Select Lightfoot Surname Genealogy

Lightfoot obviously started out as a nickname and became a surname.  The roots are the Old English leoht, meaning "nimble" or "quick," and fot or "foot."   The name originally denoted someone with a light springy step, a speedy runner or messenger.

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England.   Early spellings were Lyghtfoot and Lyghtfot.  The name first appeared as a surname in the English border counties.  John Lightfoot was the King's clerk in Hereford in 1300 and another John Lightfoot was recorded as a weaver in Shrewsbury in 1463. 

Later the name had moved northwards.  By the time of the 1881 census, Lightfoots ran from Staffordshire in the south to Cumberland in the north, with some crossing of the Pennines into Yorkshire.  The largest numbers were to be found in Merseyside and north Cheshire.

These Lightfoots included: 
  • Thomas Lightfoot, the vicar of Uttoxeter in Staffordshire for thirty six years until his death in 1658.  He had five sons, the most prominent being the churchman and Hebraic scholar John Lightfoot. 
  • Bernard Lightfoot, a one-time brewer in Liverpool in the 1750's.  A son William disappeared at sea in the early 1800's.  But a later Lightfoot, Joseph Barber Lightfoot who was born in Liverpool in 1828, became the Bishop of Durham and served as chaplain to Queen Victoria.
  • Lightfoots in the Cheshire villages of Frodsham and Kingsley who date from the early 1700's.  The dancer Paul Lightfoot hails from Kingsley today.  
  • Lightfoots who came to Accrington in Lancashire from Frodsham around 1820.  Thomas Lightfoot of Bank House died in 1866.  James Emmanuel Lightfoot, a printing inventor, was Accrington's first mayor in 1882.
  • Lightfoots who were further north at Wigton in Cumberland from the 1650's; and Lightfoots have been farming at Bowness near Windermere since the 1850's.
There were Quaker Lightfoots in Cambridgeshire, the place where Thomas Lightfoot was born in 1619. Persecuted for his faith he departed for Northern Ireland in the 1650's.  Later Lightfoots crossed the Atlantic to Pennsylvania.  Matthew Lightfoot was a Quaker shoemaker in London, known to posterity because in the 1750's his daughter Hannah Lightfoot, the Fair Quaker, was said to have been the mistress of the Prince of Wales.

Cornwall.  There were Lightfoots as well in Cornwall, at St. Breock.  William Lightfoot was recorded as a cooper there in 1691; and Rendel Lightfoot was born there in 1723.  Lightfoots were later to be found at Polperro and Wadebridge.  Two Lightfoot brothers William and James - were hanged at Bodmin for the murder of Neville Norway in 1840.  Lightfoots of the next generation emigrated to Australia John and William in 1854 and Henry with the family in 1879.

.  Early Lightfoots came to Virginia.

Virginia.  The Rev. Richard  Lightfoot of St. Mary's at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire is the forebear of most Lightfoots in America.  Two of his grandsons, John and Philip, arrived in Virginia in 1670. 

Their descendants were prominent in Virginian colonial life.  A later Philip Lightfoot owned a plantation at Sandy Point and built an imposing mansion home for himself at Yorktown.  These Lightfoots frequently intermarried with the Lees of Virginia.  Francis Lightfoot Lee from Virginia was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  William Lightfoot moved west to Kentucky in

Lightfoot might seem as if it were or could have been a native Indian name.  There was a HoGa Lightfoot in the 18th century of the Cherokee nation.  But his name derived from Captain John Lightfoot, an Indian agent in Virginia who had married a Cherokee woman.

Elsewhere.  Thomas Lightfoot brought his Quaker family to Chester county, Pennsylvania in 1716.  Many Lightfoots of this line were Quaker ministers.  A later Thomas Lightfoot was an Indian agent in Nebraska in the 1860's.

Thomas Lightfoot arrived in Alabama in the early 1800s and established a plantation at Myrtle Grove on fertile land along the Tuscumba river.  Later Lightfoots sold out at the time of the Civil War and migrated to Texas.  Henry Lightfoot who fought in that conflict was a prominent Texas lawyer and politician after the war.  His home in Paris, Texas became a Texas historic landmark in 1965.

The Lightfoot history in England and America has been compiled in Mary E. Morton's 2005 book Calling All Lightfoots.

Canada.  Henry Lightfoot came out with his family to Canada from Yorkshire sometime in the 1850s.  They settled in Middlesex county, Ontario where he farmed.  His line led to Gordon Lightfoot, the folk singer/songwriter who became internationally famous in the 1960s.

Select Lightfoot Miscellany

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

Select Lightfoot Names

Joseph Barber Lightfoot served as chaplain to Queen Victoria and Bishop of Durham.
Gordon Lightfoot is a highly popular Canadian folk singer and songwriter.

Select Lightfoots Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 3,000 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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