What is the origin of my name and where did my ancestors come from? ......These two questions are often the first things folk think of when it comes to family history. In the simplest terms surnames generally have four main sources of derivation1:-
Things become more complicated depending on language (English, old English, Anglo Saxon, French, Nordic etc..) and often long lost and forgotten occupations or descriptions that now have little meaning in modern day parlance and hence the origin of some names may be far from obvious.
So, where does this leave our Richfords....one possible explanation is that it is a variant spelling of the name Rochford (a person from Rochford - several locations in England), also another option might be from Rochefort in France. Add to these locative possibilities the fact that names tend to drift depending on spelling (see name variants) then it is difficult to be certain of our Richford origins. My feeling on this subject is the only sure way to be certain of things is to work backwards from known facts (always a good policy in genealogy!)- if you do this with my branch the name seems to stay as Richford with the odd Ritchford spelling in parish registers back to the late 1600's in London.
A word of warning.....Reliance on name indices (web sites/CD etc) must be treated with utmost caution and should only be used as pointers to the original documents. As an example, the 1871 census index for England (Ancestry) lists some 175 Richfords but on close examination of the of the original enumerators return only 69 appear to be Richfords - the rest are written as Pickford, Rickford, Retchford etc....So plenty of room for jumping to the wrong conclusion if the original isn't checked. Also with census and parish records being transcribed from word of mouth, depending on pronunciation and the scribes interpretation there is even more room for the possibility that not all Richfords are Richfords, Rochfords, Rickfords, Ratchfords ............!
Your help is needed....as you'll have gathered from reading this page and hopefully from others on this site, any information you can added about distant Richford or for that matter any other R(i,a,e,y)(t)c(h,k)ord(e) ancestors then I'd appreciate hearing from you.
1. A Dictionary of English Surnames by P.H. Reaney & R.M. Wilson, Oxford University Press 1995, ISBN 0-19-863146-4