|Our Family Origins.
It is the general consensus of most family historians today that the Ridgdill family,
including variations such as Ridgdell, Ridgell, etc., originated in Yorkshire, England.
Researchers have found recorded evidence of our surname there, in one variation
or another, dating back to the 1500's.
It was during the Middle Ages that people began to realize the importance of having
a surname to distinguish themselves from another person with the same name. Up
until that time, a person was usually only known by one name. Eventually, surnames
became a necessity in England due to the growth of societies, and the development
of documentation. It became a common practice to use place names for surnames.
They were derived from the name of the place where one resided, or from a
description of the place. Other surnames originated from a person's trade, their
father's name, or perhaps some personal or physical characteristic. However the
surname came to be, it was then passed on to their children, and the surname
There have been several theories concerning the origin of the Ridgdill name. My
research has led me to conclude that our name is based on the simple fact that it
did originate in Yorkshire; Northern Yorkshire to be exact. Yorkshire County is
located in Northern England. It was originally composed of three subdivisions
called ridings. In the British Isles, since Anglo-Saxon times, a riding is traditionally
a subdivision (especially in three) of a county. Thus, the names North Riding, West
Riding, and East Riding.
Each of the ridings was then further subdivided into smaller units called dales. The
term "dale" comes from a Nordic/Germanic word for valley. The Yorkshire Dales is
an upland area of Yorkshire. The area is so called because it is a collection of river
valleys, or dales, and the hills and mountains in between them. There are valleys all
over Yorkshire, but only the more northern Yorkshire valleys are included in the term
"dales". Many of the people living in the hills and mountains between the valleys, or
dales, of Northern Yorkshire, lived on or near ridges. Therefore, it is my conclusion
that our surname originated from those living at, or near, the ridge of the dale,
hence the name Ridgedale.
Why are there so many variations of names today? Among the humbler classes of
English society during the Middle Ages, and especially among the illiterate,
individuals had little choice but to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks, and clergy
who officially bestowed upon them new versions of their surnames. The problem
continued when our ancestors first came to America, and more of a problem with
the formation of our new country, and our government began taking the federal
So, however your particular variation of our family name came to be, be proud of it.
It's just a spelling. The most important thing to remember is that we're all family.
And, what a wonderful family it is!
On August 15, 1620, John and Alice Ridgdale, along with their religious
counterparts known as the Pilgrims, set sail from Southampton, Hampshire,
England, on board the Mayflower. The Pilgrims were from the East Midlands
region of Great Britain, and were sailing to America seeking religious freedom.
They were accompanied on the Mayflower by such notable figures as William
Bradford, William Brewster, John Alden, John Carver, and Miles Standish. It is a
misconception that all the Mayflower passengers were Pilgrims. In fact, of the 102
chosen to travel on the Mayflower, only 28 of the adults were members of the
congregation. Other members of the congregation would sail from Leiden in the
Netherlands, aboard the Speedwell, and meet them at Southampton.
So, originally, there were two ships making the journey together. The Speedwell set
sail from the Netherlands on July 12, 1620, with 35 members of their congregation,
with their leaders William Bradford and William Brewster. At Southampton, they
joined up with the Mayflower Pilgrims, and other Englishmen who had hopes of
bettering their lives in the new world. However, the Speedwell began taking on
water, causing the two ships to put in at Plymouth, Devon, England, where the
Speedwell was sold. The ships master, some of the crew, and the passengers
transferred to the Mayflower for the trip across the Atlantic. The Mayflower set sail
from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620.
The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists had been authorized to
settle. As a result of stormy weather and navigational errors, the vessel failed to
make good its course, and headed instead towards Cape Cod, more than 500
miles northeast of their destination.
The patent for their settlement in the New World, issued by the London Co., was no
longer binding since they didn't sail to Virginia, and some among the passengers
desired total independence from their shipmates. To prevent this, it was decided a
brief contract, later to be known as the Mayflower Compact, should be drafted
promising cooperation among the settlers. It was ratified by majority rule, and
signed near Cape Cod, on November 11, 1620, by 41 adult male passengers.
John Ridgdale was among the signers.
The document reads as follows: .
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects
of our Soveraigne King James by the grace of God, of Great Britaine,
Franc, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, e&.
Haveing undertaken, for ðe glorie of god, and advancemente of the Christian faith
and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the
Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ðe
presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather
into a civill body politick, for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ðe
ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just &
equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall
be thought most meete & convenient for ðe generall good of ðe Colonie, unto
which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we have
hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ðe 11 of November, in the year of
the raigne of our soveraigne Lord King James, of England, France, & Ireland ðe
eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom. 1620. (Note: The above
paragraph appears to have numerous misspellings, but this is actually the way it was written.)
On November 21, 1620, the Mayflower rounded the end of Cape Cod and dropped
anchor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Mass. The exhausting voyage had
taken sixty-six days and claimed two lives. The Mayflower remained anchored for
the next few weeks while a party from the ship explored Cape Cod in search of a
satisfactory site for the colony. During this time, they suffered an outbreak of a
contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
When it ended, there were only 53 persons still alive.
On December 21, 1620, an area having been selected, the passengers
disembarked from the Mayflower near the head of Cape Cod and founded
Plymouth Colony, the first permanent settlement in New England.
John and Alice Ridgdale both died from sickness during the first spring, there
legacy being that of belonging to that first group of Pilgrims who started the annual
tradition of Thanksgiving.
Many people who migrated from England to the New World in the early 1600's,
came as indentured servants. Some indentured servants were given land and
money after their term was over. I believe William Ridgdell, also found as Ridgell,
came over as an indentured servant, because he was aboard a ship full of males in
their twenties, the age group most indentured servants fall into. Also, he signed an
oath of allegiance for a period of one year, which was usually the term for
The merchant ship Bonaventure set sail from London, England, on January 2,
1634. William Ridgdell, age 24, was listed as one of 169 passengers. The ships
Secundo Januarii, 1634
Register of names "of all ye passengers wch passed from ye Porte of
London for whole yeare endinge at Christmas 1634 - under written are to
be transported to Virginia, inbarqued in ye Mercht. BONAVENTURE,
JAMES RICCOSTE, Mr., bound thither, have taken the oath of allegiance.
(Note: Mr. stands for Master).
William Ridgdell, who landed in Virginia in 1634, is believed by most family
historians to be the progenitor of most Ridgdill, Ridgdell, Ridgell, and other
variations, in America today.