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This is an Olde Scottish locational surname. It originates from one of the places called "Kirkwood" in the former counties of Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire. All share the same meaning and derivation which is from the Gaelic-Old English word "Kirk", meaning "church", itself derived from the Olde Norse "Kirkja", plus the Middle English suffix "wode", and the Olde English pre 7th "wudu". The placename thus translates as "the church in the wood" or possibly the wood owned by the church. The area which now forms much of the modern county of Strathclyde was the first part of Scotland to be under English influence, and seemingly English sounding place names, and hence surnames, have a degree of popularity. Early examples of the Kirkwood surname recordings include Alexander Kirkwod, according to the ancient rolls 'a follower of the Earl of Cassilis', who was acquitted of a murder charge in 1526! Quite what he had been upto is not clear, but it seems that his masters influence helped his cause. A more notable bearer of the surname was James Pugh Kirkwood, born in Edinburgh in 1807. He emigrated to America in 1830 having trained as an engineer, and achieved fame as the builder of the New York and Cleveland water-works. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Kirkwood, which was dated 1476, in the registers of the Royal Burgh of Stirling, during the reign of King James III of Scotland, 1460 - 1488. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was 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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