Select Wagstaff Surname Genealogy

A quotation from the medieval writer Myles Coverdale read as follows: "Be not afraid for the King of the Assyrians that he shall wag his staff at thee.”

The Wagstaff name
derives from “wag a staff,” just as the Shakespeare name comes from “shake a spear.” Wagstaff, possibly a nickname, would describe some medieval official like a bailiff or a beadle who carried a staff and shook it for effect

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Select Wagstaff Ancestry

EnglandThe Wagstaff surname may well have started out in Warwickshire in the English Midlands.

"There was recorded a coal pit in the Haunchwood area of Stockingford in Warwickshire in the 14th century worked by a man called Wagstaffe.  It was referred to as Wagstaffe's pit."

.  The Wagstaffes had been at Harbury near Stratford-on-Avon since 1500 and possibly earlier.  They in fact described themselves as an “ancient” county family.  The local church has a large stone slab dedicated to Alice Wagstaffe who died in 1563.  The letters of Elizabeth Wagstaffe, dating from about 1614, have been preserved.  And the village still has the Thomas Wagstaffe school which the family founded in 1611.

These Wagstaffes were Royalist at the time of the Civil War.
  Sir Joseph Wagstaffe, a younger member of the family, was a soldier of fortune abroad who returned to join the Royalist cause.  In 1655 he led the Penruddock uprising in Wiltshire in an effort to restore the monarchy, but had to flee the country after its defeat.  The Wagstaffe male line did continue at Harbury and at Bishops Tachbrook near Warwick until the death of Sir Thomas Wagstaffe in 1709.

The Wagstaff name was to be found in two distinct family groups at Bedworth and Nuneaton during the 18th century.  Thomas Wagstaff kept the Bull Inn at Nuneaton in the 19th century, while William Wagstaff was the proprietor of the New Inn at Attleborough.

  From Warwickshire the Wagstaff name seems to have stretched eastward, through Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire into south Yorkshire.  These four counties recorded the most Wagstaffs in the 1881 census.

Anthony Wagstaffe was living at Hasland near Chesterfield in Derbyshire in 1611.  And Wagstaffs were farmers around Darley Dale in north Derbyshire from the late 1600’s -  Josiah Wagstaff, born in 1672, at Aldwark Grange and George Wagstaff, born in 1676, at Toadholes.

Wagstaffs were recorded in Yorkshire at Ecclesfield near present-day Sheffield from about 1500 onwards.  Thomas Wagstaff married Elizabeth Slater there in 1565.  By the 18th century the Wagstaff name appeared in and around Barnsley and in the Holme valley.  John Wagstaff was a clothier at the Fox House in Holmfirth in 1789.   And that great rugby league footballer Harold Wagstaff was born in Holmfirth in 1891.

.  There was a southern outpost of Wagstaffs near London, in Bedfordshire.

These Wagstaffs were rural agricultural people in a part of NE Bedfordshire that was sometimes known as the Wagstaff belt.  The largest number were in Wilden, the first recorded there being Richard Wagstaff who was born in 1498.  Later they were to be found at Northill.  Many left for America and Canada in the mid/late 1800’s. 

.  Dr. Alfred Wagstaff, born in 1804, was the progenitor of a prominent Wagstaff family in New York.  He had invested well in real estate and made his family country gentlemen.  The line continued through his son Alfred Jr and grandson Samuel, both lawyers and high on the Social Register, to Sam Wagstaff Jr, a well-known art curator and collector in New York in the 1970’s.

The largest Wagstaff numbers in America have not been in New York, however, but in Utah.  Many Wagstaffs from rural Bedfordshire joined the Mormon church and departed for Utah and the American West in the 1850’s. Prominent among them were three Wagstaff brothers – William, John and Samuel.

  Wagstaffs from Bedfordshire also departed for Canada.  Henry Wagstaff came in the 1880’s but then moved onto Utah.  Charles Wagstaff settled in Medicine Hat where he was an engineer with the Canadian Railways.  John Wagstaff also came to Alberta and made his home there

Select Wagstaff Miscellany

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

Select Wagstaff Names

Sir Joseph Wagstaffe was a Royalist officer during the English Civil War.  He unsuccessfully led the Penruddock uprising in 1655 in an effort to restore the monarchy.
Harold Wagstaff was a champion rugby league footballer for Huddersfield and England in the early 1900’s.
Sam Wagstaff
was an American art curator and collector who acted as a mentor to the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Select Wagstaffs Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Utah) 
  • 2,000 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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