Swift Surname Genealogy

surname Swift came from the Old English word swift and probably originated as a
nickname for someone who was swift, a fast runner.  A Suffolk
entry of 1222 showed “Nicholas, ye sonne of Swyfte.”  Swift was a
often given to a messenger or courier.  In the household books of
King Edward III a Ralph Swyft was recorded as his courier.

Resources on

Swift Ancestry

Swift is
a Yorkshire name.  The early wills of Yorkshire showed that
there were Swifts at
Easington in Holderness from the 1460’s.

Yorkshire.  One
Swift family dates back to the early 1300’s and a Bryan Swyfte who
was granted land at Allergill in Durham.  His family was later to
be found in Rotherham in Yorkshire where Robert Swift, known as the rich mercer of
, profited from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the
monasteries in the 16th century:

  • these Swifts then established themselves
    in some style at Broom Hall near Sheffield.
  • another branch moved to Kent and later, with the Rev. Thomas
    Swift of Goodrich,
    to Herefordshire.

The Swift
surname distribution
by the late 19th century showed that
the greater number were still in Yorkshire, in particular in the
Sheffield and Rotherham areas, with many also in Lancashire and London.

Elsewhere.  A
Swift family was to be found in public records in Skelmersdale,
Lancashire in the 16th century – when Peter Swift was involved in a
court case over property against his father John.  Swifts stayed
numerous in that area.

were also to be found in London by
the 17th century.  There was a long-established Swift family at
St. Giles Cripplegate; and William Swift had started a publishing
business in London in the early 18th century. The business continued
with James Platt Swift from Halifax in Yorkshire and his sons in the
19th century.

Ireland.  In 1627 Barnham
Swift of the Yorkshire Swifts was granted lands in Ireland.  He
was followed in the 1650’s by the Royalist Swifts from Herefordshire,
four brothers led by Godwin, the sons of the Rev. Thomas Swift.
These Swifts acquired property
near Jenkinstown in Kilkenny, Swiftes Heath and Foulksrath castle, and their
descendants still live in that area.

“It was not a disaster to be born a
Swift.  The Swift family in Ireland were gentlemen.  They
owned land, occupied valuable properties, and made a good living from
the law.  They were adventurers who did well in Ireland at a time
when to be rapacious and unprincipled were advantages.”

From one of the Kilkenny sons Jonathan, a Dublin lawyer, came Jonathan Swift,
the famous satirist who became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The line later produced some odd and poetic Swifts:

  • Theophilus Swift who was
    shot in a duel with the Duke of Richmond and spent time in Newgate
  • and his son Edmund Swift who was Keeper of the Crown Jewels at
    Tower of London.

The Swift name in Ireland today is to be found in Dublin, Kilkenny, and
Wexford.  The Swifts of county Mayo are not of English
origin.  Swift – as
with the surnames Rush and Speed – were adopted there as an
anglicized form of the Gaelic O’Fuada
or Foody.

America.  William and Joan
Swift from Bocking in Essex came to New England around 1630, settling
first in Watertown and then moving to the Cape Cod town of Sandwich in
1639.  The farm William bought there was the largest in Sandwich
at the time and was still in the possession of his lineal descendant
Shadrach Freeman Swift in the late 19th century.

William Swift of this family was a cattle drover in West Sandwich in
the early 19th century.  He had three sons:

  • Noble Swift,
    who stayed at home
    and expanded his father’s business
  • and Gustavus and Nathan Swift who moved to
    Chicago and founded the Swift meat-packing empire.

A much later descendant, from a line which settled in Pennsylvania, is
the country music singing star Taylor Swift.

There was another William Swift, but this time a clergyman of
Herefordshire Swift descent, who came out to Virginia via Bermuda with
his family in 1728.  His descendants were and are to be found in Hanover county,
.  Some Swifts from this family settled in San
Antonio, Texas in the 19th century and Arthur Swift was a founder of
the First Baptist Church of Seguin, Texas.

Meanwhile, Flower Swift arrived from London in 1732 and settled in
Frederick county, Maryland.  Flower Swifts were later to be found
in North Carolina and in Elbert county, Georgia.

Australia and New Zealand.
John and Mary Swift from Chesterfield in Derbyshire came out to
Australia and settled in Melbourne in the 1820’s.  Later Swifts
from this family moved onto New Zealand.

Swift Miscellany

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

Select Swift Names

Jonathan Swift, born in Dublin in
1667, was the Anglo-Irish satirist, author of Gulliver’s
Gustavus Swift founded the
meat-packing empire in the American Midwest that bears his name.
Frank Swift from Blackpool in
Lancashire was England’s goalkeeper in its international football team
of the late 1940’s.
Taylor Swift is a popular
American country singer/songwriter.

Select Swifts

  • 19,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




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