Ford Surname Genealogy

Ford is one of
the oldest locational surnames, from the Old English ford – meaning a shallow place in
the river for crossing. It described either someone who lived by
a ford or who came from a place named Ford (of which there were many in

Ford Resources on

England. The surname is
to be found throughout England, but with
a slanting towards the west country – from Devon to Lancashire.

The Ford name in Somerset may date back to the 13th
century. Fords from that
county came to Cork in Ireland in 1585 as part of the
Protestant settlement there.

The Fords
Bagtor in Ilsington
were local gentry in Devon in the 16th
century. Fords were also farmers at Branscombe in east Devon at
that time. William Braddick Ford who farmed there in the late
18th century kept a diary which has been preserved. Another Ford
family from Devon – who were to emigrate to New Zealand – have traced
themselves back to William Ford of Woodleigh in south Devon in the late
18th century.

Ireland. The Ford name
can also be Irish in origin, either as an English implant
or an anglicization of a Gaelic sept name:

  • one Forde
    from Devon
    became landowners in
    Meath, Wicklow and county Down.
  • while the American auto maker Henry
    Ford had Irish roots
    , his ancestors in Cork having come
    there originally from
  • meanwhile
    a number of Gaelic septs adopted Ford as an anglicized form
    of their name, such as the O’Fuarain sept in Limerick. Their
    name was sometimes seen as Forde or Fourde.

America. The first Ford
in America may well have been William Ford, a miller, who settled first
in Duxbury in 1643 and later moved to Marshfield, Massachusetts. Andrew

was recorded as a landowner
in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1642 and his sons subsequently settled in
Abington. This line was covered in
Elizabeth Stewart’s 1968 book Descendants
of Andrew Ford of Weymouth.

Irish Fords. However,
larger number of Ford arrivals in
came from Ireland rather than from England. Among these Irish Fords were:

  • William Ford who immigrated to America (possibly with two
    brothers) sometime in the 1770’s. He settled in Saratoga county
    in upstate New York. One of his sons drowned in the Hudson river
    after a night of drinking in a tavern. Other Fords of this family
    moved west to Ohio.
  • Patrick Ford
    who came to Boston as a young boy with his
    parents in 1846. He made his name as the editor and
    publisher of the Boston Tribune
    in the years prior to the Civil War. After the war he started up The Irish World in New York, a
    weekly journal that was to champion the Irish-American cause. His
    nephew Austin Ford was also a publisher in New York. Austin’s
    family became missionaries.
  • William Ford, who left Cork in 1847 with his parents at the
    height of the potato famine for Dearborn, Michigan. His son
    was the automobile pioneer Henry Ford.
  • and Michael and Catherine Ford from Roscommon, also fleeing the
    potato famine, who reached New York City in 1849. They joined
    other Fords from Ireland that settled in Newark, New Jersey.

Canada. Ernest Ford,
reportedly disorderly, came to Toronto from Birmingham in England at
the age of 11 in 1902, as part of a child immigration scheme. He married there and had two
sons – one Henry who was electrocuted at a railway station at the age
of six and the other Doug who became a successful businessman.
Doug’s sons Doug and Rob were both local politicians, Rob being the
controversial mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014.

Ford Miscellany

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

Ford Names

John Ford from Bagtor in
Devon was a
pre-Restoration playwright of the early 17th century.
Henry Ford was the founder of Ford
Motor Company and of modern assembly line practice.
John Feeney to Irish
parents, was one of the great American film directors of the 20th

and Eileen Ford

founded the Ford Modelling
Agency in New York in 1946 and ran it for fifty years.


of the New York Yankees
was a leading baseball pitcher of the 1950’s.

Gerald R. Ford was the 38th
President of the United States. He took the name Ford from his
Harrison Ford is an
American actor best known for his Indiana
films. He
like Henry Ford is of Irish descent.

Select Fords Today

  • 54,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 68,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 35,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



Click here for reader feedback

Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply