Origins of the Barefoot Name

In my research I have come across several different explanations of the origin of the name Barefoot.Several of those explanations and their sources follow.Most assuredly the name is not Native American, and it seems that the Pennsylvania Barefoot line, at least, has connections to Ireland.Whether it goes back further to Scandinavia is not known.

According to “Wallace-Bruce and Closely Related Families” by James Wallace:

A history of one branch of the Barefoot family says there were two Barefoot men – Englishmen – who fought in the Battle of Boyne on the Protestant side.They were brothers.After the war (William, Prince of Orange, against James II, 1690) they were given by King William what was called Crown land in Ireland.It is supposed the Barefoot men were Episcopalian, as nearly all the British officers belonged to the established church.The one we sprung from married a Scotch woman who was said to be very devout and brought her family up in the old secular fashion, always taking the children with her to church. The Barefoot men were tall, measured six feet or more, and of fair complexion.They were rather long-lived.

There is also a tradition that among the foreigners – gallant Protestants – who rallied to Prince William’s banner from France, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia, there were two Norwegians named Barfod, who were descendants (or claimed to be) of the Norwegian King Magnus III (1093-1103) and that for their valor in the Battle of the Boyne King William bestowed upon them Crown land in Ulster, Ireland.

According to information contained in the Genealogy of James Barefoot, Sr., and Mary Sleek (Slick):

King Magnus III, called Magnus Barefoot, was the son of Olaf III (ruled1066-1093) considered Norway’s patron saint.Magnus was born in 1073 and came to the throne in 1093.He made three expeditions to Scotland and established rule over the Orkneys and the Hebrides, including the Isle of Man.On returning home from his conquest of the Hebrides around 1097 he adopted the dress in use there and went about barelegged, having a short tunic and also an upper garment, and so men called him “Barefoot.”[This is the earliest authentic mention of the kilt.]On August 24, 1103 Magnus and a few of his men were waiting to receive a promised herd of cattle in a swampy region near Ulster, Ireland, when they were ambushed by a large group of Irish.Magnus was killed.He was given a Christian burial and is interred somewhere near Dublin.He was succeeded by his three sons – Olaf IV, Eystein I, Sigurd – who reigned jointly.

According to Barefoot-Withrow Families” by Anne and Vivian Daughterty:

The name Barefoot is an ancient Anglo-Saxon name.The name Robert Barefot was recorded in Northamptonshire,England as early as 1160 according to “The First Century of English Feudalism” by F. M. Stenton.The name Reginald Barfot is in the “Pipe Rolls of Cumberland” in 1203.A John Barfot was in the “Assize Rolls of Kent” in 1317.The name Barefoot has had many spellings over many years.Barefoote, Barfoot, Burfot, Berfot to mention a few.The Danes spell the name Barfoed.The Norwegian spelling is Barfod.Barford is the name of several places in England (other spellings of this name were Barley Ford, Ford of the Bear and Birch Ford).In England the name was also given to one who went barefooted and persons sent to a holy place as a penance were often ordered to go barefoot.

From “New Dictionary of American Family Names” by Eldson C. Smith, published by Harper & Row, 1956:

Barefoot (Eng) one who had the habit of going about barefoot; persons sent to a holy place as a penance were often ordered to go barefoot; one who came from Barford (barley ford, ford of the bear, birch ford), the name of several places in England.