Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

3,980 total views, 1 views today




About the study

A study of the ELFORD name world-wide, which began in the 12th Century and is fairly well documented.

Variant names

The main variant is ALFORD - the two names are sometimes interchangeable

Name origin

Several theories abound. It is believed to be English, derived either from a personal name 'Ella' + ford (a place where one could cross a river) i.e. where Ella lives by a ford, or where eels are to be found in shallow water by a ford, or from alor, elre meaning alder tree by a ford.

Historical occurrences of the name

The theory is that the Elfords descended from a Hugo de Elleforda c. 1116 of Ellforde in Staffordshire, probably a Norman.

In 1004 AD Wulfric Spot, Earl of Mercia founded Burton Abbey and bequeathed Elleford to his daughter. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Algar's son Edwyn (the grandson of Leofric and Lady Godiva) was dispossessed and Hugo de Elleforda probably obtained it then. The Norman church at Elford, Staffordshire dates from around this time.

In 1195, the head of William de Elleford, an outlaw, was carried into Westminster by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The manor of Ellforde then passed by marriage to Sir Peter de Arderne, whose grandson John de Arderne was a knight in arms to Edward III.

It is thought that the Elford male line descended from Hugo de Elleforde down to Robert de Elleforde (1263-1329) who was King Edward 1's falconer.

His son Robert de Elleforde (1304-1367) worked for the Black Prince, (Prince Edward, eldest son of Edward III, appointed in 1343 as the first Prince of Wales) being a bailiff at the Prince's castle at Berkhamsted. He was appointed Sheriff and steward of Devon and Cornwall on 18th August 1354 and in preparation for the French campaign, he was to requisition wine, oats and wheat from Plymouth, Dartmouth and Fowey. Robert was replaced as Sheriff of Cornwall in 1357, paid �30 for his three years in office, and returned to Berkhamsted as the Black Prince's steward there.

Lines of descent exist up to about 1367, but then there is a gap in the records. Other Elfords documented between 1354 and 1413 being Thomas, (Robert's brother?), Edmund, William, and John who may well be descendants of Robert but this line is not yet proved.

The next documented Elford, Roger, appeared in Devon in 1428, founding the illustrious Devon line of Elfords, mainly in the Plymouth area. The next five generations married into other well-known Devon families, such as Bevil, Northcote, Trelawney & Langford.

John Elford (1546-1584) of Sheepstor married Elizabeth Gregorie. They had three sons,Walter, John & William, before John died in 1584. Elizabeth remarried to Thomas Drake (brother and heir of Sir Francis Drake) and took the boys to live at Drake's home at Buckland Abbey.

Walter, John & Elizabeth's eldest son inherited Sheepstor and married Barbara Crocker of Lynham. They had 9 children, the heir being John, perhaps the most well-known Elford (called John of the Windstrew) (1603-1678) who had 4 wives (all heiresses) and 19 or 20 children.

The Elford line then descended down to Sir William Elford, (1749-1837) co-owner of the Plymouth Bank, founded in 1773.

William married twice He was a talented artist and a member of the F.R.S (some of his pictures are in the Queen's private apartments at Windsor), M.P for Plymouth and a friend of Pitt the Younger, James Northcote, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lord Faringdon. Presented the Freedom of the City of Plymouth to Admiral Nelson in 1800. He was knighted on 1st November 1800 and took as his motto ' Diffic>ilia Quae Pulchra (To be Honourable is Difficult).

However his Bank went spectacularly bust after Waterloo in 1826, and he retired to Totnes, where he died in 1837 at the age of 89. There is a large memorial to him in the church.

Unfortunately, both his son and heir, Jonathan and his brother Jonathan had pre-deceased him, thus leaving no direct descendants after the death of Sir William and the baronetcy therefore died out.

Coat of Arms There are several listed, the colours used being red, black and silver.

  1. Circa 1250 - Quarterly ar and gu, in the second & third quarters a fret or over all, and bend sa, three mullets of the first.
  2. Circa 1450 - Per pale ar and sa, a lion rampant gu. Crest a demi lion rampart erased per pale ar and sa ducally crowned.
  3. Same arms, crest & motto (the field per pale wavy, quartering gu three stirrups ar (strapped or buckled).
  4. Sir William Elford's Arms - 1800 - Similar arms, (but no stirrups) and crest.


Richard Elford - d.1714 - Vocalist, Lay-vicar at St Paul's Cathedral & Westminster Abbey, protegy of Queen Anne.

Sir William Elford - 1749-1837 - Banker, Mayor, M.P for Plymouth and Rye, Lieut.Colonel in Army, Artist. Created Baronet in 1800.

Victor Elford - 1911 - 2003 - Artist

Victor Elford - 1935 - Racing Driver, Winner 1968 Monte Carlo Rally.

Herbert Charles Elford - Master of the SS Ceramic, torpedoed in WW11.

Lionel Harvey Elford - Instrumental in the formation of the Welfare State.

John Thomas Elford - 1841-1936 - Borough Engineer of Poole, Dorset

Evelyn Elford - M.D Carters Pottery (subsequently Poole Pottery)

William Elford - Chief Superintendent of Police West Yorkshire

Frederick Elford - 1856 - 1935 - Driver of the first Pines Express, Bath to Bournemouth

Benjamin Elford - 1777 - 1860 - Pressganged, sailed to China, fought 11 battles including Trafalgar, shipwrecked 3 times and died at Greenwich Hospital aged 83.

Name frequency

In the 1881 Census, 919 Elfords were recorded

Distribution of the name

The name occurs most frequently in the West Country. Elfords migrated along the South Coast as far as Hastings, London and Kent. Elford miners also migrated into South Wales, Yorkshire and Northumberland, but the vast majority are south of Birmingham to the Wash..

Elfords were also early emigrants to Australia, America, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and other countries.


The Elford One-Name Study commenced in November 2003 and so far I have the following data, none of which is yet complete:-

Databases based on location, organised by English Counties.

Extracts Census records

Extracts Parish records

IGI extracts

BMD extracts

Copies (with permission) of research by the late Mrs Laura Elford held at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.

Extensive records for Somerset (my line) and Devon Elfords


Grateful thanks for the assistance from the Estate of the late Mrs Laura Elford, Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, Julie Chivers, Peggy Goodger and all the many other Elford researchers world-wide.


There is a DNA project for the ELFORD name with Family Tree DNA. Information may be found at