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About the study

My one-name-study of my maiden surname VODDEN began about 1998 when I received a hand written outline of an ancestry chart from a cousin living in Devon who had compiled it from parish records of the local churches and records at the North Devon Family History Society office. I had always been interested in our family history from a very early age and this was to be the beginning of an ever increasing passion.

The ancestry of my father's line went back to Devon where within a very narrow area and few parishes a number of the instances of the name were noted. As a fairly uncommon name, I was always on the look out for the name and add the references to my study with the expectation of sharing my project with others. I gathered a great deal of information on a number of separate trees hoping that one day we would be able to connect the trees.

Trying to fill in some wives and children on the original chart I had received, I ran into a brick wall. Although searching through the IGI available on, I could see a number of 'Vodden's' where they appeared to be in clusters in towns all around where my ancestors were reportedly to have originated. I started to gather these clusters and occasionally found a connection with my own family tree. From here, my search was on!! I gathered all the references to the name and any variants from every website that I could. Some fit but others were still many small clusters on their own.

In 2005 I registered with the Guild of One Name Studies and have since come across a number of variants of the name including the fact that my surname was originally purported to be VAWDEN back in the late 17th century.

In more recent times there are records of immigration to Canada, the United States of America and Australia which have added to my search in those countries.

Variant names

Variants to the surname VODDEN are Vawden, Vowden, Voden, Vouden, Vawdon, Voaden and possibly Vousden, a name registered by another Guild member, Mr Nigel Brown.

Name origin

In one source, it appears that the name Vodden was of Anglo-Saxon origin where it was the name given to one of their pagan gods, Odin.

However, in Viking/Norse history of the 7th century, it is believed to derive from their pagan god 'Woden', as in the weekday name of Wednesday or more properly 'Wodens-day'. The first King of England in the very first century was named for the god, Woden.

On a recent visit to Wales, I obtained a wallchart depicting the English Royal Pedigree through the ages. It begins with King Woden at the beginning of the first century and claims to have been fully researched by professional genealogists over many years. It is published by Ancestors of Dover Ltd., Bowles Well Gardens, Dover Road, Folkestone, Kent, CT19 5NP, UK and was copyrighted in 2001 by Nicholas Humphery-Smith, Revised in 2007.

It is interesting to speculate that the Vodden's may be related to King Woden of the first century. Does that make us royalty or related to royalty? Hmm...

Historical occurrences of the name

The first recording in the London church registers, one of the most accurate listings of English surnames, is believed to be that of Jane Vodinge, who married Tristram Shepherd on September 28th 1600. The accuracy of the surname spelling as 'Vodinge' is open to suspicion, but curiously however spelt, this surname has had an epicentre at the famous church of St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, for nearly three centuries. By the mid 17th century the spelling is as Voden, an example being Judith Voden, who married Daniell Peeters (!) at St Dunstans on April 15th 1661, and this spelling form continues unbroken until March 12th 1820, when John Vodden, is recorded as being a witness at the christening of his son John, also at St Dunstans.

A more recent historical Vodden was that of the 5th Bishop of Hull. Henry Townsend Vodden was born on June 10th, 1887 and educated at Exeter College, Oxford. His first posts after ordination were as a Missionary in India. He was later Secretary of the Church Missionary Society before elevation the the Episcopate as a Suffragan to the Archbishop of York. He died on August 24th, 1960.
Source: Rt. Rev. H. T. Vodden Former Bishop Of Hull (Obituaries), The Times, Friday, Aug 26, 1960; pg. 13; Issue 54860; col A.

Name frequency

In the Census for England and Wales taken in 1891, there were only 239 households with the name Vodden while shortly before on the United States Federal Census of 1880 there were only 20 households. This increases to 32 households in the 1920's.

In Canada on the 1851 Census there were only 9 households all in Ontario which increased to 40 by 1881. In 1901 the movement westward had now 10 families having migrated from Ontario to Manitoba and by 1911 of 64 households, 6 remained in the prairie provinces while 9 households had moved to the most western province of British Columbia.

Distribution of the name

Distribution of the name Vodden was limited to mainly Devon, Cornwall and Glamorgan, South Wales in 1890, with New York, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and California having one or two families living there in the 1880 Federal Census.

While in the United States in the 1920's, there were still a few families in the original states above, now families had moved into the Dakota's, Oregon, Texas but many more had moved to sunny California. Canada had gained a few more families in the province of Ontario with a couple of families now on the west coast in British Columbia.

In the United Kingdom there was a movement to the city of London and to the county of Yorkshire having now depleted in Devon but remaining in the coal mining area in South Wales. Also at this time there was an exodus to Australia.


I have a large family tree with all the instances of Vodden and the variants which I maintain for my One Name Study. I also maintain my own family tree and as clusters of the family are found to be connected in my ancestry, I add them also to this tree.

As new databases are available where there are many entries of the names, I create Excel spreadsheets of this data hoping at some point to add the entries to my One Name Study family tree.

As there are more and more databases appearing all the time, some with duplicated information of databases I have already scoured, I occasionally find I am unable to keep up with gathering the available information. If you feel you can help in this regard, I would be happy to hear from you. Please email me at


A DNA study is maintained at FamilyTreeDNA where you can log in and order tests to see how and whether your DNA matches with those in our study. Please click on: in order to get our special pricing. You may also view the project at

A page of all the y-DNA results is maintained at the following website: Why not become a member of the Vodden DNA Project on It's free.

On my blog at, the postings of January 16 & 17, 2012 discuss the origins of my father's DNA results. In an email from Debbie Kennett shortly after my father's DNA result were published, she says, ''The vast majority of R1b1a2 men who are deep clade tested fall within the two big supergroups P312+ and U106+ so it's quite unusual to find men who fall outside these big groups. I wonder if it might mean that your dad's ancient ancestors were amongst the original people who settled in Devon after the Ice Age. We will no doubt learn more as more research is published. Tibor Fehar, the admin of the R1b project might be able to tell you more.'

In response to my request, Tibor Fehar said, 'Your Dad's results are very interesting, he definitely belongs to the R-L11* group, so you qualify for joining the Ht35 project, as Debbie suggested. L11* is a very interesting group, 'brother' clade of U106 and P312, which are widespread in Central and Western Europe. However, L11* is very rare, and it likely arrived to England at an early stage of the Bronze Age (Bell Beaker folk maybe).'

Researching the Bell Beaker folk in Wikipedia, it appears then that my ancestors were in Devon during the Early Bronze Age 2500 to 1700 BC. These bell beakers were constructed of well made pottery with impressed patterns used for the consumption of beer and mead.

Obviously our ancient ancestors were connoisseurs of alcoholic beverages way back in time!!!