Metcalf History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Metcalf is part of the ancient legacy of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It is a product of when the family 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 Metcalf 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 Metcalf family

The surname Metcalf 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 Metcalf family

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

Metcalf Spelling Variations

The first dictionaries that appeared in the last few hundred years did much to standardize the English language. Before that time, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. The language was changing, incorporating pieces of other languages, and the spelling of names changed with it. Metcalf has been spelled many different ways, including Metcalfe, Medcalfe, Metcalf, Medcalf, Midkiff and many more.

Early Notables of the Metcalf 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 Metcalf Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Metcalf family to Ireland

Some of the Metcalf 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 Metcalf migration to the United States +

Thousands of English families in this era began to emigrate the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. Although the passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe, those who made the voyage safely were rewarded with opportunities unavailable to them in their homeland. Research into passenger and immigration lists has revealed some of the very first Metcalfs to arrive in North America:

Metcalf Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Christopher and James Metcalf, who both settled in Virginia in 1635
  • Chri Metcalf, aged 19, who arrived in Virginia in 1635 [4]
  • James Metcalf, aged 22, who landed in Virginia in 1635 [4]
  • Oswell Metcalf, aged 22, who arrived in St Christopher in 1635 [4]
  • Elizabeth, Jane, John, Mary, Michael, Rebecca, Sarah, and Thomas Metcalf, who all, who settled in Boston in 1637
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Metcalf Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Metcalf, who arrived in New York in 1774
Metcalf Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Metcalf, aged 33, who arrived in Delaware in 1812 [4]
  • Ann Metcalf, aged 25, who arrived in America in 1822 [4]
  • Elizabeth Metcalf, aged 22, who landed in America in 1822 [4]
  • Jane Metcalf, aged 20, who arrived in America in 1822 [4]
  • Isaac Metcalf, aged 24, who arrived in America in 1822 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Metcalf migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Metcalf Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • James Metcalf, who immigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1772
Metcalf Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Silas Metcalf, who landed in Canada in 1830
  • Jonathan Metcalf, who was living in Prince Edward Island in 1891

Australia Metcalf migration to Australia +

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

Metcalf Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. James Metcalf, British convict who was convicted in York, England for life, transported aboard the "Asia" on 19th November 1827, settling in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • William Metcalf, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Anna Robertson" in 1839 [6]
  • Thomas Metcalf, aged 28, who arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Shackamaxon" [7]
  • John Metcalf, aged 36, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1859 aboard the ship "James Jardine"
  • John Metcalf, aged 21, a groom, who arrived in South Australia in 1860 aboard the ship "Grand Trianon"

New Zealand Metcalf 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:

Metcalf Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Jane Metcalf, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Victory " arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 17th October 1863 [8]

Contemporary Notables of the name Metcalf (post 1700) +

  • Jesse Houghton Metcalf (1860-1942), American politician, United States Senator from Rhode Island
  • Eric Quinn Metcalf (b. 1968), former American NFL football running back and wide receiver
  • Lee Warren Metcalf (1911-1978), American lawyer, judge, and politician, United States Senator from Montana (1961-1978)
  • Laura Elizabeth "Laurie" Metcalf (b. 1955), American three-time Emmy Award winning actress, best known for her role as Jackie Harris on the ABC sitcom Roseanne
  • James Metcalf, American boatswain mate who served on the schooner Enterprise during the First Barbary War, eponym of the USS Metcalf (DD-595), a Fletcher-class destroyer
  • James "Jimmy" Metcalf (1925-2012), American sculptor, artist and educator
  • Janice Metcalf (b. 1952), retired American professional tennis player
  • Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858-1925), American artist, best known for his landscapes
  • Jack Metcalf (1927-2007), American politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington (1995-2001)
  • Mark Metcalf (b. 1946), American actor
  • ... (Another 55 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

USS Arizona
  • Mr. John H. Metcalf, American Seaman Second Class working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he survived the sinking [9]

Suggested Readings for the name Metcalf +

  • 1113 A Study of Metcalfs, Andrews & Smith by Clayton G. Metcalf.

  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. ^ Lowe, 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 8th January 2020). Retrieved from
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ANNA ROBERTSON 1839. Retrieved from
  7. ^ South Australian Register Thursday 20 January 1853. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) SHACKAMAXON 1853. Retrieved
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  9. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from on Facebook
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