Field Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Field Surname Meaning

The surname Field is topographical in origin and described someone who lived or worked on land that had been cleared of forest but not brought into cultivation. The root is the Old English feld meaning “open pasture.” The German and Jewish Feld names have similar roots, as has the Dutch Velde.

The Anglo-Norman de la Field family gave rise to the Field and Delafield surnames. The early spelling could be Feld or Feild.  Field and Fields are the main spellings today, Fields being the more common in America.

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Field and Fields Surname Ancestry

England. In England the Field name has been mainly evident in Yorkshire and in the Home Counties around London.

Yorkshire.  The Field name was to be found in the West Riding of Yorkshire, starting with Roger Del Field who was born at Sowerby in the year 1240. The estate of William Feld was administered in the West Riding in 1480. John Field, an early English astronomer, was born in Ardsley sometime in the 1520’s.  Zechariah Field departed Ardsley for New England in 1629. Other Fields in the area were wealthy clothiers, owning estates in the early 1600’s at Great Horton and at Heaton manor.

London.  John Feild or Field was a Puritan preacher in London during Elizabethan times. One son Theophilus became the Protestant Bishop of Landaff, another son Nathan a playwright and actor at the time of Shakespeare. Two later Field families in London have been:

  • late 17th century Field funeral directors, with a practice in Southwark. Descendants of the founding Field family remain on the Board of the present practice of C.P.J. Field & Co.
  • 18th century Field apothecaries, with a practice on Newgate Street. One son Barron took a judgeship post in Australia in 1816 and later wrote poetry, another son Frederick was a Biblical scholar.

Elsewhere.  John Field “Of the Hill” lived in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire during Elizabethan times. His son Richard was the noted Protestant theologian and writer. It was said: “His ancestors were blessed with length of days. His estate had been in the hands of only three owners in 160 years.”


There was also a Field family on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire border, around Barton and Hitchin, recorded from 1641 to 1927. They held for many years Pulloxhill manor. These Fields were mostly lawyers by profession and influential in their local community.

Ireland.  The de la Fields were Anglo-Norman settlers found at Corduff near Dublin from the 14th century. Their best known member was probably Richard Field, the 16th century Jesuit priest. They relinquished their Corduff estates in the early 17th century. Branches of the family had by that time moved to county Monaghan.

Another Field family in Dublin was musical, beginning with John Field, a church organist in the mid-18th century, and followed by his son Robert Field, a violinist, and by his grandson John Field, a well-known composer and pianist of the Romantic era.

America.  Zechariah Field came to New England from Yorkshire in 1629 and eventually settled in Hatfield, Massachusetts. His lineage was traced in F.C. Pierce’s 1901 book Field Genealogy. One descendant via his son Zechariah was David Dudley Field, a clergyman and historical writer who had four notable 19th century sons:

  • David Dudley Jr, a US Congressman and law reformer
  • Stephen, an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
  • Cyrus, a businessman who led the effort to lay the first Atlantic telegraph cable 
  • and Henry who followed his father as a clergyman and writer.

Another line led through Zechariah’s son John and three other Johns and a Massachusetts farm to the Marshall Field who founded the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. By the turn of the century Marshall Field was the wealthiest and most powerful businessman in Chicago.

Robert Field arrived in America from Yorkshire around 1630, moved to Rhode Island and became a Quaker. By 1645 he had moved again to Flushing in Dutch New York. Later Fields of this family moved north to Vermont and New Hampshire after the Revolutionary War. Daniel Field settled in Springfield, Vermont. The descendants of Anthony and Hannah Burling Field have held regular reunions.

Fields also came to Virginia. Abraham Field, born around 1636, was the first recorded there. Later Fields migrated to Kentucky and two of this family accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition in 1803 to the West. Others settled in Indiana.

Field genealogy in England and America can be found in two recent books:

  • William S. Field’s 2004 book Sweet Lands of Liberty
  • and Warren J. Field’s 2011 book Some Field Family Journeys.

Fields.  Fields is the more common spelling to be found in America today. Two early Fields were the brothers Isaac and William Fields who arrived from Scotland in 1742 and settled in Bald Mountain, North Carolina. Later Fields of the family migrated to Alabama.

Richard Fields, born in 1780, appeared as an emissary to the Cherokee tribes in Tennessee in 1801 and later served them in their skirmishes with the Mexicans in Texas.

“The Fields family had the reputation as being the handsomest and laziest family in the Cherokee nation, the laziness being attributed to the fact that they were great book lovers and indulged this taste in preference to manual labor.”


Richard fell foul of them after a while and was executed by them in 1827. His son Ezekiel moved to what is now Oklahoma. He too met an unfortunate end, being caught in a prairie fire in 1870.

Canada.  George Field was a United Empire Loyalist from Long Island who served with Butler’s Rangers during the Revolutionary War and followed Butler to Canada afterwards. Field House, built by his son Gilbert, was one of the first brick homes in the Niagara area. The property remained with the Field family until 1925.

Patrick Field from county Cork in Ireland arrived with Peter Robinson’s settlers in 1823 and settled in Huntley township, Quebec. Other Irish Fields came to Gatineau at the time of the famine. Their settlement, now a village, was called Fieldville.

Australia. Tom and Herbert Field emigrated with their parents from Kent to Sydney in 1885. The two brothers became the leading wholesale meat marketers in the city by the time of the First World War:

  • Tom was the more reserved and died early from a heart attack. He left a large fortune.
  • while Herbert was the more extravagant and flamboyant. On his death in 1955 he left much less, little more than 15% of the estate of his brother.

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Field Surname Miscellany

The de la Field Family.  The Anglo-Norman de la Field family can be traced back to the 11th century and an area called Colmar in Alsace Lorraine in northern France. Their ancestral castle was positioned on a pass in the Vosges Mountains.  Some ruins of the castle and chapel still remain.

These de la Fields crossed the Channel.  Hubert de la Field was first recorded in Buckinghamshire in the 12th century.  Simon at Field moved to Sussex, giving his name to Field Place where the poet Shelley was born. John Felde was sheriff of London in 1454.They were to be found in Ireland from about the year 1200.  There was one early line at Glynsurd near Dublin and they were to be found at Corduff from the 14th century.  They were also at Fieldstown in county Meath and at various locations in county Monaghan. These de la Fields in Ireland tended to become Fields.

Related de la Fields at Westcote and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire in England became Delafields.

The Fields of Pulloxhill Manor.  For generations the Field men of Pulloxhill manor tended to marry late and often to much younger women.  In 1694 the age difference was about 15 years.  In 1730 Thomas Field had his only son when he was 36.  John Field died in 1759 aged 63 but his widow was still alive in 1787. Thomas Field married in 1840 when he was about 63 and his bride 27 and his brother Charles married when he was about 40.  In the last direct generation, they left things a tad too long and none of them married at all.

Robert Field’s Ancestry.  Robert Field was one of the early English settlers in Dutch New York, having settled in Flushing in what is now Brooklyn by 1645.  He came from a Yorkshire family in Sowerby which has been traced back to Christopher Feld who died there in 1509.  The line from him ran to: 

  • John Feld who died in 1520
  • Christopher Field who married Grace Gradeheigh and died in 1554
  • William Field who married Susan Midgley and died in 1619
  • and Robert Field who was fourteen when his father died and who came to America in 1630

Zechariah Field in America.  Zechariah Field was the ancestor of a large proportion of the families of that name, not only in New England but overall in the United States. He was in Boston and Dorchester and moved thence to Hartford, Connecticut, going through the wilderness to the Connecticut river where he was one of the first settlers.

He owned large tracts of land there, some of which are now in the heart of the city of Hartford.  His residence was on Sentinel Hill, to the north end of Main Street.

In 1644 dissensions arose in the church which could not be successfully reconciled.  He, along with others of the early settlers, purchased into some nine square miles of land lying north of Mount Holyoke.  Field settled in the part now named Northampton. In 1661 a grant was given to him in the part now known as Hatfield, to which place he moved and passed the remainder of his days.

There is no evidence that Zechariah Field the immigrant was related to John Field, the Yorkshire astronomer. A later Field, Osgood Field, wrote:

“As for the assertion in the pamphlet that John Field, son of the Astronomer, had a son named Zechariah, and that William and John Field, the early settlers of Rhode Island, were sons of William and grandsons of the Astronomer, they are not entitled to the slightest credence, not being supported by a shade of evidence.”

Daniel Field in Vermont.  Daniel Field was born in Rhode Island and moved with his family to Springfield, Vermont sometime in the 1770’s. He settled in what is now known as the Field Place, at the mouth of Field Brook, and the family were living there at the time the Indians burned Royalton in 1780.

He was commonly called “Quaker Field” from the fact that he always wore the Quaker style of dress even though he was never a member of the sect. His word was always sacredly kept. When the term of service of the Rhode Island troops was about to expire in the army, Washington went among them and personally besought them to re-enlist, as it was the darkest time of the Revolution. Daniel Field would not enlist, but told Washington he would stay a month longer.  Washington replied, with thanks, saying: “your word is as good as your bond.”

While her husband was absent working at the forge in the winter to pay for the farm, Mrs. Field lived alone with her two children in the Vermont forests. Wild animals, especially black bears, wolves and catamounts, were there aplenty.  Once she scared a huge panther from her door and another time she heard the fierce howls of what proved to be a pack of wolves that came up to the yard near the house, After a half hour fighting with the oxen, the wolves galloped off and left them.

Shortly her husband returned.  Daniel carried on blacksmithing in the shop on the brook until near the time of his death.  His son Arthur followed the business after his father’s death in 1834. 

Field and Fields.  The Field/Fields divide in the UK is approximately 85/15 today.  Fields have been found primarily down the East Coast of England, starting in Yorkshire and running through Lincolnshire into Norfolk.  In the 1881 British census, the main place for Fields was Sheffield.

In the US, the Fields spelling is more predominant today, outnumbering Field by roughly three to one.  Fields is proportionately stronger in the South.

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Field Names
  • John Field was a 16th century English astronomer.
  • Marshall Field was the founder of the founder of the Chicago-based Marshall Field department store.
  • Gracie Fields, born Grace Stansfield, was a popular music hall artist from Rochdale.   
  • W.C. Fields, born W.C. Dukenfield, was a misanthropic American comedian. 
  • Sally Field is a well-known American actress.
Field Numbers Today
  • 28,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 44,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

Field and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.

BanksFieldMeadShaw
BarnesFordMooreStone
BrooksHillNashWells
CrossLaneRhodesWood

 

 

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