Ford Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is an Anglo-Saxon habitational or topographical surname meaning “at the ford”, denoting a person who lived by such a physical feature (a shallow place in a river of stream that allows people and animals for crossing by wading), an important feature in medieval times and in the Middle Ages throughout Europe and Chistendom. Similarly, it may have been an occupational or official surname for a person who maintaining the area and crossing process. Towns often arose near the ford. The numerous fords throughout Britain explains the popularity of this primarily English, Welsh, and Scottish surname. It derives from the Old English word ford, meaning ford.
William atte Ford was born in Stopham, Sussex, England in 1295 AD. He married a woman named Juliana and had a daughter with her named Joan Atte Stopham (Forde). A one John Ford was born in Calverton, Buckinghamshire in 1380, and he had a son named John, who was born in Chaford, Devon in 1420. In England, one source states the family first became established in Devon were they held lands and titles since early times. One family moved from Devon to Meath, Ireland where they came significant land owners in the 1300s AD.
The book Genealogy of Irish Families by John Rooney discusses this name and makes the perhaps dubious claim (as it does with several other names) that this family descends from Milesius, a mythical King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The author states the progenitor or original ancestor of this family was Brian, son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland in 350 AD. The ancient name was O’Cosnamha, and signifies “grandson of the Defender” and was later Anglicized to Ford. This sept lived in Leitrim, Kings County, and Roscommon in Ireland. The Fords or MacConsuamhas were Chiefs of Clan Cionnaith or Clan Kenny.
Another source states that Ford was an Anglicized version of Mac Giolla Naomh, a name that means “son of the devotee of saints”, as well as the surname MacConsnamha, meaning “son of the swimming hound”, and lastly, in Cork, it was an Anglicized version of the name Fuarain.
Common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Forde, Fourd, Foord, Foorde, Foard, Furd, Forth, and Forder. It should also be noted this name serves as the suffix for hundreds of other British names (ex. Stratford, Stafford, Stanford, Bamford, Halford, Hartford, Hanford, Clifford, Bedford, Gifford, Wadford, Oxford, etc.).
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Ford ranks 124th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following seven states: Tennessee, Maryland, South Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Delaware.
The surname Ford frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (120th), Scotland (317th), Wales (85th), Ireland (1,297th) and Northern Ireland (1,006th). In England, it ranks highest in Wiltshire. In Scotland, the surname Ford ranks highest in Berkshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in Monmouthshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Leitrim. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in Fermanagh.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (320th), New Zealand (161st), Australia (119th), and South Africa (558th).
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “Characteristic of the southern and western counties. Absent or singularly rare north of a line drawn from the Wash to the Mersey. It is at present most numerous in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hants, and Cheshire. In almost all the counties where this name is at all frequent we find it in one form or another as a placename”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer of this surname was Bruman de la Forda who was documented in Hampshire in the Book of Winton in 1066 AD. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists two bearers of this surname: Richard de la Forde (Norfolk) and William de la Forde (Kent). Peter ate Ford was listed in the Writs of Parliament in 1313 AD. David atte Forde was recorded in county Somerset, England in 1327 AD in Kirby’s Quest. William atte ffourde was documented in the Close Roll in 1349 AD. Stephen atte Forde was recorded in the Close Roll in 1371 AD. Thomas de Furd, a presbyter in the diocese of St. Andrews in Scotland, was recorded in 1406 AD. A one Hugh Ford of Scholes in Wigan was documented in the Wills at Chester in 1661. An early marriage involving this surname were Alyce Foorde to Henry Feekes at St. James Clerkenwell in 1620 AD.
Ford Family Tree & Ford Genealogy
Ford of Ellell Hall
William Ford was an Esquire of Ellell Hall in county Lancaster, England, as well as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant, born in 1816. In 1852, he married Louisa, daughter of William Ross of Pendleton. The Ford genealogy traces back to a family of Fforde or Ford that lived in an ancient settlement in Staffordshire. As long ago as the 1100s AD, they were established at Ford Green, in Norton-le-Moors. During the reign of King Henry VII of England, Hugh Ford, son of Joh, grandson of William, and great-grandson of Richard del Forde, settled his estate on his grandson, Hugh Ford, son of Richard. Hugh, was the father of William Ford, who lived in 1521. This William had a son named Hugh Ford, of Ford Green, county Stafford, England who lived in 1538, and was succeeded by his son, William Forde in 1564. The son William married Alice, daughter of Richard Harblutt of Loyde, and had a son and successor with her named Hugh Forde, of Forde Green. Hugh married Margery, daughter of Michael Dickinson of Fooker, and had a son named William Forde who lived in 1679. This William married Ellen, daughter of James Rowley, and he had a daughter with her and three sons: Hugh (ancestor of the Forde of Forde Green), Reverend William (of Ecccleshall, had five sons), and Andrew (ancestor of the Fords of Abbeyfield). The eldest son was Hugh Forde, who in 1683, married Ellen, daughter of John Mellor of Alsopp-in-the-Dale. His son and successor was Josiah Forde of Heath House who married Anne and had a son named Isaac. This Isaac Ford, born in 1728, married, in 1757, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hutton Rawlinson of Lancaster, and had issue named Anne (married Robert Barclay of Lombard Street), Mary, and John. John was an Esquire of Lancaster of Morecombe Lodge who first married Mary, daughter of John Chorley, Esq. of Red Hazles, and had a son with her named John. He later married Mary, daughter of John Lawson of Highfield, and had issue with her as well (see Ford of Enfield Old Park). His son John was an Esquire of Ellell Hall, county Lancaster, inherited the estates of his great uncle Abraham Rawlinson. In 1812, he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Lawson, Esquire, and had issue with her: Mary Elizabeth (married Francis Walker), Sarah Walker (married Charles Walker), Abraham Rawlinson, Robert, and William (mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph). The Ford Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Ford Family Crest) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Per fess, or and ermine, a lion rampant azure. Crest: A demi-lion rampant azure.
Ford of Enfield Old Park
Edward Ford, Esquire of Enfield Old Park, county Middlesex, was a Justice of the Peace born in 1813. In 1837, he married Elizabeth Hill Winchester, daughter of Reverend Thomas Winchester Lewis, and had four issue with her: John Walker (married Caroline Susan Parker and had issue named Hugh Rawlinson, Henry Arthington and Mary Mabel in the 1860s), Charles Winchester, Alfred Lawson, and Mary Elizabeth. This branch of the Ford family tree is a branch of the ancient family of Ellell Hall, discussed in the previous section. John Ford, Esquire of Lancaster and Morecombe Lodge, the son of Isaac Ford and Elizabeth Rawlinson, married Mary, daughter of John Chorley of Red Hazles, and had a son with her naked John. He later married Mary, daughter of John Lawson of Lancaster, and he had issue with her as follows: Elizabeth Sarah, Hutton Rawlinson (1804), Charles Wilworth (1806), Robert Lawson (1809), married Hannah Pease), and Edward Ford. The bore the same arms, crest, and motto as the Ford’s of Ellell Hall.
Forde of Seaforde
William Brownlow Forde, Esquire of Seaforde in county Down, Northern Ireland, was born in 1823 and he was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Member of Parliament from 1857-1874, and a Colonel of the Royal South Down Militia. In 1855, he married Adelaide, daughter of General Robert Meade, son of the 1st Earl of Clan William. The Forde genealogy or Forde ancestry traces back to Nicholas Forde of Coolgreanty, county Wexford, Ireland, claimed Welsh descent, and died in 1605, having had five sons with his wife named Catherine White. The eldest son was Mathew Ford, of Dublin, a Member of Parliament, who had a son named Nicholas. Nicholas was of Killyleagh, county Down, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham, and had a son with her named Mathew. This Mathew Forde was of Coolgreany and was a Member of Parliament and he married Margaret, daughter of Sir George Hamilton, Baronet, and had the following issue with her: Jane (married John Walsh of Shanganah) Lucy (married Sir Laurence Esmonde, Baronet of Ballynestra) and Mathew Forde. His son Mathew Forde was an Esquire of Seaforde and Member of Parliament for Downpatrick, who in 1698, married Anne, daughter of William Brownlow of Lurgan, and had a son and heir with her named Matthew, as well as others. His son Mathew was an Esquire of Seaforde and Coolgreany, as well as a Member of Parliament for Banger. In 1724, he married Christian, daughter of John Graham of Platten, county Meath, and had issue with her. He later married Jane, widow of Sir Timothy Allen. He died in 1780 and was succeeded by his son, Mathew Forde, Esq. of Seaforde and Coolgreany, as well as a Member of Parliament for Downpatrick, who in 1750, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Knox of Dungannon, and had five issue with her as follows: Matthew (his heir), Anne, Elizabeth (married Thomas Douglas of Grace Hall), Jane (married John Christopher Beauman of Hyde Park), and Charity (married William Brownlow of Lurgan). He died in 1796 and was succeeded by his son, Mathew Horde, Esquire of Seaforde and Coolgreany, who was High Sheriff of county Down in 1803. In 1782, he married Caterhine, daughter of William Brownlow of Lurgan, and had the following children with her: Mathew, William Brownlow, Thomas Arthur (Assistant-Barrister in counties Down and Roscommon, in 1814, married Louisa Head, had issue), Arthur (married Selina, daughter of William Blundell), Francis Charles (Captain of the Royal Scots Greys, married Letite Jane, daughter of O. Jones of Woodhall), Anne (married Francis Hoey of Dunganstown), and Isabella Jane Octavia (married Claytion Bayley of Norlands). He died in 1812 and was succeeded by his eldest son Mathew, who was a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Member of Parliament, and Colonel of the Royal North Down Militia. In 1814, he married Mary Anny, daughter of Francis Savage of Hollymount and Ardkeen, and later Lady Harriet Savage, daughter of Henry Thomas Butler, the 2nd Earl of Carrick. He died without an heir and was succeeded by his brother, the Reverened William Brownlow Forde of Seaforde. In 1812, this William married Theodosia Helen, daughter of Thomas Douglass of Grace Hall, and fathered the following children with her: Matthew Thomas (an officer in the army and High Sheriff of Downshire), William Brownlow (mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph), Francis Savage, Charles Arthur (Major of the Royal South Down Militia), Thomas Douglass (Major of the 46th Regiment, in 1858, married Georgina King), Selina Charity (married Reverend J.H. Fre(??)), Elizabeth Theodosia Catherine (married Captain William Hall of Narrow Water, of the Royal Army), and Harriette Anna (married Sir John Allen Johns Walsh, Baronet). William passed away in March of 1856. The Ford Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Ford Family Crest) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Azure, two flaunches or, charged with three roses fess, the centre rose gold, the two exterior (on the flaunel) gules between two martlets of the second. Crest: A martlet. Motto: Incorrupta fides, nudaque veritas. They were seated at Seaforde, Clough, county Down.
St. Clair-Ford of Ember Court
Sir Aubrey St. Clair-Ford, 6th Baronet, of Ember Court, county Surrey, England, was born in 1904 and succeeded his kinsman in 1948. He was a Captain in the Royal Navy and served in World War II. In 1945, he married Anne, daughter of Harold C. Christopherson of Penerley Lodge. The Ford genealogy of this line traces back to Thomas Ford, of The Ridge, in the Barbados, the descendant of a Royalist family of this name that settled in Devonshire. In 1690, he married Eleanor Austin, and had a son with her named Francis. This Francis Ford was a Member of the Assembly of Barbados, and in 1693, he married Martha, daughter of Smithell Matson, and had issue with her, including a son, also named Francis. This Francis Ford was of Lears, in the Barbados, and was also a Member of the Assembly there. He was born in 1717 and in 1758, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Birch Hothersall, and fathered four children with her: Sir Francis (1st Baronet), Martha (married W. Becher of Howbury), Anne (married John Swinfen), and Elizabeth (married John, 10th Baron Colville). Francis died in 1772 and was succeeded by his only son, Sir Francis Ford, 1st Baronet, a Member of Parliament, of Ember Court, who was born in November 1758. He was also a Member of Council in Barbados and was created a Baronet in 1793. In 1785, he married Mary Anson, daughter of 1st Baron Vernnon, with whom he had three sons and five daguhters. The Ford Coat of Arms is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Per pale gules and or, two vends vair; on a canton of the second a greyhound, courant, sable. Crest: A greyhound’s head sable erased gules, muzzled or. Motto: Omnium rerum viessitudo.
Ford of Westerdunes
Sir Henry Russell Ford, 2nd Baronet, of Westerdunes, in the County of East Lothian, was educated at Winchester and New College Oxford. He was born in 1911 and served in World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Army. In 1936, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Godfrey F. Wright of Whiddon, and had three issue with her: Andrew Russell (1943), Jill Dorothy (1937), and Alison Patricia (1946). The lineage traces back to William Ford, a merchant in Leith, who was the father of James Ford, born 1820. James married Agnes Campbell, daughter of Alexander Cassels, and had issue with her, including Agnes Cassels (married Henry Vivian Phillipps) and Sir Patrick Johnson Ford (1st Baronet, served in World War I, created Baronet in 1828, married Jessie Hamilton Field). The Ford Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Ford Family Crest) has the following heraldic blazon: Vert a chevron between a dexter and sinister wing in base a pyramid all or. Crest: A sphinx, wings elevated, its head ensigned with a plume and supporting between its fore-paws a paprus stalk, flowered and leaved or: Motto: Fortuna fortiori fotitudo. They resided at Seadforth, Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland.
Early American and New World Settlers
A widow and her three children, William, Martha, and John Ford, came to New England in 1621 aboard the Fortune.
Barbara Ford, age 16, came to New England in 1635 aboard the Susan & Ellin.
Mary Ford, age 22, came to Virginia in June of 1635 aboard the Thomas and John.
Adrian Ford, age 26, came to Virginia in July of 1635 aboard the Paule of London.
Charles Ford, age 33, came to Virginia in July of 1635 aboard the Paule of London.
George Ford, age 19, came to St. Christopher’s in September of 1635 aboard the William & John.
Tristram Ford, age 21, came to the New World (the Barbados?) in December of 1635.
George Ford of Exon, age 30, came to St. Christopher’s in 1633 aboard the Robert Bonaventure.
John Ford, a servant, age 30, came to New England in March 1635.
Francis Ford came in July of 1679 aboard the Mallego Merchant.
Rose Ford was buried at St. Michael’s Parish in Barbados in 1678.
Richard Ford and his wife, who had one child and two slaves, were listed in the parish of St. Michael’s in 1680.
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions nine bearers of this last name:
1) Andrew Ford of Weymouth, a freeman in 1654, married Elinor and had issue Samuel (1656), Nathaniel (1658), Ebenezer (1660), Silence (1661), Prudence (1663), Jacob (1666), Elizabeth (1667), Israel (1670), and Sarah (1672).
2) John Ford of Plymouth, an early settler, came with his elder brother William and sister Martha, and had had a wife named Hannah. He died at Marshfield in 1693.
3) John Ford of Haverhill, 1670, a son in law of Stephen Kent
4) Roger Ford of Cambridge, who died in 1644
5) Robert Ford of Haverhill, 1677
6) Thomas Ford of Dorchester who came aboard the Mary and John in 1630 and was a freeman the next year. He brought three children with him (Abigail, Joanna, and Hezibah) and moved to Windsor in 1636, where he was later a representative. His wife died in 1643 and he married Ann, widow of Thomas Scott in 1644, and had children with her including, perhaps, a daughter named Ann (who married Thomas Newbury)
7) Thomas Ford of Milford, 1646, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Elizabeth Knowles of Fairfield, and had issue with her: Elizabeth (1652), John (1664), Thomas (1656), Mary (1658), and Lydia (1660).
8) Timothy Ford of Charleston, 1637, who moved to New Haven in 1639 and died in 1694, having had at least five children: Matthew, Samuel, Mary, Bethia, and Elizabeth.
9) William Ford of Marshfield, 1638, son of a widow who came aboard the Fortune in 1621, lived at Duxbury in 1643, and married Ann, with whom he had issue William, Michael, Millicent, and Margaret. He was a miller by trade and was the original proprietor of Bridgewater. He died in 1676 at the age of 72.
Early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname who came in the eighteenth century include Reuben Ford (Pennsylvania 1703), Christopher Ford (Virginia 1711), Ale (Alexander?) Ford (Virginia 1714), Matthew Ford (Virginia 1717), and Richard Ford (Maryland 1740).
In Canada, some of the earliest settlers bearing this surname came to Nova Scotia in 1749, including Henry, Jeremiah, James, William, and Joseph Ford, some to Halifax. In Australia, one of the first bearers of this last name was Thomas Ford, a convict from Middlesex, England who came to New South Wales (then a penal colony) aboard the Ann in 1809. In New Zealand, one of the earliest bearers was Hayword Samuel Ford, who arrived at the Bay of Islands, Auckland in 1840.
Early Americans Bearing the Ford Family Crest
Oddly, Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) ,Crozier’s General Armory (1904), and Matthew’s American Armoury (1907) and Bluebook do not contain any entry for the Ford surname, despite the name being one of the top 150 last names in the United States. This perhaps indicates most members of this family came in the late 19th and early 20th century, when the popularity of heraldry began to wane, as opposed to the prior two centuries when heraldry flourished to some extent in America.
I have identified six Ford family mottos:
1) Omnium rerum vicissitude (All things are subject to change)
2) Excitat (He rouses)
4) Lucrum Christi mihi (Christ is the reward)
5) Incorrupta fides nudaque veritas (Uncorrupted faith and the naked truth)
6) Anchora sir virtus (Let virtue be my anchor) (Ford of Essex)
We have 26 coats of arms for the Ford surname depicted here. These 26 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore an Ford Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Family Crest)
1) Forde, of Devonshire, Quarterly of 1. Impaling (quarterly of) 6, i.e. Forde of Hasting
2) John Forde of Hasting, Sussex, Quarterly of 4, as above, and crest, achievement 13 November 1575
3) Lady Elizabeth Ford, daughter of William Forde of Hadley, Suffolk, England, wife of Bawdrye
4) John Ford of Ashburton, Devon, coat and crest
5) Richard Ford, son of Charles of Whithall, gentleman, son of William, son of William Atforde of Fordmore, Devon: Gules, a castle triple towered argent, over the same a crown argent.
6) Robert (Forth?) of Hadley, Suffolk, gentleman, granted 10 December 1539
There are hundreds of notable people with the Ford surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include:
1) Henry Ford (1863-1947) who was an iconic American industrialist from Greenfield Township, Michigan who founded Ford Motor Company and was pivotal in developing mass production and the assembly line, as well as making the automobile affordable for the average family, 2) Edsel Bryant Ford (1893-1943) who was the son of Henry Ford and president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 until 1943, 3) Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. (1913-2006) who was the 38th President of the United States from 1974-1977, and formerly a Vice President under the Nixon Administration and the House Minority Leader from 1965-1973, 4) Lita Rossana Ford (1958) who was an English-born American rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who was the lead guitarist for the band The Runaways in the 1970s and then had a solo career in the 1980s, 5) Melbourne Haddock Ford (1849-1891) who was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Michigan’s 5th district, 6) Clarence V. Ford (1938-2013) who was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, 7) Edmund Brisco Ford (1901-1988) who was a British ecological geneticist born in Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire who worked on the theory of natural selection, 8) Eugene Matthew Ford (1912-1970) who was a pitcher in the MLB who was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa and played for the Boston Bees and Chicago White Sox, 9) James N. Ford (1775-1833) who was an American civic leader and business owner in Kentucky and Illinois who was a river pirate and leader of “Ford’s Ferry Gang”, and 10) Robert Bruce Ford (1969-2016) who was a businessmen who served at the 64th Mayor of Toronto from 2010-2014.