Show ContentsHelford History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Helford is a name whose history is connected to the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from when the Helford family once lived in a region called Elford in the county of Northumberland and in Staffordshire. The surname Helford is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties. As a general rule, the greater the distance between an individual and their homeland, the larger the territory they were named after.

Early Origins of the Helford family

The surname Helford was first found in Northumberland at Elford, which dates back to at least 1256 when it was listed as Eleford and had two possible origins: having derived from the Old English personal name Ella or Ellen + ford as in "ford of a man called Ella"; and "ford where elder-trees grow." [1] [2]

Elford is also a village and civil parish in Lichfield District of Staffordshire that dates back to 1002 when it was listed as Elleford and later was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Eleford. [3]

While this latter village is older, the Northumberland village is where the first records of the name were found.

Early records of the family were also found in Kent, where William de Elleford was listed in the Pipe Rolls for 1195. Years later, Thomas de Eleford was found in the Feet of Fines for Oxfordshire in 1291 and later again, Thomas Elleford was listed in the Feet of Fines for Warwickshire 1410-1411. [4]

Sheepstor, Devon "was the ancient home of the Elfords, and one of these, a staunch Royalist, is said to have found refuge from his enemies in a cavity amidst the confused heap or 'clatter ' of detached rocks that clothes the precipitous side of Sheepstor Hill, and possibly named it Schittis or Schattis Tor the older form from its shattered aspect. The cavity is now commonly called the Pixies' Hole. Elford is said to have employed his time in painting its rocky sides, but of this there is no trace." [5]

Early History of the Helford family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Helford research. Another 128 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1677, 1714, 1703, 1703, 1706, 1720, 1714, 1749, 1837, 1749, 1797, 1798, 1833, 1796, 1806, 1807, 1808, 1798, 1800, 1837 and 1733 are included under the topic Early Helford History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Helford Spelling Variations

Sound was what guided spelling in the essentially pre-literate Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Also, before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Therefore, spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Helford family name include Elford, Elfords, Elfford, Elffords and others.

Early Notables of the Helford family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include Richard Elford (1677?-1714) English singer, lay vicar at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, he sang before Queen Anne at St. James's Palace on her birthday in 1703. He "became famous in London as a singer of sacred music at the beginning of the seventeenth century. In his youth he belonged to the choirs of Lincoln and Durham cathedrals, and came to London to display his fine counter-tenor on the stage. His success at the theatres was small, owing to his awkward and ungainly appearance. Elford was also admired in profane music; he was chosen...
Another 434 words (31 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Helford Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Helford migration to the United States +

For political, religious, and economic reasons, thousands of English families boarded ships for Ireland, Canada, the America colonies, and many of smaller tropical colonies in the hope of finding better lives abroad. Although the passage on the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving, those families that survived the trip often went on to make valuable contributions to those new societies to which they arrived. Early immigrants bearing the Helford surname or a spelling variation of the name include:

Helford Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Helford, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1732 [6]

Australia Helford migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Helford Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

New Zealand Helford 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:

Helford Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. George Helford, (b. 1847), aged 21, British farm labourer travelling from London aboard the ship 'Mermaid' arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 8th January1869 [8]

Contemporary Notables of the name Helford (post 1700) +

  • George Helford, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Massachusetts, 1936 [9]

The Helford Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Difficilia quae pulchra
Motto Translation: Beautiful things are difficult.

  1. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  4. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital
  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. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th February 2020). Retrieved from
  8. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 16) . Retrieved from on Facebook