Butterfield Surname Genealogy

The surname Butterfield is locational, from the
place of that name (derived from the Old English butere
as “butter” and feld
as “field” or “open country”).  There are
similar names found in Europe, like Botefeld in Germany and Bouteville
or Boterville
in France.  But Butterfield generally has
English roots.

Butterfield Resources on

Butterfield Ancestry

The main origin of Butterfields was a lost
hamlet of that name near Todmorden in the West Riding of Yorkshire,
near the
border with Lancashire.  Robert de
Butterfeld appeared at Slaidburn at the time of the 1379 poll tax.  It was in this area, in the Ribble valley
some thirty miles from Keighley, that Butterfields were thought to have
first come.  Butterfields from Keighley
were part of the
47 man Craven contingent which fought at the Battle of Flodden Field in

One Butterfield line in
Keighley became successful mill owners, accumulating sizeable wealth in
early 19th century and living at Cliffe
.  Henry Isaac Butterfield
the castle in the 1870’s and his son Frederick made it his permanent

By the
time of the 1881 census
, most Butterfields were still to be
found in
Keighley and the surrounding areas of the West Ridings.
Later Butterfields included:

  • Herbert Butterfield the historian who
    attended Keighley grammar school   
  • and
    Jeff Butterfield the England rugby union player of the 1950’s, who was
    born at
    Heckmondwike near Leeds. 

Another lost
place-name gave rise to a much smaller Butterfield contingent in the
county of Hertfordshire. 
Butterfields in Hitchin
date from the 1600’s.  One family there
were later builders.  A Butterfield
family has owned and run the Redcoats Hotel near Hitchin since the
early 1900’s.  D
NA testing has shown that
these Butterfields are genetically different from their Yorkshire

Benjamin Butterfield was the forebear of many of
the Butterfields now living in America.
Family lore has it that he was one of eight brothers from
Yorkshire who
came to New England in the 1630’s. Benjamin
settled first in Woburn and later in Chelmsford,

  • Joseph Butterfield
    started the Tyngsboro line along the Merrimack river in 1711.  
  • while one branch in Utica, upstate New York,
    John Butterfield, the stagecoach operator, and his son Daniel, a Union
    during the Civil War.

Butterfield 8 was
a name on the old
telephone exchange in New York.

Heading West.
Butterfields from New England were among the early
who made the trek west to Utah.  Jacob
Butterfield and his brother Thomas arrived there from Maine in the late
while Josiah Butterfield, a more senior church official, made the
journey in
1853 and settled across the border in California.

Butterfield started the Butterfield
auction house in San Francisco in 1865.  Thomas
Butterfield is perhaps the most remembered today as Butterfield Canyon in
Utah was named after him.  Utah and
California have the largest number
of Butterfields in America today.

The Butterfields are a long-standing Bermuda
family.  Nathaniel Butterfield arrived in
1661.  He died in Paget parish twenty seven
years later.  A later Nathaniel
Butterfield founded in 1758 the family trading company, which became
first bank, N.T Butterfield and Son, a century later.
Some of
these Bermuda Butterfields settled in America.

Butterfields may have originated from Yorkshire,
Hertfordshire, or even from Germany:

  • Joseph
    Butterfield, a weaver from Leeds, who arrived in Sydney on the Champion in 1827, although as a
    convict.  He was sentenced for life for
    an unrecorded offence, but pardoned in Bathurst, NSW in 1843.  
  • Thomas Archer Butterfield from Royston in
    Hertfordshire, who came to Sydney with his family in 1854.
    His forebear was John Archer Butterfield, an
    18th century farmer in nearby Cambridgeshire.   
  • and Christian Bartefeld and his family who
    arrived in Queensland from Germany on the Johan
    in 1853.  These Bartefelds
    became Butterfields in Australia.

Butterfield Miscellany

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

Butterfield Names

Nathaniel Butterfield
founded a trading company in Bermuda in 1758
that as N.T. Butterfield became Bermuda’s first bank.  John
was a prominent American stagecoach operator of the
Herbert Butterfield
was a distinguished 20th century English
historian and philosopher of history.  Frederick Butterfield at the age of 109
became the world’s oldest man in 1973.
He lived in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

Select Butterfields Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Utah)
  • 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)




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