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. 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. On January 2nd 1634, one Joseph Underwood, aged 23 yrs., embarked from London on the ship "Bonaventure" bound for Virginia. He was one of the earliest recorded name bearers to enter America. No less than seven Coats of Arms were granted to families of this name and an interesting namebearer mentioned in the Dictionary of National Biography was one Michael Underwood (1737 - 1820) who practised in London as a surgeon and as a "male-midwife". 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.
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