral heritage.
Your information will enable us to build more family trees, so please do make contact - together, we may uncover some great surprises.
One of the most exciting developments of recent years has been the introduction of DNA testing into genealogy research, enabling men to prove ancestral links between families. I've recently set up a Darwood DNA Project and strongly encourage you to join this. If you go to our website www.familytreedna.com/public/Darwood you'll find more details.
We use the 37-marker Y-DNA test inviting the male line to take a simple DNA test. This involves wiping cotton swabs inside your cheek; the swabs are returned to the FamilyDNA analysis centre in Houston, USA. The test result contains no personal information and will match you to those to whom you are closely related, hopefully confirming our common ancestor.
As my research extends back to the 16th century embracing many different family trees, it's very likely that your DNA discoveries will link you into one or more of these trees and I can share my research with yours.
If you buy your DNA testkit through the Guild of One-Name Studies, you'll receive a good discount - I'm a Guild member and will be pleased to arrange this - email me for details. Alternatively, you can approach Familytreedna direct via https://familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?Group=Darwood which will give you a Project discount as it links you directly into our Darwood DNA Project.
Thanks for reading my Profile - please join our new DNA project.
This site last updated September 2016.