Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Origin and history of the name Townsend

James Savage wrote: “By an instinct of our nature, we all learn to love the places of our birth, and the chief circumstances in the lives of our progenitors.”

There it is—our reasons for getting hooked on genealogy. The writer states unequivocally that the love for it is “an instinct of our nature.”

The ancestral name Townsend is spelled in various ways: The most common is Townsend; you might see it as Townshend, Townson, Townsil and, much older, atte-Towns-End, which means, of course, living at the place where the town ends. This later was from the Norman “de Alta Ville” and meant at Towns-end.

Lodovic, a noble Norman, settled in England during the reign of King Henry I. He married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas de Hoville who was Knight of the Manor of Raynham in Norfolkshire. Lodovic assumed the name Townshend (or Townsend) meaning living at the edge of town. Since his wife, Elizabeth, inherited the estate at Raynham, Townshend himself was also the owner. Hence the beginning of a long line of English Viscounts and Marquesses descending from Lodovic and Elizabeth Townshend.

Townsend is an English place name and literally means living at the edge of the town. In England, those bearing the name Townsend lived at Raynham in Norfolkshire, were landowners there, and because of their service to various royal heads of England, were knighted for their service. In 1483 the landowner at Townsend became a Baron and was named by King Richard III as a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. Likewise, King Henry VII reappointed Baron Townsend to the same post, a position the Baron held until 1498.

Townsends were numbered among sailors. Under the banner of Queen Elizabeth I, Roger Townsend of the Raynham Estates brought his ships into her service and helped to quell the Spanish Armada. Roger Townsend received knighthood for his service to the Queen. John, a younger brother of Roger, went in the British Expedition to Cadiz, Spain in 1599 and was likewise knighted for his bravery there.

Under the Cromwell rule in England, Richard Townsend held the rank of Colonel and fought with Cromwell in Ireland, winning a sizeable estate for his service in the County Cork where descendants of Roger Townsend reside to the present day. After the death of Cromwell, Sir Horatio Townsend, then proprietor of Raynham Hall, helped to secure the restoration of Charles II to the British throne. As a result, in 1617, Horatio Townsend was named a baronet, in 1661 with the title of Baron Townshend of Lynn Regis. In 1682 he earned the title Viscount Townshend of Raynham. Then came the addition of the “h” to the name, perhaps to indicate its higher significance.

The roots of the Union County Townsends can be traced to one Repentance Townsend who was born about 1725 and died after 1790. The unlikely name of “Repentance” as a given name makes him stand out as unusual. It would be interesting to know the circumstances behind his given name. Repentance and his wife Mary Townsend lived in Augusta County, Virginia as early as 1746. There he was witness to a land deed. They moved out of Virginia sometime prior to 1755, as they were listed in November of that year as delinquent on paying taxes and having “removed” from the county.

They moved to old Anson County, North Carolina where several land deeds are recorded in the name of Temperance Townsend and his wife Mary as early as 1756. His land there bordered on both North and South Carolina while state lines were still in dispute. On the main fork of Fishing Creek in Camden District of South Carolina, later York County, Temperance Townsend owned 300 acres.

The North Georgia Townsends desended through the son of Repentance named Thomas (1753-1836), grandson Edward (1789-1860) and great grandson Eli ( ca. 1810-ca. 1849). The four older sons of Repentance Townsend; Thomas, Samuel, Andrew and John— all served in the Revolutionary War.

The motto on the Townsend coat of arms is translated “Fidelity earned these honors for our race.” Through the mists of time from the Norman Conquest of England to the American Revolution and many wars for freedom since, Townsends have shown fidelity, faithfulness in the line of duty to their country.

(I gleaned information for this article from “Some Townsends of North Georgia” by E. E. Townsend, Cleveland, TN, undated.)

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 18, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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