The Sheward's: Origin of the family name

Many have suggested that the family name Sheward has a Scottish connection, after all there is a Scottish clan called Shuard.

The truth is that the family name Sheward is associated squarley and firmly with the Middle of England and with agriculture.

The name is a dialectual variant of the surname 'seward' - much of the history of England has relied upon accurate hearing of the spoken word. So many of the Parish records & Census documents show names & places recorded as they were heard by the record keeper, from the subject who was asked for their details.

'Seward' can have two distinct origins:
The first of which is from either of the old English pre 7th century personal names 'sigeweard' or 'saeweard', which are composed of the elements 'sige', victory and 'sae', sea, plus 'weard' meaning to guard, or protect. The two names became confused in the early middle ages. The 'sea-guardian' reference does, according to some histories, date back to Scandinavia meaning there could be Viking associations.

The second possible origin is from the old English occupational name for a swineherd, from 'sn', pig, and 'hierde', herdsman. When described as Old English, what is often meant is Anglo-Saxon.

In the modern idiom the name varies from 'seward' and 'siward' to 'sheward', 'saward' and 'shnard' but never 'shuard'.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Seward, which was dated 1275 in The Shropshire Hundred Rolls during the reign of Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots.

It was the introduction of the Poll Tax in 1275 that brought about the widespread use of and recording of last names. Up until that point being known as Jacob the herdsman, Peter the fisherman or Thomas the farmer was good enough for the "peasant" poulation of England & Wales. Whereas the Gentry were most often referred to by their family names.

(The poll tax was essentially a lay subsidy - a tax on the movable property of most of the population - to help fund war).

One Agnes Sheward married Robert Shakespeare on the 19th of November 1559, at Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire. As far as I have been able to determine, Agnes was not related to this Sheward family.

A Thomas Sheward, who landed in Virginia in 1623, is also not related to this Sheward family.