Metcalfe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The origins of the Metcalfe name lie with England's ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. It comes from 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 Metcalfe 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 Metcalfe family

The surname Metcalfe 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 Metcalfe family

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

Metcalfe Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years, the English language had no fast system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations are commonly found in early Anglo-Saxon surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Metcalfe were recorded, including Metcalfe, Medcalfe, Metcalf, Medcalf, Midkiff and many more.

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

Metcalfe Ranking

In the United States, the name Metcalfe is the 7,190th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [4] However, in the United Kingdom, the name Metcalfe is ranked the 508th most popular surname with an estimated 12,798 people with that name. [5]

Ireland Migration of the Metcalfe family to Ireland

Some of the Metcalfe 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 Metcalfe migration to the United States +

To escape oppression and starvation at that time, many English families left for the "open frontiers" of the New World with all its perceived opportunities. In droves people migrated to the many British colonies, those in North America in particular, paying high rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Although many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, those who did see the shores of North America perceived great opportunities before them. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the Metcalfe family emigrate to North America:

Metcalfe Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Michill Metcalfe, aged 45, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1637 [6]
Metcalfe Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Leonard Metcalfe, who was bound out as a servant upon arriving in South Carolina in 1727
Metcalfe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Metcalfe, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1852 [6]
  • John H Metcalfe, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1869 [6]

Australia Metcalfe migration to Australia +

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

Metcalfe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Henry Metcalfe, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Winchester" in 1838 [7]
  • Mr. Robert Metcalfe, (b. 1809), aged 33, English weaver who was convicted in Preston, Lancashire, England for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Emerald Isle" on 25th June 1842, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land), he died in 1886 [8]
  • Mr. Edward Metcalfe, (b. 1824), aged 20, Irish farmer who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Cadet" on 9th April 1844, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • Eliza Metcalfe, aged 33, a domestic servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "Stag" [10]
  • John Metcalfe, aged 39, a farm labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Navarino" [11]

New Zealand Metcalfe 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:

Metcalfe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Metcalfe, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "British Queen" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 30th August 1859 [12]
  • Mr. Cornelius Metcalfe, (b. 1843), aged 21, English carpenter from Durham travelling from Gravesend aboard the ship "William Miles" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 22nd October 1864 [13]

Contemporary Notables of the name Metcalfe (post 1700) +

  • Simon Metcalfe (1735-1794), English-born, American surveyor and one of the first maritime fur traders to visit the Pacific Northwest coast
  • Robert Melancton "Bob" Metcalfe (b. 1946), American electrical engineer who co-invented Ethernet, founded 3Com and formulated Metcalfe's Law, awarded the National Medal of Technology (2003)
  • Jesse Eden Metcalfe (b. 1978), American actor, best known for his portrayal of John Rowland on Desperate Housewives
  • Jane Metcalfe, American magazine publisher, co-founder and former president of Wired Ventures
  • H. C. Metcalfe, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Kentucky, 1888, 1904 [14]
  • George Metcalfe, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Richmond County, 1900 [14]
  • George Metcalfe, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Montgomery County, 1796-98 [14]
  • Frank B. Metcalfe, American politician, Delegate to Socialist National Convention from Wisconsin, 1920; Progressive Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate 7th District, 1938 [14]
  • Fortescue C. Metcalfe (b. 1877), American Democratic Party politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Kings County 5th District, 1903-04; Defeated, 1904 [14]
  • E. W. Metcalfe (1887-1966), American Republican politician, Member of Michigan State House of Representatives from Wayne County 1st District, 1947-48; Defeated, 1944, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1960 [14]
  • ... (Another 35 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. George Joshua Metcalfe (d. 1914), British Assistant Saloon Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [15]
  • Mr. Thomas Metcalfe, British Assistant Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland (1914) and survived the sinking [15]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Matthew Metcalfe (b. 1919), English Leading Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Sunderland, County Durham, England, who sailed into battle and died in the HMS Hood sinking [16]
SS Caribou
  • Mr. William F. Metcalfe, British passenger from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia was travelling aboard the railway ferry "SS Caribou" when it was struck by a German submarine torpedo on 14th October 1942, the most significant sinking in Canadian waters at that time, he survived the sinking

Suggested Readings for the name Metcalfe +

  • Metcalfe & Related Families by Annie Walker Burns.

  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. ^
  5. ^
  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. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) WINCHESTER 1838. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 27th March 2022). Retrieved from
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 17th November 2020). Retrieved from
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) STAG 1850. Retrieved
  11. ^ South Australian Register. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Navarino 1857. Retrieved
  12. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  13. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  14. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 12) . Retrieved from
  15. ^ Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from
  16. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook