The Name and Family Progenitors

Updated June 16, 2000

"He Stands Ever"

Perplexing as it is, researching the origins of our family name is not a simple task. There are several theories by those who have devoted years to this subject and I will present their viewpoints here. Do we all descend from one early immigrant or were there three brothers who immigrated to America at about the same time?

torch2.gif (15653 bytes)In the Garland Record - 1974, Harry Standefer states that a distant relative of his, Col. Wm. R. Staniford of Virginia, traced the family surname dating back to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. "It belongs to the class of nature names and is composed of two elements: Stan, meaning stone and Ford meaning a river crossing. Originally it may be conjectured, for example, one William lived by a ford over a river. This ford had, possibly a shallow, stony bottom, or it may have been a ford with a series of stepping stones like those at Ambleside in the English District, over which passage was made. From this casual circumstance this William was designated as William at, or of, or from, or by, the stone ford. Then by degrees arose the name of Stanford, Staniford, Staniforth, Standeford and Standiford."

Mr. Standefer goes on to say, "Property records indicate that the family lived, primarily, in the Lake District near the eastern border of England and Scotland."

In the hard to find book, Standefer, Standifer, Standiford---A Family History and Genealogy by Harry Standefer, Mr. Standefer states that John Standiford, Sr. was our first American ancestor. This John was born about 1630 and married 1. Sarah King (mother of all five children) and 2. JoAnn (MNU). He lists John and Sarah's children as:

  1. Elizabeth, christened April 3, 1683
  2. William, christened July 2, 1685
  3. John, Jr., christened October 10, 1691
  4. Mary Ann, christened March 24, 1693
  5. Sarah, christened May 10, 1696

Mr. Standefer offers no sources in his family record for John's birth or marriage but says he can first be found in Barbados as the owner of a large sugar cane plantation. Indeed, several Sandfords and Sandifords can be found in Barbados in the very early 1600s. (See early immigrant's section). We find them traveling from Barbados to England as "merchants". Mr. Standefer offers as proof the Will of John Sandford, probated September 12, 1620 in the Parish of St. Leonard, Bristol, and Gloucester, England. This John had at least two sons, William and Thomas Sandiford both of who went to Barbados. He possibly had two more sons named Robert and John. William and Thomas died on the island. Mr. Sandefer theorizes that the first John of Virginia was descended from this family.

Sword_nd16.gif (11942 bytes)Why Barbados? Apparently in the early 1600s during the revolution of Cromwell's regime, the lands of political enemies in England and Ireland were confiscated and many enemies of the English rulers were sent to the Barbados. In the 1660s residents of Barbados were encouraged to settle in America to offset the colonization by the French and Spanish.

Also, Mr. Standefer believes that we all descend from John, Jr. and his wife, Margaret Skelton's children, James (m. Martha Watkins) and Israel (m. Cassandra Anderson). He mentions a third child of John and Margaret, a William, b. 1723, but offers no information regarding him. He notes that in Margaret's father Israel Skelton's Will there is mention of a grandson, Skelton Standiford. Mr. Standefer could find no other records verifying the birth or existence of this Skelton.

The John Sandiford descended from the English/Barbados theory is disputed by other researchers who believe the first immigrant was William or Vincent.

Ruby L. Ledbetter in The Standerfer Genealogy says that those who migrated to and stayed in Virginia for several generations became Standefers, Standerfers and Standeford. She says those went to East Tennessee and Kentucky spelled the name Standifer, Standerfer and Standefer (Sandefur).

Archibald Standifer of Georgia notes in his letter of 1864 that "our ancestors formerly spelled the name Standever, then Standiford, then Standerfer and now Standifer". Of course, we know now that there are many other spelling variations. The first William found in Maryland was known as Stanfort.

There are also different opinions as to whether the first ones came from Ireland, England or Scotland. Lemuel J. Standifer of Centra, Alabama says in his letter of 1864 that Israel emigrated from Ireland. Archibald of Georgia (letter of 1864) says that Israel was from Scotland. Some of Ruby Ledbetter's family bible records states that the family was originally from Ireland but family legend says they were from England. Ms. Ledbetter is convinced the family came from England.

Ms. Ledbetter's says the first known American Standiford was William (Stanfort) Standiford, first seen in April on December 13, 1661 in St. Mary's County, Maryland where he, as William Stanfort, witnessed the will of Forker Frissell. This William, she believes, moved to Baltimore County about 1670. He was married to Mary (MNU). She lists William and Mary's children as:

  1. William Standiford, Jr. b. abt 1676/78
  2. Samuel Standiford, b. abt 1676/78
  3. John Standiford, (m. Margaret Skelton)
  4. James Standiford
  5. Ephraim Standiford
  6. Mary (m. William Gadd)
  7. Jemima Standiford

In the Claiborne County Historical Society Quarterly Newsletter, Reflections, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1987, Ms. Ina Mae Sandefur gives a genealogy of the "Sandefur-Sandifur-Sandifer's. Ms. Sandefur states that the earliest known Sandefur was James Sandefur whose son, William Abraham Sandefur, was born in 1736 in Goochland County, Virginia. This William Sandefur was married to Johannah Branch, daughter of John Branch and Johan Hancock Branch.

In the Clark, Rigdon, Wilson and Durham Families of Harford County, Maryland by Ella Harrison Rowe in Chapter Five: The Standiford Family, this information is given regarding the first Standiford. Ms. Rowe states that "this family was first found in Virginia about 1657 where Vincent Standiford lived on 200 acres of land on the north side of the Rappahannock River, running west to a branch of the Corotoman River in Lancaster County. He was thought to be the progenitor of the Standifords who came to Baltimore, now Harford County. He had a son William who was the first to come to Maryland. He was born in the middle 1600s. In Maryland, he acquired a property known as "Hopewell", consisting of 240 acres, "lying on the Sinica Ridge" between Bush River and the Falls of the Gunpowder, and it became the family home. His wife is unknown". His children were:

  1. Samuel, b. abt 1672, m. Mary (MNU)
  2. William, b. abt 1678, m. Mary (MNU)
  3. John, b. abt 1679, m. Margaret Skelton

There is still another account of the origins of the family in America given by Weldon A. (Buster) Standefer in the book, The Standefers, 1600 to 1970. This Mr. Standefer discounts the "three brothers theory". He stoutly believed that the Standefers who first arrived in this country were a combination of English, Scotch and Irish. A Standefer descendant, Judge Price M. Rice, passed along a legendary story that is interesting. I will quote it here.

"One Standefer and his mother, a widow Standefer, were serfs (tenant farmers in Ireland), and as part of the rent to be paid to the Lord of the Manor, the serf was to furnish the Lord a good workhorse when he so desired. The story is that the Lord of the Manor demanded the finest mare of the widow Standefer and her son, working and shipping the mare to near exhaustion. This enraged the son to such an extent that he slew the Lord of the Manor with a scythe. He escaped and supposedly stowed away on a ship to America arriving some time during the 1600s. He married an English woman and to this union were born several children."

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Mr. Weldon Standefer quotes from the biography of Rufus E. Standefer, MD of Tennessee, published in 1923, where it states that the Standefer family first came to notice four or five hundred years ago in England and Scotland, when a young officer displaying remarkable courage successfully defended a potent point, and was called to the attention of a prince in this language; "he stands ever", and the name now should be Standever instead of Standefer. One theory on the origination of the name is a similar story involving the courage of the young officer and similarly remarking that "he stands up for", hence the name Standefer.

We must remember that most of our early ancestors could not read or write. When it became necessary to have written accounts of their transactions, most signed their name with an "X".  It is obvious that those persons who wrote the deeds and contracts would spell the name the way the party involved would pronounce it. As we became more educated, the spelling became more consistent within certain lines.

So there you have it in a nutshell! If you have a theory or would like to contribute information regarding the surname, please contact me and I will post it on this page.

Click here for a very interesting article written by Grace N. Paris of Illinois in 1952 re. the surname.


John Sandiford of New Brunswick, Canada offers this anecdote as an explanation as to how “Sandiford” became a surname. “Seventy miles south of Oslo, Norway, is a pretty little port of Sandefjord and this is where it all started about 900 AD.   Sandefjord  was a flourishing seaport prior to Oslo. The crews of Viking ships took their name from their homeport when raiding the coasts of the British Isles. Many were wrecked and failed to return to their homeland and were assimilated into the community where they were stranded and took their name from where they came. This is vouched for by the many Scandinavian place names along the Northeast coast of
Scotland & England and the Northwest coast of Ireland.
 *Contributed by Walter Duffy. 6/16/2000

  Link to Sandefjord, Norway


1/26/99: For the last several years I have been working with a renowned professional genealogist in England.  He says that he can account for at least four Stanford lines that are not blood related.  He agrees that the name comes from "stone" and a river "ford".  However, he feels that name Stanford refers to a place where stones were placed in the river bottom to facilitate crossings whereas the names which include Staniford refer to a river crossing which by chance had a stony bottom, hence, a "stony-ford". Chad Stanford

1/20/98: My grandfather, Elijah F. Standerfer, told me that the surname Standerfer was German.  A German couple with whom I am acquainted said the name refers to an occupation: something like a marker keeper. Steve Standerfer

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