Butterfield


Select 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.

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England. 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 1513. 

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

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. 
Hertfordshire.  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.  DNA testing has shown that these Butterfields are genetically different from their Yorkshire cousins.

America.  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, Massachusetts. 
  • Joseph Butterfield started the Tyngsboro line along the Merrimack river in 1711.  
  • while one branch in Utica, upstate New York, included John Butterfield, the stagecoach operator, and his son Daniel, a Union General 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 Mormons who made the trek west to Utah.  Jacob Butterfield and his brother Thomas arrived there from Maine in the late 1840’s; while Josiah Butterfield, a more senior church official, made the journey in 1853 and settled across the border in California. 

William 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. 

Bermuda.  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 Bermuda’s first bank, N.T Butterfield and Son, a century later.  Some of these Bermuda Butterfields settled in America.

Australia.  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 Cesar in 1853.  These Bartefelds became Butterfields in Australia.
Select Butterfield Miscellany

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


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Nathaniel Butterfield founded a trading company in Bermuda in 1758 that as N.T. Butterfield became Bermuda’s first bank. 
John Butterfield
was a prominent American stagecoach operator of the mid-19th century. 
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)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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