This famous surname is of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It is particularly popular in the county of Yorkshire, and whilst believed to be a topographical name for someone who lived in a forest, may have originated from a now "lost" medieval village in the county called Greenwood or similar. The name derives from the words "grene" meaning literally the green sward, and "wudu", a wood. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages.The surname dates back to the late 13th Century (see below), and early recordings include those of Johanna de Grenewod and Ricardus de Grenewod both in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire in the year 1379. A later example taken from the early surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London lists the marriage of Henricus Greenwood to Agnete Rende, on the April 23rd 1599, at the church of St. Martins in the Fields, Westminster. One of the early colonists to New England was John Greenwood. He was aged only sixteen, when he sailed from London aboard the ship "Bonaventure" bound for Virginia in 1634. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John del Grenewode. This was dated 1275, in the "Court Rolls" of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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