ANALYSIS OF THE PROBABLE ORIGIN OF OUR MORFORD ANCESTORS
By Miriam Morford Peterson
EDITOR'S NOTE: It was suggested in the October 1980 issue of MORFORD HISTORIAN, that the JOHN MORFIT who came to Maryland in 1663 may have been the father of the John and Thomas Morford who appear in early New Jersey records beginning in 1670. Our article stimulated Mrs. Peterson, of Seattle, Washington, descendant of the "Greene County, Pennsylvania" Morfords, to write the following comments, which we are pleased to share with our readers.
In considering the as yet undetermined national origin of our Morford ancestors in New Jersey, many historians are impressed by the mobility of early day peoples in the British Isles and the Continent. Some of our Morford forebears undoubtedly found themselves in distant parts, as soldiers, for instance, and then remained in the new territory. Although it is believed by some that these early New Jersey Morfords were Scotsmen, we should consider the make-up of the early peoples of Scotland: the Celtics came from Ireland; Vikings, Danes, and other Scandinavians came; the French came, as did also the Anglo-Saxons. All of these migrants took on the Celtic culture and developed into strong clans.
Intermarried with descendants of the line of Daniel Morford [1740-1833], of Middlesex Co., NJ; Virginia, Kentucky, and Brown County, Ohio, were Stewarts and Boyds. Both are from clans which were powerful on the Scotch throne, and both had come from France, originally. The surname Stewart had its origin in the descriptive word "steward", denoting the noble who served as "warden" or guardian of the royal estate of the French kings; Boyd was originally "le boidel", or "the beautiful one". These two surnames were known in France before 1000 A.D. A tradition exists, also, that the Morford name was originally "de Montfort", another name of French origin; but no proof of this claim has come to light, as yet.
If the variant spelling MOORFORD was extent as early as 1000 A.D., historians have not so recorded it. As a general rule, surnames were not in use until the early 1300s. In analyzing the name, we find that both "Moor" and "Ford" are Anglo-Saxon, having a Germanic background. Combination of the two syllables into a surname indicates to us that MORFORD is a toponymic or local surname, derived from a place called "Moorford", and located in Somersetshire, but which does not appear in modern gazetteers. Its meaning is "the ford across the river (which is located) on the moor".
The only early Morfords and Moorfords, with this pure Anglo-Saxon spelling, which have been found, were in Bath, Somersetshire, England. There, in the 1630s, as members of the Abbey Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Church of England, Episcopalian) were found both MORFORDS and MOORFORDS. a short time later, within a generation or so, the name MORFORD is found in New Jersey. It is important to note that the spelling is identical, that accents had not yet changed the spelling. By the 1730s the Church of England (Episcopalian) had been established in the part of New Jersey where the first Morfords are found, and they were members of the Episcopalian denomination.
Historians who have analyzed early church attitudes maintain that the members of the Church of England were not as dogmatic as were the early Calvinists (Presbyterian or Puritan). They were more liberal, and intermarried with other faiths. My argument is that if these early Morfords had been New Englanders (Calvinistic), no way would they have become members of the Church of England.
We are reminded, in dealing with travel of that era, that waterways provided the most used and feasible means of traversing the country. George Washington records, in his diary, that he spent the Christmas holidays with his brother Lawrence in the Barbados. There was no inference that the journey was either difficult or unusual; thus, as was suggested in the October MORFORD HISTORIAN (page 13), it would not be unreasonable for us to suppose that the Murfitt and Marfut who came to the Barbados from England in 1634 and 1635 might easily have voyaged from there to the North American mainland.
If the Morford brothers who settled in New Jersey in the 1670s cannot be proved to have been the first immigrants of the family in North America, then it does seem logical to consider that they may have been the sons of the John Morfit who was imported to Maryland (presumably from England) in 1663. Lord Baltimore had been given a territorial grant in Maryland in 1632, and as an incentive toward the settlement of Maryland, offered land to persons who were willing to furnish their own transportation hither, or to transport others. Most of such settlers are known to have come from England.
The Maryland settlers were Cavaliers from the court of Charles I, and loved a leisurely life, dancing, fox hunts, celebration of Christmas. (The staid and grimly Puritanical New Englanders criticized them as "Merry-landers".) If the Morfords were, as appears likely, members of the Church of England, it would have been far easier and more natural for them to emigrate to the Colony of Maryland, with its religious tolerance toward the Church of England into Maryland before making their way into New Jersey. M.M.P.
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