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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the Welsh Clift family come from? What is the Welsh Clift family crest and coat of arms? When did the Clift family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Clift family history?

The surname Clift is derived from the Old English word "clif," which means cliff, rock, or steep descent. It is thought to have been a name used for someone who lived near a sloping cliff or the bank of a river. As such, the surname Clift belongs to the class of topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees.

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The Welsh have an extremely large amount of spelling variations of their native surnames to their credit. The earliest explanation for the preponderance of spelling variations is that when Welsh surnames were in Welsh and accordingly were difficult to translate into English. It was therefore up to the priest or the scribe taking the official records to determine how the spoken name was to be made literal. As time progressed, the old Brythonic names of Wales were recorded in English, which was especially problematic since the English language had extreme difficulty recording the highly inflected sounds of Cymraeg. Spelling variations were, however, also carried out according to an individual's design: a branch loyalty within the family, a religious adherence, or even patriotic affiliations could be indicated by spelling variations of one's name. The spelling variations of the name Clift have included Cliffe, Cliff, Clive, Cleeves, Cleave, Cleaves and many more.

First found in Herefordshire, where they held a family seat from early times and their first records appeared on the early census rolls taken by the early Kings of Britain to determine the rate of taxation of their subjects.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clift research. Another 275 words(20 lines of text) covering the years 1725, 1774 and 1767 are included under the topic Early Clift History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Clift Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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During the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the people of Wales journeyed to North America to find a new life. They made major contributions to the arts, industry and commerce of both Canada and the United States, and added a rich cultural heritage to their newly adopted societies. A look at the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Clift:

Clift Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Benjamin Clift, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682
  • Ben Clift, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1683

Clift Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • lames Clift, who arrived in Virginia in 1718
  • Wombwell Clift, who landed in Virginia in 1737

Clift Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Charles Clift, aged 21, landed in New York, NY in 1855
  • Agnes Clift, aged 29, who arrived in America, in 1895

Clift Settlers in the United States in the 20th Century


  • Wm. T. Clift, aged 45, who arrived in America from London, in 1900
  • Robert Wallis Clift, aged 21, who arrived in America from Cornwall, England, in 1907
  • James Clift, aged 48, who arrived in America from Doncaster, England, in 1909
  • George H. Clift, aged 25, who arrived in America from Stoney Stanton, England, in 1911
  • Benjamin Bertie Clift, aged 15, who arrived in America from Mousehole, England, in 1912


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  • Edward Montgomery "Monty" Clift (1920-1966), American four-time Academy Award nominated film and stage actor
  • Harlond Benton "Darkie" Clift (1912-1992), American Major League Baseball third baseman who played from 1934 to 1945
  • Eleanor Clift (b. 1940), American political reporter, television pundit and author
  • Denison Clift (1885-1961), American screenwriter and film director
  • Wallace Bruce Clift Jr. (b. 1926), American author on the field of psychology of religion
  • Jack Clift (b. 1955), American composer and music producer
  • David Horace Clift (1907-1972), American librarian and former chief executive of the American Library Association (ALA) from 1951 to 1972
  • Joseph Wales Clift (1837-1908), American politician, U.S. Representative from Georgia
  • Brigadier Frederick Alexander Clift (b. 1908), Senior Canadian Officer in Indo- China (1961-1962)
  • Charmian Clift (1923-1969), Australian writer and essayist

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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: In cruce glorior
Motto Translation: I glory in the cross.

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  1. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  2. Thirsk, Joan ed. Et. Al. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  3. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  4. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  5. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  6. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  7. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  9. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  10. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  11. ...

The Clift Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Clift Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 25 July 2014 at 13:54.

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