The FIFIELD surname is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon measure of land, the hide. A hide of land was the amount deemed necessary to support a family, and varied according to the quality of the land. A common family group holding was five hides of land. Several small English villages are called Fifield or a variant, derived from this measure. As surnames came into use people sometimes took as their name the name of the village in which they lived. Therefore there may be essentially unrelated branches of Fifields. (Conversely, Fifield, Wisconsin, U.S.A. was named for a Lieutenant Governor of the state who never set foot in the town.)
In the United States most Fifields descend from a common immigrant, William Fifield, who came over on the ship Hercules in 1634 and eventually settled in Hampton New Hampshire. Even today the state of New Hampshire has the highest percentage of surname Fifield families in the U.S. However, the largest number of Fifields is in New York State.
While some descendants of William removed to Canada, most Canadian Fifields appear to be descended from some brothers who came to the Maritime Provinces. William, who we believe was from Littleton, Hampshire, England, was a farmer. The Canadian Fifields were mariners, as was a Giles Fifield who appeared in the U.S. about the same time as William. Occupation plus the naming patterns suggest that the mariner Fifields might have come from the Gloucester area of England.
One Fifield from Maine plus a Fifield from the Gloucester area of England were early settlers in Australia. Fifields from Littleton, Gloucester and Oxfordshire eventually settled in New Zealand. The 1860 U.S. census for New York City indicates that at least one Fifield family went to Germany before coming to the U.S. The Fifield name has been also observed in other countries.
A Research Tip: Over sixty variants of the name Fifield, including the archaic, have been noted. Having trouble finding records on your Fifield relatives? Try, for example, Fefeld, Phifeild, Fyphild, and so on. As late as 1978-1981 Phifield and Phyfield appear in the U.S. Social Security death index. Fyfield, and Fiefield appear in the 1881 U.K. census.
My name is Peter Fifield Wells; my mother was born a Fifield. I have been researching Fifields for several years and have a data base of several thousand U.S. Fifields. I also have data from England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even Barbados and Bermuda. In 1994 I started publishing a Fifield newsletter covering primarily the U.S. branches. The emphasis of the newsletter is genealogical research on Fifields. We have been holding an annual Fifield reunion in Connecticut. Please contact me about your Fifields, wherever they are. I have more Fifield data which, for one reason or another, is not included in this website.
(Those of you with an aberrant interest in my personal family ancestry in the form of a pedigree chart based on my eldest son may click here.)
Please send e-mail to: PFWells@alum.MIT.edu
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