We launched the Garfield’s in America website back in 2000 and over the last 18 years have continued to research and tell the story of our family’s history. Along the way we have been contacted by many researching their Garfield origins from around the world. In 2002 we started the Garfield Families Newsletter and in 2008 The Edward Garfield Society was created. Times and the internet all change and in keeping with that change we have created the Garfield Family Historical Blog to better reach those who continue to pursue their Garfield ancestry and those who may just be starting out on the addictive path of genealogical research.
In these posts we share our family’s history from it’s earliest recorded beginnings in the 1500s in England to today’s members around the world. In these posts you will find bits of family history researched by our family historians highlighting individuals, family lineages, or locations that are important in our family’s past. You may also see from time to time a post on basic genealogy research with tips and websites to check out that have helped other researchers in their quest to uncover the Garfield story.
There still seem to be a few lingering stories about the Garfield family origin with no known records to prove or disprove them. Some of these stories were first recorded in the 1880s by genealogists in England during and after President Garfield’s term in office. As far as my research has gone lately, I cannot prove or disprove the stories and for the moment (until proof is found of their validity) I don’t mention them or take them into account of my origin research.
There most likely will never be a way to prove where the Garfield family name originated if indeed it even has a single origin location as surnames did not appear to become common in England until the 1400s. By the 1500s we find a large concentration of Garfields around the modern day Rugby area of Warwickshire, England. The areas with the largest concentrations at this time appear by Parish Registers to be Church Lawford, Dunchurch, and Hillmorton in Warwickshire and Ashby St. Ledgers, Cold Ashby, and Kilsby in Northamptonshire. We also find incidents of the Garfield name early on in Shropshire, Cheshire, Kent, and London areas. It appears that the vast majority of the family can be found along a narrow band following Watling street which has existed since Roman times as a traveling way from Dover in Kent to Wroxeter in Shropshire and created the boundary between Saxon England in the southwest and the Danelaw in the northeast during the Danish (viking) occupations during the reigns of Alfred the Great of the Saxons and Guthrum of the Danes.
The family migrated to the new world around 1630, most likely in Gov. Winthrop’s Fleet (Edward Garfield is listed on the Founders Monument in Watertown, MA). We do know that Edward Garfield was admitted as a Freeman in Watertown, MA on the sixth of May 1635 and his family grew and migrated across the continent settling new towns and territories. Many Garfields in America can trace their ancestry back to this one man who was among the first to colonize and make America his home. His descendants split during the American War for Independence and those family members who remained loyal to Britain appear to have moved north to Canada and changed the spelling of the name to Gaffield. There are also occurrences of the Gaffield name associated with Garfields who stayed in America, along with the other occasion spellings of Gearfield, Gerfield, and Garfeild among others. There are a few notable exceptions that I have found where immigrants have come from other countries and seem to have taken the Garfield name upon their arrival. A few come from Russia, at least one was from Greece all during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
During the 1800s, the Garfield name migrated from England to Australia. Not much research has reached me yet of the family there although I have heard people are working on it and when some of it comes into my possession I will give more of the story here.
Some of the more notable members of the family include: James A. Garfield, teacher and president of Hiram College, lawyer, lay preacher, Civil War General, Congressman and the 20th President of the United States. Selucius Garfield served in the House of Representatives for the Washington Territory. Harry Augustus Garfield, James A. Garfield’s son, served as President of Williams College, a lawyer, and supervised the Federal Fuel Administration during World War 1. James Rudolph Garfield, another son of James A. Garfield, was a lawyer and Secretary of the Interior during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.
Many men and women of the Garfield family have served proudly in the Armed Forces of their respected countries and occasionally against each other as in the case of the American Revolution and The American Civil War. We are proud of our Veterans both past and present.