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The following was written by John C. Downing
WINSTEAD, WINSTED - The English surnames Winstead, and Winsted were originally acquired form once having lived at one or the other of places so named. Two such places are in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the Wapentake of Winstead. The wapentake is a political district similar to our township or parish. It is near the mouth of the river Humber about two miles from the North Sea.
The ancient course of the Humber is now called Winstead Drain. About two miles north is Winstead Hall, spelled Wilsted in 1610, but probably too recent to have furnished a surname to a former resident.
The earliest spellings of the Wapentake were Wivestede in 1033, Wifestad, Wiustad, Wifestede and Wisted recorded in the 1083 Doomsday Book, Wiuestud in 1238 Winsted(e) and Wynestede in 1249, and Winestede and Wiuestead in 1347.
With these early spellings it would appear that the correct spelling would be the personal name Wifa or Wife. This Old English word is the genitive plural of the Old English "wif" (woman). The Old English word "ste(a)d(r)" meant "farm homestead," but in very early times it applied almost entirely to a diary farm. It is a moot question as to which is the older, the Old English "ste(a)d(r)" or the Old Scandinavian "stathr" which is the closest approximate English spelling
No individuals of the name could be located in the available early dictionaries.
The 1790 census lists the spelling Winstead in Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. The 1800 North Carolina census lists the spelling Winstead and Winsted.

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Updated April 2, 2011

Keith Winstead
Keith.Winstead@Hp.Com

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