“Omnes arbusta juvant ~ Groves delight all men”

The Story

In the beginning

This name is of English and Scottish topographic origin, deriving from the Olde English "under" a preposition meaning "under" or "below", plus "wuda", a wood. The name was originally given to one dwelling at the foot of a wood or literally "below the trees of a forest". The name may also be locational from three places named with these elements i.e., Underwood in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and in the parish of Symington, Ayrshire. This surname was either given as a topographic surname to people who lived in or near the woods, or it was given to people who lived in or near a city in England named Underwood.

The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 12th Century (see below). One William Underwude appears in the 1219 Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire, and a William under the Wode in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls of Staffordshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Underwode which was dated 1188, in the "Records of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Our Underwood family line hits a wall in Dorest England in 1555.

Coming to America, three brothers and a dream of land

The first one of our Underwoods to come to America was Thomas Underwood, progenitor of our branch of this family, came from England. He was brought to Virginia with Captain Moore Fautleroy of Lower Norfolk Co., VA in 1650 (it is not known if the Captain was a Captain in the military or Ships Master). No ship's name has been found. Thomas paid for passage of himself and Elizabeth (probably already his wife). They came with 81 others, several of whom were Underwoods of unknown relationship. It is stated that three Underwood brothers were grenadiers in the British army, came to America and once landed, they separated. One went to New York, another to North Carolina and the third to Maryland. Their father possibly emigrated to America too and lived in Maryland.

Another issue of debate is if the Underwoods were Quaker. Some think so, but there are no known Underwood of our line in Quaker records. It is not known for sure that Thomas Underwood was a Quaker. Thomas is in no Quaker records and did not refuse the oath of allegiance. One of his grandsons became a Quaker minister and it is believed his wife was from a Quaker family and converted when she married Thomas.

Thomas brought over a lot of Underwoods and other names which earned him many land grants for bringing additional settlers. By 9 February 1662 he had 50 acres. On 6 August 1663 he received from Lord Baltimore, a grant for the land which was named "Middle Neck" located near the current day Annapolis, Maryland. On 8 August 1863 he received another grant for 100 acres from Lord Baltimore which he had surveyed on 20 October 1663. He named this "The Landing." The man had a lot of land for back then.

Onward South, then West, then stop in Tennessee for a bit

By 1756 our Underwood line made their way to Virginia and then on to Surry County, NC and William Underwood, generation nine, fought in the American Revolution for about three years in NC. After the Revolution he made his way to Anderson County, TN.  He raised his family there and five more generations would raise their families in Eastern Tennessee. In the 1940’s the family would start moving again to various areas of the county.


  1. Underwood is the 519th most common surname in the United States. The highest concentration of people with the surname Underwood is in Texas, followed by California, Tennessee and Georgia.

  2. There is no relation to Underwood Typewriters, Underwood Devil Ham or Underwood & Underwood Photography

  3. The motto on the Underwood crest of arms is Omnes arbusta juvant, which may be translated as Groves delight all men. It should be noted that coat of arms are not  passed down and there seven variations of the Underwood coat of arms. I just borrowed the motto for our entertainment.