Show ContentsMedcalf History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Medcalf name has descended through the generations from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. Their name comes from having lived in Yorkshire, where the family was found since the early Middle Ages. The name is of ancient Anglo-Saxon origin, deriving from two possible sources. Firstly, such Old English terms as mete-corn, meaning "corn for food," and mete-cu, meaning "cow that is to furnish food," make it conceivable that the name Medcalf is derived from an Old English word "mete-calf," meaning "a calf being fattened up for slaughtering." In this instance, the name would have been originally borne by a calf farmer. Alternatively, the name may come from Middleton Calf Top, a settlement on "The Calf," a hill located at the western boundary of Yorkshire; an early inhabitant of this settlement was known as Medecalf.

Early Origins of the Medcalf family

The surname Medcalf was first found in Yorkshire, where the first bearer of the name was said to be William Medecalf de Dent, who lived in Middleton Calf Top during the 12th century when the boundaries of the new counties of Westmorland, Cumberland, and Yorkshire West Riding were formed.

The name also appeared on the census rolls where one of the earliest known bearers, Adam Medecalf, appeared in these rolls in 1301. There seems to be a historical relationships with the Turnbulls that goes back at least 500 years. In most cases the surnames were seen side by side as seen in the humorous quote: "Mr. Metcalf ran off on the meeting of a cow, With pale Mr. Turnbull behind him" [1]

Another source claims this as the "traditional" origin of the name: "One John Strong having seized a mad bull by the nostrils with his left hand, killed the beast with his right, and being afterwards questioned on the subject of his prowess, modestly declared that he had simply met a calf. From that time he acquired the surname of Metcalf!" [2]

This same source has another whimsical story: "Another version of the story is that 'two men being in the woods together at evening, seeing a four-footed animal coming towards them,' one said, 'Have you not heard of lions in these woods?' The other replied that he had, but had never seen any such thing. The animal coming near, one ran away, while the other resolved to meet it; which proving to be a red calf, he that met it got the name of Metcalfe, and he that ran away that of Lightfoot!" [2]

There was a wide variety of spellings used by the family is the early days. The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379, include: Willelmus Miducroft; and Ricardus de Meducroft.

Another authority claims "It is a remarkable fact that I cannot find Metcalf in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of of 1379. But the Meducrofts are there. Probably the corruption had not yet taken place." [1]

By the 16th and 17th century, the name was "so numerous are they that there is scarcely a town or village in the North Riding [of Yorkshire] which cannot own an inhabitant of the name; in truth, in 1607 the Metcalfes were accounted the most numerous family in England; even in 1555 it is recorded that Sir Christopher Metcalfe, of Nappa Hall, near Askrigg, being High Sheriff of Yorkshire, was attended by 300 horsemen, all of his own family and name." [3]

Early History of the Medcalf family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Medcalf research. Another 84 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1556, 1717, 1810, 1785, 1846, 1843 and are included under the topic Early Medcalf History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Medcalf Spelling Variations

Only recently has spelling become standardized in the English language. As the English language evolved in the Middle Ages, the spelling of names changed also. The name Medcalf has undergone many spelling variations, including Metcalfe, Medcalfe, Metcalf, Medcalf, Midkiff and many more.

Early Notables of the Medcalf family (pre 1700)

Notables of the family at this time include Sir Christopher Metcalfe (c.1556), High Sheriff of Yorkshire, who met the Judges of Assize in York on horseback with 300 mounted men of his own name and kindred, John Metcalf (1717-1810), known as Blind Jack of Knaresborough, a blind British...
Another 47 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Medcalf Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Medcalf family to Ireland

Some of the Medcalf family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 71 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 Medcalf migration to the United States +

To escape the unstable social climate in England of this time, many families boarded ships for the New World with the hope of finding land, opportunity, and greater religious and political freedom. Although the voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, those families that arrived often found greater opportunities and freedoms than they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Medcalf were among those contributors:

Medcalf Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Medcalf, who arrived in Maryland in 1638 [4]
  • James Medcalf, who landed in Maryland in 1662 [4]
  • John Medcalf, who arrived in Maryland in 1673 [4]
  • George Medcalf, who arrived in Maryland in 1676 [4]
Medcalf Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Medcalf, who landed in Georgia in 1740 [4]

Canada Medcalf migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Medcalf Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • George Medcalf, aged 27, a farmer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1834 aboard the barque "New Brunswick" from Liverpool, England

Australia Medcalf migration to Australia +

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

Medcalf Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Medcalf, English convict who was convicted in West Riding, Yorkshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Asiatic" on 5th June 1819, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Mr. John Medcalf, British Convict who was convicted in Flint, Wales for life, transported aboard the "Asia" on 20th July 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [6]

New Zealand Medcalf 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:

Medcalf Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Albert Medcalf, (b. 1840), aged 23, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Huntress" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 21st April 1863 [7]
  • Mrs. Clara Medcalf, (b. 1844), aged 19, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Huntress" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 21st April 1863 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Medcalf (post 1700) +

  • Lena Medcalf, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Missouri, 1932 [8]
  • Dr. Philippa Medcalf M.B.E., British Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018, for services to Homeless Patients [9]

  1. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  4. 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)
  5. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  6. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th February 2020). Retrieved from
  7. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  8. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 4) . Retrieved from
  9. "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62310, 4 July 2019 | London Gazette, The Gazette, June 2018, on Facebook