Reed (name)

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Reed may be either a surname or given name.

Reed as a surname[edit]

Color icon red.svg
variations on red
Language(s) English
Meaning variant of Reid, which refers to reddish or ruddy facial complexion
Other names
Variant(s) Read[1]

"Reed" is commonly believed to be a nickname-derived surname referring to a person's complexion or hair being ruddy or red.[1]

At least one example of the Reed surname, that originating in the County of Northumberland in northern England, is derived from a location, the valley of Redesdale and the River Rede that runs through it.[2]

In the United States, Reed was adopted by some Pennsylvania Dutch (German) families in the 18th century, notably that of John Reed (Johannes Reith), a former Hessian soldier from Raboldshausen, Germany, who made the first documented gold find in the United States in 1799. The Reed Gold Mine is today a State Historic Site in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.[3]

'Reed' appears as a surname most commonly in English-speaking countries, especially in the United States, where it was the 55th most common surname in 1990 accounting for about 0.12% of the population.[4] In Great Britain, 'Reed' ranked at 158th (0.081%) and 183rd (0.073%) in 1881 and 1998, respectively, with little or no change in internal distribution among counties during the intervening century.[5] In Ireland, Reed is among the 100 most common surnames, and in the Irish province of Ulster it is among the 40 most common surnames.[6] The relative frequencies in 1998 among several countries were United States >> Great Britain > Australia ~ New Zealand ~ Canada >> Northern Ireland >> Ireland.[5]

'Reed' has been adopted by several notable actors as their stage surname in preference to their birth names (see #Pseudonyms and aliases, below).

Reeds of Northumberland[edit]

The Reeds of Northumberland in England were originally centered around the chief Reed residence at Troughend in Redesdale, on the banks of the River Rede. According to Sir Walter Scott:

These Reeds of Troughend were a very ancient family, as may be conjectured from their deriving their surname from the river on which they had their mansion. An epitaph on one of their tombs affirms that the family have held their lands of Troughend, which are situated on the Reed nearly opposite to Otterburn, for the incredible space of nine hundred years.[2]

The earliest reference to the Reeds of Troughend is from 1400, when "Thomas Reed of Redysdale" is recorded in county records as paying "to William de Swinburne in the sum of 20 pds...for the ransom of William Moetrop of Tenedale". In 1429 Thomas Reed is again recorded, as serving on a jury in Elsdon.[7] In 1442, a John Reed is described as "the Laird of Troughwen, the chief of the name of Reed, and divers of his followers...a ruder and more lawless crew there needs not be..."[8]

The Reeds of Northumberland were one of the Border Reiver families of the 16th century, who lived by blackmail and cattle rustling in the Anglo-Scottish border country.[9]

One notable Reed was Percival Reed, believed to have been Laird of Troughend in the 1580s and 1590s. His story has been handed down in The Death of Parcy Reed, a traditional Border ballad (Child Ballad 193).[10] This song tells of an alliance between the Halls of Redesdale and the Crosiers of Liddesdale in Scotland, against the Reeds. Percival Reed held the office of Keeper of Redesdale, and had arrested one Whinton Crosier for raiding in the valley. This put the Reeds at feud with the Crosier family. The Halls, old friends of Percy Reed, turned against him and conspired with the Crosiers to trap him while he was out hunting. When the Crosiers ambushed Percy, the Halls watched as he was murdered. Percy stood alone unarmed against the Crosiers, and according to the ballad:

They fell upon him all at once,
They mangled him most cruellie;
The slightest wound might cause his deith,
And they have given him thirty-three:
They hacket off his hands and feet,
And left him lying on the lee.

Percy Reed's ghost is said to have haunted Redesdale for many years, and "at times he would come gallantly cantering across the moorland as he had done when blood ran warm in his veins. ...And yet, again, he would come as a fluttering, homeless soul, whimpering and formless, with a moaning cry for Justice—Justice—Judgment on him who had by black treachery hurried him unprepared to his end."[11]

In Norway[edit]

Many Norwegians use a last name derived from their family farm or town. Reed is a village in Sogn og Fjordane county in Norway. As of 2010, 325 share the surname Reed.[12]

Geographical distribution[edit]

At the time of the United Kingdom Census of 1881, the frequency of the surname Reed was highest in the following counties:[13]

As of 2014, the frequency of the surname was highest in the following countries and territories:

As of 2014, 78.4% of all known bearers of the surname Reed were residents of the United States. The frequency of the surname was higher than national average in the following U.S. states:[13]

The frequency of the surname was highest (over six times the national average) in the following U.S. counties:

Notable persons with the surname Reed[edit]

There are many notable people who share the Reed surname. These people are listed below to provide a partial geographical and time reference for use of this name. People listed below are presumed to be caucasian unless otherwise indicated parenthetically; this information is included as ethnicity is an important parameter in name studies. Ethnicities found below include African American and Jewish. Multiple items on a line is indicated by a superscript number associated with country of origin. All information included in the list below has been drawn from the referenced articles without input from other external sources.

Born after 1300[edit]

Born after 1700[edit]

Born after 1800[edit]

Born after 1900[edit]

Born after 1950[edit]

Living with unknown birth year[edit]

Compound surnames[edit]

Pseudonyms and aliases[edit]

  • Mexico (1901–1973) Donald Reed, born "Ernesto Avila Guillen", emigrated to the United States
  • United States

Fictional characters[edit]

Reed as a given name[edit]


"Reed" is an uncommon male and female given name. In the United States, "Reed" fluctuated among ranks of 400th to 1100th from 1881 through 2006, showing peaks in 1995 (rank 414) and 1949 (417) and a nadir in 1886 (1079).[22] Information for other countries has insufficient depth to detect use of "Reed" as a given name.[23]

Born after 1800[edit]

Born after 1900[edit]

Born after 1950[edit]

Living with unknown birth year[edit]

Pseudonyms and aliases[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]

See also[edit]

Human name disambiguation pages[edit]


  1. ^ a b Citation: Bardsley, 1901.
  2. ^ a b Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby, John Ballantine & Co., Edinburgh, 1813.
  3. ^ "Reed Gold Mine". NC Historic Sites. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  4. ^ Citation: US Census Bureau, 1995.
  5. ^ a b Citation: Longley, et al.
  6. ^ Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames, Blackstaff Press Ltd, Belfast, 1988.
  7. ^ Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 1863.
  8. ^ Frank Graham, Elsdon, Otterburn and Redesdale, Howe Bros.:Newcastle upon Tyne, 1976, pg. 7
  9. ^ George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets: the Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, Harper Collins, London, 1995
  10. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish popular ballads; Volume XXVII, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1904.
  11. ^ John Lang, Stories of the Border Marches, Dodge Publishing Company, New York, 1916, p. 228.
  12. ^ Jørgen Ouren (2013-01-23). "Norwegian statistics on the surname". Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  13. ^ a b Reed Surname Distribution
  14. ^ a b Grandfather and grandson: Joseph 1741 and William 1806
  15. ^ a b Father and son, Reed Sr. (1751) and Reed Jr. (1781)
  16. ^ a b c Grandfather, father, son: Andrew (1787), Charles (1819), Talbot (1852)
  17. ^ a b Mother and daughter, Elizabeth 1842 and Myrtle 1874
  18. ^ a b Husband and wife: John 1901 and Sunday 1905
  19. ^ a b Uncle and nephew, Carol 1906 and Oliver 1938
  20. ^ India was under British rule at the time of this person's birth.
  21. ^ a b Siblings: Cathy 1987 and Chris 1989
  22. ^ Citation: Office of the Chief Actuary.
  23. ^ This refers to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales