Balfe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Balfe family were part of an ancient Scottish tribe called the Picts. They lived in the barony of Balfour, in the parish of Markinch in Fife. The name is a topographic or local surname, which was given to a family who held a barony or lands, had houses, manors or estates in the area. The name may also be derived from the Gaelic word baile which means a place and the Pictish word pawr which means pasture. [1] [2]

Early Origins of the Balfe family

The surname Balfe was first found in Fife, from the lands or barony named Balfour, near the junction of the rivers Ore and Leven in the parish of Markinch. The first record of the family was John de Balfure, who appears on an Assize Roll in 1304. William de Balfure witnessed a charter by Duncan, Earl of Fife between 1331 and 1335 and Michael de Balfoure who witnessed a confirmation charter by David II to Ysabella de Fyf in 1365. He may be the Michael de Balfwre who was present at the perambulation of the bounds of Kyrknes and Louchor in 1395. "Over twenty branches of the family of Balfour possessed at one time or another landed property in Fife. The name was originally pronounced with the accent on the last syllable, but Anglified usage has shifted the stress forward to the first. " [3]

Another noted source mentions the name is from "a castle and fief in Fifeshire of which county the chiefs were hereditary sheriffs. The family sprang from Siward, a Northumbrian, who settled in Scotland temp. Duncan I." [4]

And another source claims the family "are descended from Sir Michael de Balfour, temp. William the Lion." [5] William the Lion, sometimes styled William I and also known by the nickname Garbh, "the Rough" (c. 1142-1214) was King of the Scots from 1165 to 1214.

Early History of the Balfe family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Balfe research. Another 150 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1280, 1350, 1545, 1715, 1581, 1594, 1527, 1513, 1524, 1530, 1530, 1482, 1517, 1510, 1521, 1517, 1591, 1699, 1907, 1660, 1698, 1767, 1600, 1658, 1650, 1658, 1525, 1583, 1547, 1630, 1694, 1619, 1639, 1688, 1713 and are included under the topic Early Balfe History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Balfe Spelling Variations

Prior to the invention of the printing press in the last hundred years, documents were basically unique. Names were written according to sound, and often appeared differently each time they were recorded. Spelling variations of the name Balfe include Balfour, Balfoure, Balfower, Balfowir, Balford, Balforde and many more.

Early Notables of the Balfe family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan at this time was Sir William Balfour (died 1660), from Pitcullo, Fifeshire, Scotland, General of the parliamentary forces during the English Civil War; Robert Balfour, 4th of Balbirnie (1698-1767); Sir Michael Balfour of Burleigh; Sir James Balfour, 1st Baronet (1600-1658), Scottish annalist and antiquary, Lord Lyon King of Arms from 1650-1658; Sir James Balfour (1525-1583) Lord Pittendreich, Scottish judge and politician, who...
Another 65 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Balfe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Balfe family to Ireland

Some of the Balfe family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 68 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Balfe migration to the United States +

The freedom of the North American colonies was enticing, and many Scots left to make the great crossing. It was a long and hard journey, but its reward was a place where there was more land than people and tolerance was far easier to come by. Many of these people came together to fight for a new nation in the American War of Independence, while others remained loyal to the old order as United Empire Loyalists. The ancestors of Scots in North America have recovered much of this heritage in the 20th century through Clan societies and other such organizations. A search of immigration and passenger lists revealed many important and early immigrants to North America bearing the name of Balfe:

Balfe Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Oliver Balfe, who landed in Virginia in 1643 [6]
Balfe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George John Balfe, who arrived in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1850 [6]

New Zealand Balfe migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Balfe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • James Balfe, aged 38, a ropemaker, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Howrah" in 1874
  • Elizabeth Balfe, aged 34, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Howrah" in 1874
  • Mary E. Balfe, aged 3 months, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Howrah" in 1874

Contemporary Notables of the name Balfe (post 1700) +

  • Christopher Balfe (b. 1978), American COO of Mercury Radio Arts, Inc. and General Manager of the Glenn Beck Program
  • Shaun Balfe (b. 1972), American race car driver, winner of the 2004 Spanish GT Series
  • Veronica Balfe (1913-2000), American socialite and actress, wife of Gary Cooper
  • Caitríona Mary Balfe (b. 1979), Irish actress, producer, and former fashion model. She is best known for her starring role as Claire Fraser historical drama series Outlander, for which she received a British Academy Scotland Award, an Irish Film and Television Award, two People's Choice Awards, and three Saturn Awards. She also earned nominations for two Critics' Choice Television Awards and four Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama
  • Michael William Balfe (1808-1870), Irish composer, the third child of William Balfe, born at 10 Pitt Street, Dublin, 15 May 1808, best known today for his opera The Bohemian Girl [7]
  • Joseph Rupert Balfe (1890-1915), Australian rules footballer
  • Brendan Balfe (b. 1945), Irish radio personality
  • David Balfe (b. 1958), English musician


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  3. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  5. ^ Sims, Clifford Stanley The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames. 1862. Print.
  6. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 6 June 2019


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