Daft family

Please note: Family pages are organised by surname; however, this does not mean that all those people featured are related to each other. Where possible we will try to be clear about any connections there may be.

More can be found on the following buttons:



Introduction and name origins.

The Daft family are one of the oldest Hickling families; it is believed that the family were present in Hickling before the 1400s, several entries appear in the Protestation Returns (1641) and multiple records continue through to the end of the nineteenth century. The last entry in the Parish Registers for the surname Daft is the burial of Robert Daft in 1934. Research is very much on-going; if you are able to add to our information or have any further queries, please contact us.

It is believed (although not confirmed) that the original individual named Daft may have come from Hickling; the density of occurrences of this surname in the area and particularly in Hickling may be an indication that the name originated from one individual who was nicknamed Daft which then evolved into a family name.

  • Professor David Hey was a prominent local historian who carried out extensive research into family names; he was a prolific writer and it is well worth exploring some of his titles.
    • “The persistence of rare names within a recognisable district raises the question of whether all the present bearers of that name share a common descent … Thus it seems likely that all Shakespeares are descended from one man whose distinctive nickname became hereditary in the middle ages.” (David Hey, Family Names and Family History; Hambledon & London 2000)
  • English Heritage Names of England – project 2021
    • Daft family:
    • Most common in Nottinghamshire
    • Number of adults (currently): 306
    • English origins: ‘nickname from the Middle English dafte (Old English daefte); gentle, meek, modest, well-mannered’.
  • English: nickname for a meek person, from Middle English daffte ‘mild’, ‘gentle’, ‘meek’ (Old English gedæfte).
    • It was not until the 15th century, toward the end of the main period of surname formation in England, that the word came to mean ‘stupid’, ‘silly’.
    • Source: Dictionary of Family Names, Oxford University Press
  • Sources vary but the meaning seems to be changing towards ‘boorish, silly, stupid, reckless, wild, frolicsome’ by the middle ages (1300s onwards) – OED/Collins
  • Originally spelt Dafte, the ‘e’ is gradually dropped in the late 1600s/early 1700s.
  • Hickling Parish Registers began in 1646; the Daft family name accounted for approximately 10% of the first 2,000 entries – by the C20th there were just two entries.

The name is now gradually falling out of usage and it last appeared in the Hickling parish registers in 1934 with the death of Robert Daft (although there are references to members of the family visiting the village after this); this may partly be due to the gradual change of meaning of the word (from shy to silly) with members of the remaining family sometimes changing their surname to spelling variants such as Dart, Deft or D’Aft or adopting different family names instead.

  • In 2009 an Experian survey looked at the changes in occurrence of surnames between 1881 and 2008; the news coverage mostly focused on names that had declined because of the embarrassment attached to them; on this list was the Daft family surname which showed a decline of 51% (7th on the list); Cock -76%; Smellie -71%; Handcock -61%; Spier -56%; Balls -55%; Wilcocks -52%; Daft -51%; Death -47%; Gotobed -42%; Shufflebottom -40%; Bottom -36%; Jelly -34%; Cockshott -34%; Cockroft -33%; Bulcock -32%; Longbottom -32%; Glasscock -31%.
    • Times March 25th 2009
      • “A new analysis of British surnames reveals how names with rude overtones have seen the sharpest decline over the past 120 years as their owners have changed them to something more innocuous. (…) David Hey, author of Family Names and Family History, said that ridiculous names were often more harmless than they appeared. “ ‘Bottom’ names were from farms at the bottom of a valley. In the Middle Ages ‘daft’ meant meek. It was a perfectly acceptable name.” “
    • The Independent 25th March 2009
    • Daily Mail 25th March 2009
      • “The names are unlikely to have been intended as rude when they were first applied in medieval times. A man would have been called Cock because he strutted like a cockerel – the word is not known to have been used in its cruder sense before the 17th century.”

Daft family – gravestones.

There are a large number of Daft family gravestones in Hickling churchyard and images of these can be found in the gallery, below; some images are not very clear and they will be replaced in due course.

Amongst these gravestones there are some significant examples of Belvoir Angels; Hickling is an important location for these distinctive headstones which can be found across the Vale of Belvoir and its immediate surrounds.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the family relationships associated with gravestones; this is an ongoing project which is still in the draft stages)


Vashti Daft – Adam and Eve sampler

An Adam and Eve sampler, stitched by Vashti Daft when she was 10 years old (Hickling).

We are very grateful to Mr K Williams who contacted us with an enquiry about the Daft family and the mention of a sampler worked by Vashti Daft. It turns out that the sampler was stitched in 1817 when Vashti was ten years old.

It is an Adam and Eve sampler; it appears to have been sold on Ebay in the United States (no date for the sale) but beyond that we know nothing – all we have is a rather poor quality image from an archived webpage. If anyone can help us with tracing what has happened to this beautiful piece of needlework since 1817, please get in touch with us; we are particularly curious to know where it is now and whether it would be possible to acquire a better image of it.

  • Vashti Daft; bap.5th April 1807, died unmarried London 21st March 1866 (parents Thomas & Bridget (Sutton) Daft).
  • Census 1841 (Stanley Derbys); Vashti was in the household of Derbyshire farmer Henry Grundy, his wife and ten children. With her was her sister Salome’s son George Hickling, age 15. Vashti was described as being of independent means. It would seem likely that they were visiting and that George lived, like his three siblings, with his maternal grandmother.
  • Census 1851 & 1861 (Hickling); housekeeper in the household of her brother, Thomas – in 1851 her nephew George Hickling is also in the household.
  • Vashti died unmarried from a “stomachic complaint” on 21st March 1866 aged 59yrs in London [Q1 1866 Pancras Reg District Vol 1b page 56]. She may have been visiting or living with her sister’s son George Hickling there, since he is recorded as living in St Pancras in 1861.
  • She was buried in Hickling Churchyard with her sister, Salome and her niece, Lila.
  • see also the separate lineage page.

The Protestation Returns:

The Daft family was one of the most populous in Hickling’s history and in 1642, when the Protestation Returns were made, a total of 23 men with the surname Daft were recorded – over 20% of the total number of adult men in the village at the time:

Protestation Returns 1
Protestation Returns
  • John Daft
  • George Daft at ye towne end
  • Richard Daft at ye bridge
  • George Daft at ye hall
  • Thomas Daft ye elder
  • George Daft at ye dove coat
  • George Daft at ye bridge
  • William Daft at ye Hall
  • Richard Daft in ye lane
  • John Daft
  • George Daft
  • William Daft
  • John Daft
  • Thomas Daft
  • Thomas Daft
  • Richard Daft at ye hall
  • William Daft at Mawkin Lane
  • Henry Daft
  • George Daft at ye wire (weir)
  • William Daft
  • Thomas Daft
  • John Daft ye elder
  • Robert Daft (his mark as overseer for ye poore)

Names listed in the order that they appear on the Returns. (note: ‘ye bridge’ probably refers to the Dalby Brook or the Smite; the Grantham Canal wasn’t a feature of the village until the late C18th.)


The Daft family in the census records:

(Households are numbered from their first appearance and retain that number each time they appear in subsequent census returns)

Census 1841:

  • Household 1:
    • Bridget Daft – female – age 70 – born 1771
    • George Daft – male – age 30 – born 1811 – farmer
    • Thomas Daft – male – age 25 – born 1816 – farmer
    • Lila Hickling – female – age 11 – born 1830
    • Vashti Hickling – female – age 9 – born 1832
    • Thomas Hickling – male – age 7 – born 1834
    • Sarah Brittian – female – age 20 – born 1821
    • William Wiles – male – age 20 – born 1821
    • (all born in County)
  • Household 2:
    • Elizabeth Daft – female – age 65 – born 1776 – ind
    • Hannah Daft – female – age 50 – born 1791 – ind
    • (both born in County)
  • Household 3:
    • John Daft – male – age 35 – born 1806 – wheelwright
    • Elizabeth Daft – female – age 30 – born 1811
    • Thomas Daft – male – age 6 – born 1835
    • Mary Daft – female – age 4 – born 1837
    • William Daft – male – age 2 – born 1839
    • Mary Daft – female – age 50 – born 1791
    • Joseph Smith – male – age 25 – born 1816 – jnr wheelwright
    • Joseph Hopkinson – male – age 14 – born 1827 – apprentice wheelwright (all born in County (except Joseph Hopkinson – no entry))

Census 1851:

  • Household 1:
    • Thomas Daft – head – unmarried – male – age 37 – born 1814 – farmer of 80 acres, employs one labourer – born Hickling
    • Vashti Daft – sister – unmarried – female – age 44 – born 1807 – housekeeper – born Hickling
    • George Hickling – nephew – unmarried – male – age 15 – born 1836 – scholar – born Hickling
    • Harriett Howard – lodger – unmarried – female – age 60 – born 1791 – annuitant – born Nottingham
    • Jane Jackson – servant – unmarried – female – age 21 – born 1830 – servant – born Wymondham, Leics
  • Household 2:
    • Elizabeth Daft – head – unmarried – female – age 75 – born 1776 – landed proprietor
    • Hannah Daft – sister – unmarried – female – age 60 – born 1791 – landed proprietor
    • (both born in County)
  • Household 3:
    • John Daft – head – married – male – age 49 – born 1802 – parish clerk – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Daft – wife – married – female – age 41 – born 1810 – born Kinoulton
    • Thomas Daft – son – male – age 16 – born 1835 – servant – born Hickling
    • Mary Daft – daughter – female – age 14 – born 1837 – Tambourer – born Hickling
    • William Daft – son – male – age 12 – born 1839 – scholar – born Hickling
    • John Daft – son – male – age 9 – born 1842 – scholar – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Daft – daughter – female – age 6 – born 1845 – scholar – born Hickling
    • Robert Daft – son – male – age 3 – born 1848 – born Hickling

Census 1861:

  • Household 1:
    • Thomas Daft – head – unmarried – age 47 – grazier – born Hickling
    • Vashti Daft – sister – housekeeper – age 54 – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Goodson – servant – age 20 – born Watnaby
  • Household 2:
    • Hannah Daft – head – unmarried – female – age 72 – born 1789 – independent – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Doubleday – relation – unmarried – female – age 26 – born 1835 – [?] – born Clawson, Leics
W0417a Cricket team 1863
W0417a Cricket team 1863
  • Household 3:
    • John Daft – head – married – male – age 59 – born 1802 – wheelwright & parish clerk – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Daft – wife – married – female – age 51 – born 1810  born Kinoulton
    • John Daft – son – unmarried – male – age 19 – born 1842 – Ag Lab – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Ann Daft – daughter – unmarried – female – age 16 – born 1845 – tambourer – born Hickling
    • Robert Daft – son – male – age 13 – born 1848 – scholar – born Hickling

Census 1871:

  • Household 2:
    • Main Street
    • Hannah Daft – head – unmarried – female – age 82 – born 1789 – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Ann Daft – servant – unmarried – female – age 26 – born 1845 – born Hickling
  • Household 3:
    • Brewhouse Yard (linked to Smithfield (now Bridegate) Lane?)
    • John Daft – head – male – age 69 – born 1802 – wheelwright & parish clerk – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Daft – wife – female – age 61 – born 1810 – born Kinoulton
    • Robert Daft – son – male – age 23 – born 1848 – wheelwright – born Hickling

Census 1881:

  • Household 3:
    • No street address – this is the next to last entry for Hickling; next entry page records Kinoulton.
    • George Harriman – head – married – male – age 38 – born 1843 – baker & grocer – born Clifton, Nottm
    • Elizabeth Harriman – wife – married – female – age 36 – born 1845 – born Hickling
    • Alice Harriman – daughter – single – female – age 3 – born 1878 – born Hickling
    • John William Harriman – son – single – male – 7 months – born 1881 – born Hickling
    • Eliza Clark – servant – single – female – age 21 – born 1860 – born Hickling
    • Elizabeth Daft – mother-in-law – widow – female – age 71 – born 1810 – born Kinoulton
  • Household 4:
    • John G Hopkinson – head – married – male – age 50 – born 1831 – saddler grazier – born Hickling
    • Sarah Hopkinson – wife – married – female – age 50 – 1831 – born Nottingham
    • Elizabeth Hopkinson – daughter – single – female – age 25 – born 1856 – born Nottingham
    • Elizabeth Daft – niece – single – female – age 25 – born 1856 – born New Lenton, Nottingham
    • Richard Copley – apprentice – single – male – age 15 – born 1866 – born Hickling
W0432a Tennis Old Rectory 1920s
W0432a Tennis Old Rectory 1920s; Edith Daft is on the front row, second from the left.

Census 1891/1901/1911 and 1939 Register:

  • No entries for the Daft family in Hickling.
  • (1939 Register: there are 27 entries for the family in Nottinghamshire; Keyworth, Wymeswold, Stanton-on-the-Wolds, Normanton-on-the-Wolds, Bingham, Radcliffe-on-Trent and one in Leics; Wymeswold).
  • However, Edith Daft was a pupil teacher at the school in 1926 and members of the family are recorded at village weddings and social events through these later years (see Wadkin Archive)

Daft family Wills:

A number of Daft family Wills survive:

  • HNLHG Wills index
  • The National Archives also hold 3 Wills (see below)
    • NatArchives – Abstract of Will of Robert Daft, Yeoman of Hickling (1806)
    • NatArchives – Will of George Daste, Yeoman of Hickling (1657)
    • NatArchives – Will of Robert Daste, Yeoman of Hickling (1550)
  • Robert Daft’s Will of January 1686 has been transcribed in The Scrapbook of Hickling (Wadkin)

This gallery is from the Wadkin Archives

Extracts from the Wadkin Archives:

(Maggie’s Memories) “Mr Robert Daft. To me as a child was always an old man, he was Church Warden until his death. Mr Daft rode a tricycle, and always wore a bowler hat. He was a widower, had one son married who died of consumption, his daughter-in-law and granddaughter stayed on at Hickling a number of years. Very fond of following the Hunt, Mr daft would ride his tricycle for miles after the hounds, and often rode too fast, in fact he was involved in an accident on his tricycle while following the Fox which was the cause of his death.”

Thank you:

These pages come with our grateful thanks to those members of the team and Daft family members who have put so much time & effort into pulling all the information together; whilst it is always the case that we rely on teamwork and help from visitors to the village and website to build our local history pages, it is particularly the case with such a prominent family as the Dafts.

Unfortunately, we don’t currently have access to all the research carried out to date but we hope to add to this page overtime and welcome any additional information (if possible, including sources or references) – please use the contact page to get in touch.