The Stansfeld / Stansfield Family Pedigrees

The surname of this family was Stansfeld. As with other surnames ending -feld, over time it evolved into Stansfield.

As the name was written phonetically, many (over 60) variations of spelling appear in the original documents, so for ease of reading these have been standardised as Stansfeld, then Stansfield, in the entries on this site. Sources have been cited so that the original documents can be read.

During the 17th and 18th centuries it was fashionable among the minor nobility/landed gentry, many of whom had risen to become wealthy and influential, to have pedigrees drawn up showing that they were of noble lineage, in particular it was popular to show that their ancestor was a noble Norman. Genealogists were commissioned to trace these origins.

A number of families decided on descent from relatives of William the Conqueror, more went for the Norman nobles that came over with William, or nobles who came over shortly after the invasion. Early marriages were written-in to create connections to other influential families. There would have been marriages with other families of similar standing, but few records remain. In some cases pedigree marriages are to ladies of families who at the time had not yet acquired surnames.

Many families had pedigrees created and registered. The Stansfelds among them. The most widely copied pedigree for the Stansfield family is Harleian MS. 4630, fol. 582 in the British Museum.

Another version of it is Herald's College Pedigree No. 1.

In both cases, we have the required Norman ancestor, Wyon Maryons, who is Lord of Stansfield.

Then, at generation 12, a son and heir, William, is inserted. In both the pedigrees above this William is given a son who really was of the main line, but that line is then said to die out. This William is given a second son, Thomas, in Heralds' College Pedigree No. IV. Sometimes, the main line of the family was neatly side lined, as in the case of the Stansfelds, with Herald's College Pedigree No. VI.

While much of early pedigrees, including the Stansfeld/Stansfield pedigrees, can be disproved, once into the mid 1500s, they tend to settle down to fact. Even early pedigrees should not be written off without investigation. Sometimes they are correct, or largely correct, for one generation, but quite wrong for the ones around it. Or, there is an event which has been remembered and passed on down the generations, or a particular person remembered for some reason. In one case with these pedigrees two very early daughters are correctly recorded.

It was difficult for researchers and historians writing even as late as the 18th and 19th centuries to correct a pedigree, as the increasingly wealthy families had even more influence in that period and it would be highly imprudent to offend them. So we see writers either repeating that which was written in pedigrees, carefully making no comment, or writing them in a way that indicates that they are aware of the facts but not able to state them openly.

This situation applied with the Stansfeld family of Field House, Sowerby. They rose to be powerful in Sowerbyshire, and beyond, while the main line of the family was in decline. The Rev John Watson, writing in the 1770s, describes the Stansfeld family thus:


Here lived a family of considerable repute, who took their name from their situation.

The original of them was one Wyan [sic] [Wyon] Marions, probably of Norman extraction and in all likelihood a follower of earl Warren, on whom this Lordship was bestowed, he had Jordan de Stansfield, who married a daughter of John Townley, of Townley, knt. etc


(History of Halifax, p.281).

It would appear from this wording that Rev Watson was aware that Wyon Marions was a creation, and by the ambiguous use of

on whom this Lordship was bestowed

neatly sidestepped the pedigree claims as to who was Lord of Stansfield.

The problem was even greater for John Stansfeld writing his History of the Stansfeld Family (1885). He very much respected Colonel Robert Stansfeld of Field House, Sowerby, to whom he dedicated his History. He says that the Colonel participated actively in the writing of the book. There is a pedigree titled Stansfeld of Stansfeld Hall. This is a hand written sheet [880 mm x 560 mm], very elaborate, with crests and side notes. It traces the Sowerby branch of the family. The last entry is for 1877. There is a copy in Halifax Reference Library. It is not known if this was written by or for Colonel Stansfeld, but he would certainly have been aware of it, as would John Stansfeld. One of the side notes to this pedigree has a full background, with crest for Wyon Marions. This demonstrates how a single name, created for a pedigree, developed over the generations into a full story, which was then repeated in secondary sources, even in Burke.

Whether John Stansfeld was aware that the earlier parts of the pedigree were false before he started to write his history, is not known, but it can be seen that he very soon became aware that it was flawed. As to the true origins of the family, the furthest he went was to put that the deed Dodsworth MS 117 fol. 156 (see Roger son of Warin) not be overlooked, and makes references to "confusions". He prudently does not include the Inquisition Post Mortem of Geoffrey Stansfeld. Perhaps he was simply unaware of its existence.

There is clear documentary evidence that in fact the Stansfield family is pre-Norman. The male side of the family can be traced back to Orm son of Magnus. On the female side, we link back to Essolf who, though insufficient documentary evidence remains to prove it, was probably the son of Stainulf.

The first member of the family to take the name Stansfeld was John de Stansfeld.

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 21:52 / 3rd January 2023 / 8998

Page Ref: X247

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