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Origins of the Name

© 2014 Sherwo0d One Name Group

True surnames date from around 1000 ad. Largely they were Norman, although there are records of Saxon surnames prior to the Conquest. The Domesday Record of 1085-1086, exhibits some curious combinations of Saxon forenames with Norman family names, showing forenames were still in more general use.

Gothers, Cornwall, Entry in Domesday Book: Lord in 1066: Sheerwold <of Gothers>.

A more detailed account of possible origins of the name  may be found in the Member’s Area

Introduction of Family Names

In England, the introduction of family names is generally attributed to the preparation of the Domesday Book in 1086, following the Norman conquest. Evidence indicates that surnames were first adopted among the feudal nobility and gentry, and only slowly spread to other parts of society.


Some of the early Norman nobility who arrived in England during the Norman conquest differentiated themselves by affixing 'de' (of) before the name of their village in France. This was a consequence of feudal landownership. In France, such a name indicated lordship, or ownership, of the village. Some early Norman nobles in England chose to drop the French derivations and call themselves instead after their new English holdings.


By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames. Such hereditary names were not universally prevalent and settled, however, prior to the era of the Reformation in sixteenth century England.


It is conjectured that the introduction of parish registers in 1538 was a great influence in this, as a person entered under one surname at baptism would not be likely to be married under another name, and buried under a third, although people would still change their names during their lifetime.


Many individuals and families have changed their names or adopted an alias at some time in the past. This could be for inheritance or legal reasons, or simply on a whim. In our case perhaps one of the most famous was a bishop of Durham who was only the second generation of part of his family to change his name to Shirwood. Even until quite recent times there are of course variations as there was no standard spelling of names or other words.  


Various ‘Authorities’ on the origins of surnames such as Reaney and Cottle are divided on the meaning and origin of the Sherwood name. In Reaney's view it probably derives from the Old English ‘wood belonging to a shire’, and was thus probably first given to persons living in a wood by any shire boundary. Cottle suggests it is derived from 'bright wood' from the OE word ‘scir’ meaning ‘bright'. The Sherwood name therefore probably sprung up in several different parts of England in much the same way as other topographical surnames and there is no single common source.