To provide you with the fastest answers possible, to insure consistent answers, and
to save our workers time - we have created this page where we will post answers to the more frequently
asked questions about Alfords and the AAFA.
Perhaps the best source for the answer to this question comes from Rev. Josiah George Alford's
ALFORD FAMILY NOTES which was published in London, England in 1908.
As with many surnames one must go back to the years before there were surnames to find the origin
of our name. Before surnames folks were known as "John the Butcher" or "Bill who
was John's son" and those evolved into surnames like Butcher and Johnson.
It all began about 1160 when there was this fellow Richard who lived in a castle near the old
Roman road where it forded the River Dee going from England into Wales. Richard was known as
"Richard de Ald Ford" or "Richard by the old ford" and that evolved into
Richard Aldford. To this day there is a town of Aldford in Chestershire near the River Dee. One
can still see faint remains of the Alford Castle that was situated there. In a church there one
can view a brass wall plaque that mentions one of the Alford daughters.
Across the river in Wales there was a Holt Castle and Alfords also resided there for some time.
That might have given rise to to the idea with some folks that most of our Alfords came from Wales.
Wales was not the origin of many of our Alford ancestors.
It is true that there are other towns named Alford in the UK. There is one in Aberdeen in Scotland.
There is another in Lincolnshire, England. All of the study and investigation of those towns
indicates there was no familial connection. It is interesting to note that when visiting Jamestown,
Virginia - the site of the original colony there - one can see a plaque that mentions Alford,
England as being the home of Captain John Smith.
Quite a few of the AAFA members have visited England and gone to Aldford in Cheshire, to Alford,
Scotland and to Alford, Lincolnshire.
Well before the discovery of America and the migration of Alfords to this country - the center of
the English Alford community had moved to the southwest with the heart probably being in Sommerset.
All of the above is not to say that ALL Alfords came from England. We have records of Alfords who
have migrated to this country from Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, etc. We have descendants of
Native Americans who for various reasons are called Alfords and there are many Afro-Americans named
Alford - many probably whose ancestors were named for their master as slaves. We know there was an
Alford presence in Scotland as early as the 17th century but so far we know of no Alfords who
immigrated to this country directly from Scotland.
There is no known connection to Alfred the Great.
Contrary to some published accounts there were no Alfords on the ship - Mary and John.
We don't really know. All we know is what we read and we don't know if we have found the very earliest
Alford. Perhaps you can help us by keeping your eyes open for something earlier than what we have.
JONAS ALFORD may have been the first but we don't know if he ever made it ashore in America. We do know
that he left England so as to be the earliest in our records. "On folio 101 r, dated 27 Feb. 1618
(1619 modern style) appears the following: A note of the Names of the Boyes and Wenches that were
appointed to goe to Virginnia [sic] . . . 73 JONAS ALFORD." Hume, Robert Ph. D. (Keele) EARLY
CHILD IMMIGRANTS TO VIRGINIA 1618 - 1642 Copied from the records of Bridewell Royal Hospital. Baltimore,
MD: Magna Carter Book Company, 1986
RICHARD ALFORD who was in Jamestown with Captain Roger Smith in the 1620's is mentioned several times
in published accounts of early Virginia history. It is not known if he was married and it is supposed
that he left no descendants in Virginia. [Historians tell us that the very early English in Virginia,
unlike those in New England, were not in America to stay. They came for exploration and business. All
of the early Jamestown group are supposed to have either died in the colony or returned to England with
one possible exception and he was not an Alford.]
" . . . The Muster of Capt. Roger's men over ye Watter, RICHARD ALFORD aged 26 yeres" This
was recorded as a 1624 event on page 232 in John Camden Hotten's THE ORIGINAL LISTS OF PERSONS OF
QUALITY. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978.
Published minutes of the Council of the General Court mention Richard Alford more than once.
The next earliest known Alford in Virginia was a WILLIAM ALFORD in Charles City in 1653 but it is
probable there were others who are not yet known.
The first know immigrants to actually settle in America and leave descendants were two brothers who
arrived in Boston, MA in the early 1630's. They were BENEDICT ALFORD and his brother ALEXANDER ALVORD.
Perhaps the best account of the latter can be found in Samuel Morgan Alvord's A GENEALOGY OF THE
DESCENDANTS OF ALEXANDER ALVORD, AN EARLY SETTLER OF WINDSOR, CONN., AND NORTHAMPTON, MASS. Webster,
NY: A. D. Andrews, Printer 1908.
A smaller lesser known family, WILLIAM ALFORD and his wife Mary, were in the New England area at the
same time as Benedict and Alexander. Although there have been some who connected the two families the
AAFA has never found any connection.
For more bibliographic references on Alfords, including the early families, see the
Master Book List under publications. This record also provides a brief
abstract about the Alford or event.
We have a reference system that is used to identify members and ancestors and they are used freely in
our records and publications. Although we have explained them from time to time in our publications
and at our annual meetings we are still questioned frequently. If you have had a problem with the
"codes" perhaps the following will help you.
One needs to understand three things to make sense out of what we are doing. First there is the
individual "Alford" REF. Working with tens of thousands of records of "Alfords,"
past and present it became necessary to devise some system to assign a unique identifier to each and
every subject. We could have just assigned serial numbers or meaningless alphanumeric codes to each
person but we preferred something that would be useful and save some time.
Over fifteen years ago it was decided to assign each "Alford" an identifier based on his or
her name, when they were born and where they were born. Take for example - Barney Alford born 1878 in
Oklahoma. His REF would be (he's imaginary) BAR878OK. Knowing that we would have a problem as soon as
two folks were born in the same year in the same state with a name with the same three first letters
we decided we could double our capability by using upper case letters for male subjects and lowercase
letters for female subjects. Barbara Alford born 1878 in Oklahoma would be bar878ok.
That in itself was not enough to cope with the duplication problem. We use suffixes for a variety of
purposes. First of all - our individual records are really not individual records but couple records
- a subject and the spouse. Therefore when there is more than one spouse suffixes are added to denote
the marriage 01, 02, 03, etc. It we should have had a Barnwall Alford born in Oklahoma in 1878 then
we would have begun to employ 0A, 0B, 0C, etc for those with identical REF elements. Finally we have
a suffix that we use for some of the spelling variations. Those who spell the name as ALVORD get an AV
or V at the end of the reference. Those with the "H" spelling get an H at the end, etc.
In the new member linages in most issues of AAFA ACTION we use the references to identify the ancestor.
When we did footnotes the footnotes were keyed to the ancestor ref.
Now you understand what the numbers and letters represent - just an ID for an "Alford" - -
we need to look at the combinations used in reporting on members. We all want to know "what branch
are they from?" For years that was no problem because we would just refer to "the northern
branch" which meant the descendants of Benedict Alford the immigrant, or the Alvord branch, or the
James of Virginia branch. With over 1,000 members and thousands of ancestors that can get very confusing
and misleading as there are a number of Benedicts in the northern branch - not all immigrants though.
There are also a number of James of Virginia. When we used this reference we were referring to what we
call the "ultimate ancestor" or the most distant ancestor known - usually meant the ancestor
in the US or the immigrant (we rarely extend the coding system to England or other "old countries.".
We still have a code for these ultimate ancestors- the most common ones being BEN619EN, ISH755NC,
JAM687VA, JOH696MD, etc. It is important to note that once a code is established and used throughout
our system it is not practical to go back and change all those codes when we discover the estimated or
circa birth year we were using is wrong. So the code remains and may not always be a true representation
of the actual birth place and date - or maybe not even the correct name.
420 members, about 41% of our membership, descend from James Alford born about 1687 in Virginia. So to
tell someone that they are from the JAM687VA branch is really not saying much - at least not in a
positive discriminating manner. We have 51 from Benedict, 54 from Isham, etc. It became apparent we had
to have an "intermediate identifier."
We do make some production comparisons between families. Things like who is reporting more information
on descendants - branch A or branch B. Or which branch X or Z has the most members? For such purposes
it did not seem fair to compare a branch keyed to an 1800 birth in the same manner as we do for a branch
that began in 1619. We needed something to more nearly get us all on a level playing field - branch
We decided that we would use the ancestor born nearest to 1800 as the "intermediate identifier."
That's about half way between the beginning of this century and the earliest ancestors. Most of the
ancestors born in 1800 were enumerated in the 1850 census making it possible for us to get some detail
on them and their family. This date may range up to 25 years in one direction before or after 1800.
If you were born with the "Alford" surname then you have one of these refs and all of your
Alford ancestors have one. Most of us have two important ones - the Branch REF or intermediate identifier
and the Ultimate Ancestor REF. These are usually written with a slash mark separating the branch and
ultimate. For example - the first one listed in the last newsletter was BRI781NC/ISH755NC. That means
Brittain Alford born 1781 in North Carolina, descendant of Isham Alford born 1755 in North Carolina- the
ultimate ancestor. In this case they are father and son but that is not normally the situation.
There are exceptions driven by various circumstances. If we cannot identify an ancestor before 1800 the
ultimate ancestor on the right of the slash is shown as "!!!!!!!!" - the exclamation marks meaning
"attention - we need to find an ancestor." Sometimes you might see a state abbreviation on the end
of the !!!!! and that's been put there to give the research folks a clue as to where they might look for more
information. (We can sort, search, etc based on the state code shown for either the branch ancestor or the
Now that you have the long answer. The short answer is that those are coded abbreviations of our Ancestors
showing how members fit into the over all "Alford" picture.
If you have any questions, let us hear from you at .
Don't bother suggesting alternate plans. We are into this one way past the point of no return.
You can pronounce it any way you want to. Depending on the part of the country you are in - or whose presence
you are in - it might be well to yield to the local pronunciation.
In the South and Southeast of the US it is usually pronounced as though it were written All Ford. As one
moves to the north or to the west it will become Al Ford. Some New England areas are an exception.
Most of us who have moved from one part of the country to the other or who have been in the military service
probably found that everyone pronounced it just the opposite of the way we were taught to say it.
Samuel Morgan Alvord in his "A GENEALOGY OF THE DESCENDANTS OF ALEXANDER ALVORD" published 1908 in
Webster, NY included the following in his preface:
HOW SHALL WE PRONOUNCE OUR NAME?
There is clearly a lack of uniformity on this point and many inquiries have come to me from those who are
uncertain whether they ought to give the first syllable of the name the sound that it has in Al-fred, or in
al-ways. I am convinced after careful inquiry and investigation that the latter was the original sound of
the first syllable of our name and is based on the best authority. The transition to the former is a late
development, but in some localities, especially in the West, it has become quite general.
The first syllable of the name, being derived from the German al-de (awl-der), must obviously have had the
same sound. The same German word appears in the first two syllables of Alderman and the Germanic sound is
retained. Again, if we note the pronunciation of the name in localities where the family has continued to
live from the time of the early settlement, as in Northampton, Easthampton and South Hadley, Mass., it will
be observed that the name is invariably pronounced Awl-vud.
For a slightly different version of the source of our name see FAQ 1 above about where the Alfords came from.
In the early days of AAFA when we would have our annual corporate meeting and national Alford family reunion,
Captain Lodwick "Wick" Alford then the president would put a container in full view of the
membership. He would announce that anyone who pronounced the name as AL-FRED would be required to put $1 in
the kitty. Wick was from one of those families alluded to in the article above. His family had lived in just
two places and each of those for many decades since the early 1700's.
At our 4th meeting in Jackson, MS in 1991 he made that announcement. Pam Alford Thompson, the editor of AAFA
ACTION - our official quarterly publication - stood up and challenged him. She said that all of her life she
had never heard the name pronounced All Ford. Her father, Ray Alford, who was with her at this meeting pulled
on her shirt and said she had better ease off. He said that his name had been pronounced All-ford but that
her mother changed it to Al-ford. Ray's family was from Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. Apparently Pam's
mother had more of a western background and thought Al-fred sounded better.
Dr. C. D. "Bo" Alford of Hammond LA really gets upset with the Al-fred pronunciation. He will
respond quickly with "I al-most al-ways say Al-ford." If you can't figure that out he's saying
that we say All-Most for Almost, and All-ways for Always so why not say All-ford for Alford. Of course one
can find just as many arguments the other way.
Most of us these days just say we don't care what you call us as long as you call us when it is time to eat.
5. Why all the name variations? Did "Halford" come from "Alford?"
AAFA recognizes "Halford" as a surname in itself. However, in our "Alford" research we
have found many cases where the names are interchanged. There are families in both Georgia and Mississippi
who were enumerated as "Alford" in one census and "Halford" in another. There is at
least one North Carolina legal document in which the subject's name is spelled "Alford" in one
paragraph and "Halford" in another. Therefore AAFA collects and disseminates data on Halford as
well as Alford because we never know when the names have been interchanged.
Halford families did not migrate to the American colonies as early as did the Alfords nor did the name ever
become as popular in America as in the United Kingdom. For example in 1881 England there were 4,352 Alfords
and 3,309 Halfords, but in the United States in 1880 there were 6,033 Alfords but only 947 Halfords.
(includes spellings such as Holford) Most of the early Halfords in America were in South Carolina.
One of the earliest known Halfords to AAFA was Richard Halford, esquire of Paddock House in Kent. He was
born 1766 and married (1) Sarah Bargrave, daughter of Robert Tournay Bargrave, esquire and (2) Charlotte,
widow of George Deene.
From an unidentified published source:
"The Halfords of Kent derive either from the son or brother of Sir Richard Halford, the first baronet
of Wistow, but owing to the loss of some family documents at the time of the revolution, the precise fact
cannot be ascertained. The house of Halford, one of great antiquity, was originally seated in Warwickshire,
at a place called Halford, where one branch of the family continued to reside until a century and a half ago.
Duglad, in his history of that county, mentions a Robert de Halford, or Halord, who held half a knight's fee
under the Earl of Warwick, temp. Henry III. The senior branch, the Halfords, of Wistow, maintained for
several generations a leading position in the county of Leicester, until the decease of Sir Charles Halford,
in 1780, when Wistow passed, under his will to his widow, who bequeathed the estate to her nephew, Dr.
Vaughan who subsequently created a Baronet, and assuming in 1815 the surname of Halford, is the present Sir
The greyhound is the dominant feature in the one Halford coat of arms known to AAFA.
6. I have "Alford" data, documents, articles, records, photos, corrections, etc.,
that I'd like to submit to AAFA. How should I go about doing that? Can I submit info even if I'm not an
Yes, AAFA was created with the idea of a free exchange of information. Folks donate material to AAFA
and AAFA provides information to anyone, regardless of membership, and unless some significant expense
is involved, at no cost.
To send paper copies of imformation to AAFA, click the CONTACT
button, at the top of this page, for AAFA's mailing address.
Photos should be sent to the AAFA Photo Archives. To ensure that this is done properly, the archivists
will need to contact you. Please CLICK to email
AAFA, letting us know you want to send us photos. We will arrange for the archivists to contact you to
provide details for sending the photos.
CLICK to email [as attachment(s)] any materials
(except photos) to AAFA. Also, further questions may be sent to this same email address.