There are Mulfords all over the world, mainly in North and South America, Australia, and in England of course. Most if not all Mulfords likely descend from Richard de Mulford (Montfort), of Shropshire and Buckinghamshire, and Roger de Mulford (Molford) of Shropshire and Devonshire, not to be confused with Roger Muleford (misspelled Mulford) of Wiltshire.
Established Mulford tradition in America maintains that the three founding Mulford brothers (William the Planter, John the Judge, and Thomas the Virginian, of Massachusetts and New York, from whom most if not all Mulfords in North and South America descend) were sons of Sarah of Maidstone and Thomas Southcott Mulford of Cadbury in England, son of Roger Molford of Cadbury, son of Wilton Molford of Bishops Nympton whose father also was named Wilton Molford, son of Thomas Molford of Bishops Nympton, son of Roger Molford of South Molton. Research since has proved, from the Visitations of Devon, that a Susan Southcott --having sons "Gilbert" (William), John, and Thomas-- did marry a Thomas Molford from Cadbury (in the Parish of Chulmleigh, County of Devon/Devonshire, England) who was the son of Roger Molford of Cadbury in Chulmleigh, son of William --NOT Wilton-- Molford of Garliford (in the Parish of Bishops Nympton, Devonshire), son of William --again not Wilton-- Molford of Garliford, son of Thomas Molford of Garliford, son of Roger Molford of South Molton, Parish of South Molton, Devonshire.
Very compelling in this tradition are the misspellings. Since anyone seeing actual English records would have known the two Williams were not Wiltons, this tradition predates research in the English records, confirming its authenticity since it still matches so closely what is found in the records. Early Mulford genealogy was recorded in family Bibles, including the Kings Bible given to Thomas Mulford and Mary Gardiner Conklin II (of East Hampton, New York) when they married. This genealogy of course was handwritten, in which ancient form the name William was misread repeatedly as Wilton (with 'iam' being mistaken as 'ton').
One longstanding rule, of history in general and genealogy in particular, is that "Traditions in local communities, passed down the generations by word of mouth usually have their basis in fact, so should not be lightly dismissed." --The Parish Church of Northam, David W. Gale.
Even though it is reported from the Visitations that all the Molford sons died young and childless in England, no bodies ever were recovered. Having joined the Puritan rebellion (given that the American brothers William, John, and Thomas were Puritans) they would have been outcasts in their own family who are revealed as loyalists by the Visitations. The brothers were simply written off as dead, missing probably in some early skirmish between Puritan and Royalist factions.
Closer examination of Mulford tradition reveals, however, that Sarah and Thomas Southcott Mulford (said to have come to America with their sons William, John, and Thomas) were not the same couple as Susan Southcott and Thomas Molford of Cadbury, who died in England according to their own wills, both in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, showing Thomas Molforde of Cadbury died in 1599. Thomas Southcott Mulford was in fact the son of Thomas and Susan Southcott Molford. William, John, and Thomas (sons of Thomas Southcott Mulford) were therefore named after their father and uncles (the sons of Thomas and Susan Southcott Molford who in turn were named after their father and uncles, sons of Roger Molford of Cadbury).
A good number of other clues further confirm the American Mulford line really does descend from the Devonshire Molfords. For instance, the first wife of William Mulford I (of East Hampton, New York) was Sarah Akeres, also spelled Akers, daughter of Thomas Akeres. The Akers or Akeres family, it is well documented, were from Devonshire, in Exeter, not far from South Molton.
Furthermore, William's son Thomas (husband of Mary Gardiner Conklin II) had his own name and son David's name --in both instances-- spelled Molford (with an O, just like the family in Devonshire) on young David's tombstone which can still be viewed at the South End Cemetery in East Hampton, showing that at least in private this line of Mulfords continued calling themselves Molford. Taken together with all the other clues, this very solid piece of evidence positively links these Mulfords to the Devonshire family.
Just like the Mulfords of East Hampton, the Molfords of Devonshire were a family of lawyers, engaged in municipal government, just like the Mulfords of Shropshire. No real evidence supports modern theories that the Mulfords originated anywhere else. The Visitations for example (and sources based on them), though often cited today as contrary evidence, are fragmentary at best and not deemed fully reliable by historians.
Mulford, in the case of the family of Milford or Meleford in Wiltshire (also spelled Muleford), was merely a scribal misspelling which that family itself did not use, and thus the name Mulford proper did not derive from Milford as some suppose. Most if not all Mulfords in fact descend from the Richard de Mulford (Montfort) family of Buckinghamshire, Shropshire, and Devonshire, descendants of Simon de Munford (Montfort), the father of Richard de Montfort (also spelled Moford).
This is shown on the Molford Coat of Arms, in the Duke's coronet --in gold (restricted by English heraldry to persons of close royal descent)-- and by the pure white swans (emblematic, in England, of royalty). In most cases such symbolism is merely decorative and not indicative of descent, since most coats of arms were not authenticated at their inception, but the Molford Arms, unlike most, were authenticated at a very early date, at a time when heraldic prescription was not permitted, and thus the Molford emblems mean exactly what they depict, that the Molfords descend from a Duke of especially high royal status.
The only such Duke ever named Molford (or Moford, as his name then sometimes was spelled) was Simon de Montford the Duke of Narbonne in France and Lord High Steward of England, father of Simon de Munford and grandfather of Richard whose son Edward (grandfather of Roger de Mulford) adopted the new coat of arms (resembling the arms of Buckinghamshire) after the original Montford arms had become defamed in England in the wake of Simon de Munford's rebellion and defeat.
Richard, Simon's youngest son, took not part in his father's revolution and remained loyal to his uncle the King, for which reason Richard's life was spared. It has been assumed, without proof, that Richard died or was killed in childhood, about the same time as his father. This is because, from about that time forward, Richard and his heirs went ordinarily by the more English spelling of their name: Mulford.
In French pronunciation (where the T is silent and the N nasalized) the name Montford or Montfort sounds (at least to English ears) very much like Mulford, as though there were an L in it, and so it came to be spelled. Many French words and names in this way came to be spelled with an L among the English.
Mulford comes therefore from two French words, Mont and fort, meaning "from the mountain fortress," or in other words, "from the castle on the hill." The "ford" in Mulford comes then not from the English word "ford" for a crossing as has been assumed, and thus the Mulfords do not come from a mountain crossing, mule crossing, mole crossing, muddy crossing, sandy crossing, or any other sort of crossing purported by some, but from the castle on the hill --Castle Montfort-l'Amaury to be precise, ancestral home of Simon de Montford and his heirs, just outside Paris, in the Ile de France region (not to be confused with Montfort-sur-Risle, in the Normandy region of France).