Daft Surname Genealogy

root of Daft is the Old English daffte,
which meant in medieval times “meek” or “gentle.” The name
probably developed initially as a nickname. Early spellings were
Daft and Dafte. The modern meaning of “daft” as clownish or
stupid did not materialize until much later.

Resources on

Daft Ancestry

It is extremely rare that a surname can be identified back to a single
location and possibly to a single person. But this seems to have
the case with the surname Daft.

Daft is a Nottinghamshire name. Early Nottingham records have a
John Daft in 1230 and a Robert Daft in 1242. Nottinghamshire
records for 1664 showed that this name was to be found in just one
place, the
village of Hickling
on the southern border with
Leicestershire. One family history started with Robert and
Elizabeth Daft of Hickling and their two surviving sons, George and
William, born in the early 1600’s. This Daft family was still
part of village life three hundred years later.

The Dafts were numerous in Hickling in the mid 19th century, but they
were not amongst its most prominent inhabitants. The village
population at that time was 613. Since then it has dropped by
about 35 percent, possibly due to the decline in traffic on the
Grantham canal that went by the village. Dafts moved away.

They didn’t move far. A telephone survey of Dafts in
the late 1980’s showed that 70 percent of the UK Dafts still lived in
reasonable proximity to Hickling village, in Nottinghamshire,
Leicestershire, and Derbyshire.

One family history began with a William and Ann Daft in Nottingham in
the 1830’s. Another William Daft ran the drapery firm of Daft
& Jessop – that was to become
the John Lewis department store – in Nottingham from 1832 to
1866. Richard
the cricketer was
born in the village of Radcliffe on Trent near Nottingham in
1835. There were also Dafts who had settled to farm in Haltham on
the Lincolnshire
fens. John Daft from Haltham was transported to Australia for
robbery in 1817.

The Daft numbers are lower in England today than they were in Victorian
times. It might be all right to be called Daft if you lived in a
village where you had been known for centuries. But if you lived
in a new town, you might feel embarassed to carry the name of Daft with
the meaning it has today. It would appear, when comparing numbers
between 1881 and 1988, that Daft – like Cock, Smellie and Shufflebottom
– were names which were dumped by some of their holders.

Some Dafts made it to America. An early
arrival was John Daft, a Catholic who had been transported to Maryland
1661. His descendants lived in St. Mary’s county. Four
Dafts joined the local militia there at the time of the Revolutionary
War. Thomas

brought his family over from Nottingham in 1847. His son William
moved out west
and became a farmer and pig breeder in Jasper county, Iowa.

There were 100 Dafts in the 1920 US census. The total
today is up to about 180. It would seem that the American Dafts
been less embarassed by their name than their English

Daft Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Daft Names

Richard Daft, a cricketer from
Nottinghamshire, was one of the best batsmen in England during the

Select Dafts

  • 500 in the UK (most numerous
    in Nottinghamshire)
  • 200 in America (most numerous
    in West Virginia)




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