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HADFIELD, the origins of...

David Hadfield


Many words have been written by well-meaning people regarding the origins of the surname HADFIELD but unfortunately, most have been inaccurate.  From both a historical and genealogical perspective it is my intention here to attempt to shed some light on this often asked and somewhat confused question.

Firstly, I would highly recommend that anyone in possession of the many professionally manufactured and illuminated surname plaques, wallhangings, laminated certificates, etc. simply place them in the garbage where they belong.  Although very colourful and often a source of dinner conversation these somewhat expensive but erroneous items do nothing more than add to the confusion.

Commencing (in good genealogical fashion) with the present day, how many of you with the surname Hadfield go through life always having to say, “it’s Hadfield with a d, not a t”.  This is usually because people tend to write what they hear and due to accent or dialect it can frequently be difficult to differentiate between a ‘had’ and a ‘hat’.  I have Hadfield cousins who have siblings who have a birth certificate registered with the surname of Hatfield.  The local Registrar, who may have originated from another county, wrote what he thought he heard the informant say.  Misspelling, especially throughout central and northern England, appears to have been extremely common for several centuries and would show that the name Hadfield was far more widespread than Hatfield.

Many Hadfield families that migrated to North America in the last two hundred years have also had their surname corrupted to Hatfield and their descendants continue to be known by that name today.  No doubt this will all cause much difficulty and confusion for those eventually attempting to trace their family lineage.

A most important date in our search for the origin of Hadfield was 1558 when Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England.  Thankfully for us, Elizabeth instituted changes that would affect record keeping to this day as she decreed the principal language to be English and relegated French and Latin to court and ecclesiastical use respectively.  Unfortunately however, for genealogists the preceding years back to the dawn of civilisation in England were to prove extremely difficult to research.  Attempting to find ones Hadfield ancestors prior to Elizabeth’s reign is possible if they happened to be aristocracy, landed-gentry, clergy, landowners, farmers or sometimes, tenants.  Parish or ecclesiastical records of the time support that both Hadfield and Hatfield names occurred.  Most Hadfields of the time were illiterate common folk so they would rarely have been the subject of any record keeping.

It isn’t until the 15th century that records start to show an origin (or corruption), of the name Hadfield.  A good example of this is the The Last Testament of Stepham Hatefeld dated 1492 and displays, in Latin, that Stepham was the Escheator (Crown Tax Collector) of Holderness, Yorkshire.  Yorkshire has long been an established Hadfield stronghold and many families today can trace their lineage back to Scandinavian invaders and their subsequent descendants.  In tracing the various Hadfield branches it is evident that for several hundred years a gradual migration took place from Yorkshire across to Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire.  These being the principal counties where ‘modern day’ Hadfield families can trace their ancestry.

Prior to the 15th century Hatefeld, Hetfeld and Hedfeld were names frequently used to describe people who lived in and around heath or marsh land and are considered to be of early British or Saxon origin and over the centuries have changed little.

As for a crest or coat-of-arms, anything other than a scallop shell or raised arm with chalice is rubbish.