The Midkiff Family


Welcome to the History of

The Midkiff Family

"Midkiff" is most likely a corruption of "Metcalf(e)", which has a possible origin in an Old English term "mete-cealf".  A mete-cealf was a calf fattened up for eating.  In medieval times, the term would probably have been used as a (somewhat insulting) nickname to describe someone who was as fat as a prize calf, or who was a cattle herder.  This last description is very appropriate, since there are Midkiff descendants who continue to cattle ranch to this day.

My husband's nephew, David Midkiff, is studying Scottish Gaelic.  He has looked into some other possible meanings of our surname:  "'Midkiff’ was probably derived from ‘Metcalf’, but it could also have old Celtic roots transliterated over the years.  The Celtic languages are divided into Goedelic (Gaelic - Irish, Scots, and Manx) and Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish, and Breton).  The root ‘mid’ in Goedelic denotes a negative aspect of physical, social, emotional, or natural expressions.  Some examples are 'wrongdoer', 'careless', or 'unfriendly', depending on the root word it precedes.  If you transliterate ‘kiff’ into modern Gaelic, it becomes ‘cath’ which means 'battle', 'fight', 'wrath', or 'drift like snow (aimlessness)'.  In both Celtic branches, the roots ‘mid’ and ‘cath’ denote negativity and conflict.  Although ‘midcath’ has no literal meaning in either Goedelic or Brythonic branches of the Celtic languages, the roots combined could imply several meanings:  'foul battle', 'rough fight', 'vulgar wrath', or 'unfriendly drifter (wanderer)'."

Yet another Midkiff researcher, Doug Midkiff, states,  "It is speculated that the name 'Midkiff' is either English or Welsh, and is derived from the word 'midden' meaning 'meadow' and 'kiffen' meaning 'ridge', so Midkiffs were people who lived in a meadow near a ridge.

My husband's primary Midkiff ancestor is Franklin Preston Midkiff, of whom we have very little information.  He was born around 1800, possibly in Kentucky, although there is supporting evidence that shows he may have been born in western Virginia (now West Virginia).  Franklin owned land in Lincoln County, Tennessee that adjoined property owned by several other Midkiff families who hailed from Virginia.  It is thus likely that he was related, but how is not clear, since vital records were not kept at that time and place.

Around the year 1825, Franklin married Ellender "Nellie" Oliver in Lincoln County, Tennessee (that area is now Moore County, Tennessee).  Nellie was a transplant from Rockingham County, North Carolina.  Together they had at least seven children, as shown on the 1840 Federal Census:  Sarah "Ann" Midkiff (1826 - 1912); a girl born c. 1825 - 1830; Elizabeth "Betsey" Carrie Midkiff (1830 - 1912); William "Willie" Franklin Midkiff (1833 - 1920); John Rufus "J.R." Midkiff (1835 - 1909); another girl born c. 1836 - 1830; and Charles "Charlie" Anderson Midkiff, Sr. (1839 - 1919).  The unnamed girls probably died young, as there is no mention of them in published biographies of their siblings.  It is believed that Franklin died around 1839, and Nellie about ten years later.  Ann was married to John Monroe Hamilton and remained in Lincoln County for the rest of her days.  Around 1854, Betsey and her husband James B. Slavin, Willie and his wife Frances Elizabeth Cole, and their respective children, emigrated to Grayson County, Texas, perhaps to seek their fortunes in the young state.  J.R. and his wife Louisa Maria Cole (sister to Frances) arrived in Grayson County in 1856 - 1857; brother Charlie was definitely there in 1859, when he married Mary Emeline Wilbourn.  Grayson County later divided and the western half of it became Cooke County; the Midkiffs lived in both counties at various times.

Willie, J.R. and Charlie all served in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (a.k.a. the Civil War, north of the Mason-Dixon line).  Unlike his siblings, Charlie did not remain in Texas after the war.  He apparently had an itchy foot, and continued west with his wife to Butte County, California, by way of Cleveland County, Oklahoma Territory, and Delta County, Colorado.  His grandchildren settled in Western Colorado, Central Idaho and Northeastern Washington...all states where most of his descendants continue to live to this day.  One of Charlie's grandsons took the surname Christian (his mother's maiden name); so there is a large group of Christian family members living in Colorado, who might otherwise have the surname Midkiff.

After spending some time growing up in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), J.R.'s youngest son, Thomas Oscar Midkiff, I, came to Midland County in West Texas in 1895, where he worked on various ranches and cattle drives before finally becoming a rancher himself.  In 1897, J.R. also came to Midland County.  In 1902 he converted one room of his home into a general merchandise store and post office.  He received an official permit from the Post Office Department in 1904.  The tiny community, which also included a schoolhouse located about half a mile away, appeared on Texas maps at that time as "Midkiff, Texas".  In 1906, J.R. sold this home, store and post office, which continued in operation for another four or five years.

In the 1950s, a fourth-class post office was reestablished in the community.  The name Hadacol was suggested (after the famous tonic).  Because a post office named Midkiff had been previously approved for the same area, the townspeople were told they could re-establish that old post office with a lot less paperwork and red tape.  The townspeople agreed, and the Midkiff, Texas post office was re-opened.  Although the new building was located in Upton County rather than Midland County, it was in the same general area as the original post office established by J.R. Midkiff some fifty years earlier. 

There is also a Midkiff, West Virginia (Lincoln County), originally settled, no doubt, by a distant branch of the Virginia Midkiffs.

December 2004:  Mary Lou Midkiff has written a book about the West Texas Midkiff family, titled Midkiff: A Family, Town and Way of Life.  This hardback book traces the history of the Midkiff family and its influence on the Midland, Texas area, along with the history behind the community of Midkiff, Texas.  It contains 100 photos, and is available for pre-publication order here.

The Midkiff Family DNA Project is an attempt to scientifically determine whether (and how) all the Midkiffs in the United States are related. 
Genealogy by genetics (DNA) is being used by many family organizations to determine kinship.  It is now possible to determine how far back you have to go in order to find your most recent common ancestor.  Armed with this knowledge, we have established our Midkiff Family DNA Project with Family Tree DNA, a company that specializes in the use of DNA for genealogical research. The purpose of this project is to break through the brick walls and establish the connection between the various branches of the Midkiff family.

The test is simple and painless.  Your genetic test kit consists of a cheek scraper and a collection tube.  In about five minutes, you will be able to read the instructions and perform a painless cheek scraping.  The effect of using the scraper is about the same as brushing your cheek with a soft bristle toothbrush.  A backup scraper and tube is included to insure that a good sample is obtained by the lab.  They intend that you use them both!

There are two requirements to participate in the DNA project: (1) you have to be male (because only men carry and pass along the Y-Chromosome); and (2) you have to have the Midkiff last name from your father, not your mother.   Only one male needs to be tested from each Midkiff line.  In order to save money, you may wish to check with your kin to make sure that two men from the same line are not being tested.

August 2004:  Three Midkiff men who--to our knowledge--have no known relationship, participated in the Midkiff DNA study.  Their DNA proves that they have a recent common ancestor (apparently someone who lived in the time frame of 1700-1800).  The problem is right now we do not know who this common ancestor is.  Hopefully soon, we will have more Midkiffs joining the project so that we can better determine where the ancestry merges.

The earliest known ancestors of each of the three men who participated were David Midkiff (c. 1769 - c. 1840s), John Midkiff (b. c. 1740)--both born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia--and my husband's ancestor, Franklin Preston Midkiff (c. 1800 - c. 1839) of Lincoln County, Tennessee.  Click on any of these names to see their known descendants (persons known or believed to be living are not listed, in order to protect privacy).

If you are interested in participating in this DNA project, please click here.

At a later date, I will be adding links to AnceStories of my husband's Midkiff ancestors, starting with his grandfather, as well as photos and newspaper links regarding other Midkiff relations.

John Franklin Midkiff, Jr.
1910 - 1957
John Franklin Midkiff, Sr.
1870 - 1926
Charles Anderson Midkiff, Sr.
1839 - 1919
(brief bio and photo)
Franklin Preston Midkiff
c. 1800 - c. 1839

Some of the following sites have information on individuals with whom we have not established a genealogical connection (yet).   We hope to encourage those who may visit this site through these links to participate in our Midkiff Family DNA Project:

My Family Roots from Virginia to West Virginia - Terri L. Smith's Genealogy Site - includes family photos and Midkiff genealogy from Virginia and West Virginia.  To check out Terri's Midkiff ancestry, click on her book at the top of her home page or her InterneTree at the bottom of the page, and do a search for her maternal grandmother, Gretchen Norma Midkiff.

Daniel Mahar's Home Page - includes history of his Midkiff half-siblings' ancestors, who emigrated from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.

The Midkiff Page - a site for fans of actor Dale Midkiff.  If we could get him to join our Midkiff DNA Project, we could figure out if/how we're related to him!  ;-)

Midkiff: A Family, Town and Way of Life - a book by Mary Lou Midkiff, published by Oleo Publishing, is now available for pre-publication order

We need your help identifying photos from the album of Martha Ann "Mattie" Midkiff White (1865 - 1956), daughter of J.R. Midkiff and Louisa Cole.

This page is dedicated in loving memory of Melba Charlene Nixon Midkiff (1919 - 1998) and Betty Lou Midkiff Bryant (1930 - 2000) . . . two ladies who committed a great part of their lives to the research and preservation of the history of the Midkiff Family. 

Clip Art Graphics
(except for gold bars)

Gold Bars and Backgrounds

Backgrounds by Marie

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© Miriam Midkiff, 2004, 2005