Select Moody Surname Genealogy

The Moody surname was originally a nickname.  But its meaning then was a little different from its meaning now.  The root of the word is the Old English modig meaning “brave” and “proud.”  But the word had the connotation of foolhardy as well, which might also have been a characteristic of someone with that nickname.

Moody is the English spelling.  The alternatives Moodie and Mudie occur in Scotland. 

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England.  The earliest known example of Moody as a surname dated from the 12th century and an early English charter in Devon where the name Alwine Modig was mentioned.

SW England.
  The early spelling in Wiltshire was Mody.  Edmund Mody was recorded asgentry in Wiltshire at the time of Henry VII.  The Moodys of Malmesbury in north Wiltshire were originally from Worcestershire. They had settled in Malmesbury in the late 1400’s.  Richard Moody acquired Garsdon Manor in 1544 at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.  Sir Henry Moody was an MP and baronet who died with large debts in 1629.His widow, Lady Deborah Moody, sought new pastures in New England and later in Dutch New York. 

John Mody held land at Abbotts Ann near Andover in Hampshire in the early 1500’s.  John Moody died at Upton Lovel in Wiltshire in 1658.  Later Moodys of his family moved to Horningsham in the same county.  Other Moodys were recorded at Steeple Langford and at Landford. 

  Another early Moody family was to be found at Harwich and Bury St. Edmond in Suffolk in the late 1400’s.  Edmund Moody reportedly saved the life of King Henry VIII in 1524.

However, by the time of the 1881 census there were larger Moody numbers further north in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  William Moody was recorded at Partney in Lincolnshire in 1616.  Moodys from Yorkshire have included: 
  • Captain John Moody, born in York in 1801, who spent a lifetime involved in commissioning and captaining the new generation of steamships.
  • and James Moody from Scarborough who served as the Titanic’s sixth officer in 1912 and was the only junior officer to perish for staying behind to help evacuate the passengers after all the other officers had left. 
Scotland.  There have been two alternative spellings in Scotland – Moodie and Mudie.  Both are found primarily on Scotland’s East Coast – Moodie in Fifeshire and Mudie in what was then Forfarshire and is now Angus.

The Moodies were traced first to
the Orkney islands in the 1500’s.  They made their home at Melsetter until 1819.  Moodies also moved to Cockslaw and Lassodie in Fifeshire.  The Mudies of Forfarshire began with the Mudies of Bryanton around the year 1550.  Notable among them were:
  • James Mudie, a prominent merchant of Montrose who died in 1638.  
  • Robert Mudie, the son of a weaver from Forfarshire, who made his name as a newspaper editor and writer in London in the 1820’s and 1830’s.  
  • and James Mudie, also from Forfarshire, who at this time was prospering as a local official and landowner in Australia.  However, his authorship of the book The Felonry of New South Wales brought him no friends there and he headed back to Britain.
The Moodie Book, written by the Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval in 1906, covered this genealogy.

.  The Moody name was mainly to be found in Antrim and in Down.  It was probably of Scottish origin.  That was the case with William Moody who baptized his children in the Millrow Presbyterian church in Antrim in the 1680’s.  Robert Moody and James Mudie appeared in the Ballykelly Presbyterian church records in Derry in 1700.

Thomas Moody of Longtown in county Antrim was the father of a long line of Moodys that served in the British army.  Richard Moody, born in Barbados, was the first Governor of the Falkland islands and in the 1850’s gave his name to Port Moody in British Columbia. 

  There were three early Moody lines in New England, but they were not related:
  • the William and John Moody lines of Newbury and Roxbury, Massachusetts
  • and the Clement Moody line of Exeter, New Hampshire. 
New England.  William Moody from Suffolk who arrived in Newbury in 1635 was by family tradition a blacksmith and “the first person in New England to shoe oxen to enable them to walk on ice.” 
  • his son Caleb, a deacon, built the Moody House in West Newbury which remained in the possession of his descendants until 1937. 
  • his grandson Samuel, also a deacon, was a preacher in the backwoods of Maine.  
N.C. Pramberg’s 1986 book Four Generations of the Descendants of William Moody covered this line.  A later descendant, born in Moody House, was William H. Moody, the US Secretary of the Navy in 1902.

John Moody, also from Suffolk, came to Roxbury, Massachusetts with his wife Sarah in 1633.  They removed to Hartford, Connecticut around the year 1639.  Later Moodys via his son Samuel, and these included the 19th century evangelist and revivalist preacher D.L. Moody, moved to Hadley and then to Northfield in eastern Massachusetts. 

Another Moody family from this line departed Massachusetts by ship and across Panama to Oregon territory in 1851.  Zenas Moody started a shipping company there.  In 1882 we was elected Governor of Oregon.

Clement Moody, born in Wenham, Massachusetts in 1661, made his home in Exeter, New Hampshire.  Many of his descendants settled in Maine and Vermont, and some back in Massachusetts.  Captain Clement Moody served in the Maine militia during the Revolutionary War. 

.  A Moody line in Virginia began with a John Moody who was first recorded in Essex county in 1692.  Colonel William Lewis Moody, born there in 1826, fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War and later moved to Texas where he was to found the Moody dynasty in Galveston.  His son W.L Moody consolidated and expanded the Moody businesses.  When he died in 1954 Time magazine proclaimed him as one of the ten wealthiest men in the country. 

.  The Moodie name has been quite common in Jamaica, suggesting possibly a Scottish heritage.  James Moodie was recorded as a minor in Jamaica in 1754.  He may have been the same Moodie who graduated from Edinburgh medical college in 1762 and then perhaps returned to Jamaica as a physician. 

The Moodie name often became Moody.  Thomas Mood
ie, for instance, was a tailor in Kingston in the 1860’s.  His son Charles Moody was the head of a large family which included Harold who sailed to London in 1904 to study medicine.  With the support of the Quakers, Harold established the League of Colored Peoples in 1931 to campaign for racial equality and civil rights.

South Africa.
  Benjamin Moodie from Orkney led a group of Scottish Highlanders on the Brilliant to the Cape Colony as early as 1817.  He later made his home in the Western Cape.  A younger brother Donald lived in the Eastern Cape and subsequently Natal, where he became Colonial Secretary.  A third brother John wrote the book Ten Years in South Africa in 1835, but he then left for marriage and settling in Canada.

John Moody from Winchester was among the English 1820 settlers.  He died in 1841 in the Eastern Cape but left no children

Select Moody Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Moody Names

Sir James Moodie of Melsetter was a Royal Naval Commodore and later MP for the Orkneys.
Colonel W.L. Moody was the forebear of the Moody dynasty in Galveston, Texas.
ohn Moody was the founder of Moody’s Investors Service and Moody’s Rating Agency.
Helen Wills Moody
was an American tennis player of the 1930’s who won 19 Grand Slam titles.

Clyde Moody
, known as the Hillbilly Waltz King, was one of the pioneers of American Bluegrass music.

Select Moodys Today
  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in Minnesota) 
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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