This name is 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 a wood or literally “below the trees 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 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 Yorkshire, and a William under the Wode in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls 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 Arms were granted to families this name and an interesting namebearer mentioned in the Dictionary National Biography was one Michael Underwood (1737 – 1820) who practiced in London as a surgeon and as a “male-midwife”.
The first recorded spelling the family name is shown to be that William de Underwode which was dated 1188, in the “Records Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk”, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as “The Builder Churches”, 1154 – 1189.