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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


The history of the Clifford family name begins after the Norman Conquest of 1066. They lived in one of the parishes by the name of Clifford in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire.

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The surname Clifford was first found in Herefordshire at Clifford, a village and civil parish on the south bank of the River Wye which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086 where it was listed as Cliford. Clifford Castle which is located there is an early motte and bailey castle built on a cliff overlooking a ford on the River Wye in 1070 by William Fitzpond. His heir forfeited the lands and castle after and unsuccessful rebellion against the King in 1075. Walter Fitz Richard later took the name of Walter de Clifford after he seized the Castle c. 1162. Walter de Clifford III, grandson of Walter Fitz Richard rebelled against King Henry III in 1233 and was forced to surrender to the king after just a few days of a besiege. He made his peace with the king and led his troops against Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. While the family claim descent from the Herefordshire village, Clifford is a small village in the City of Leeds, West Yorkshire; and Clifford Chambers is a village two miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Both of these locations are ancient in their own right; Clifford, Yorkshire is listed in the Domesday Book and Clifford Chambers dating back to 922 was listed as Clifforda. Part of the reason there is more than one location so named is that the location name means "ford at a cliff or bank" from the Old English words clif + ford. [1] The market-town and parish of Skipton in the West Riding of Yorkshire is or particular significance to the family. The district was still strongly held by the Saxons after the Conquest until Edward II. bestowed the lands to one of his favourites Piers de Gaveston. "Upon the death of Gaveston, the barony of Skipton was granted by Edward II. to Robert, Lord Clifford, whose descendant John de Clifford, taking part with the Lancastrians in the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, suffered an attainder in the reign of Edward IV., who conferred the barony on Sir Wm. Stanley. This attainder, however, was reversed on the accession of Henry VII., when Henry de Clifford, who for nearly twenty-five years had lived in concealment among the fells in Cumberland, was reinstated in his possessions, and created Earl of Cumberland. He held a principal command in the English army at the battle of Flodden-Field; and was succeeded after his death by his son Henry, who, for his signal services in suppressing the rebellion called the Pilgrimage of Grace, received from Henry VIII. a grant of the extensive revenues of Bolton Abbey. The barony continued in the Clifford family till the death of George, the seventeenth Baron of Clifford, and third earl of Cumberland, who died in 1605. The ancient castle, for many generations the residence of the Cliffords, is a spacious quadrangular structure, defended at the angles and on the sides by massive circular towers, with an octangular tower at the extremity of the eastern side, built by the first Earl of Cumberland." [2]

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Clifford, Cliffort, Clifforde, Clifforte and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clifford research. Another 313 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1068, 1274, 1314, 1493, 1542, 1517, 1570, 1558, 1605, 1670, 1630, 1673, 1660, 1672, 1677, 1622, 1698, 1663, 1730, 1700, 1732 and are included under the topic Early Clifford History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 307 words (22 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clifford Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Clifford family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 125 words (9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Because of the political and religious discontent in England, families began to migrate abroad in enormous numbers. Faced with persecution and starvation at home, the open frontiers and generally less oppressive social environment of the New World seemed tantalizing indeed to many English people. The trip was difficult, and not all made it unscathed, but many of those who did get to Canada and the United States made important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers with Clifford name or one of its variants:

Clifford Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • Oliver and Marie Clifford settled in Virginia in 1635
  • Marie Clifford, aged 25, landed in America in 1635
  • Caver Clifford, aged 18, arrived in Virginia in 1635
  • Oliver Clifford, who landed in Virginia in 1640
  • George Clifford settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1645, member of the Artillery Company


Clifford Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Susana Clifford, who arrived in Virginia in 1705
  • Andrew Clifford, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746

Clifford Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • James Clifford, aged 27, arrived in New York in 1800
  • A C Clifford, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • John Clifford, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County Pennsylvania in 1852
  • C Clifford, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1856
  • Catharine Clifford, aged 30, arrived in New York in 1864


Clifford Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Mary Clifford, aged 20, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the brig "Thomas Hanford" from Cork
  • Timothy Clifford, aged 30, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork
  • Nelly Clifford, aged 30, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork
  • Peggy Clifford, aged 28, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork

Clifford Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Thomas Clifford, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • Margaret Clifford arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Isabella Watson" in 1846
  • William Clifford arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Isabella Watson" in 1846
  • Henry Clifford, English convict from Staffordshire, who was transported aboard the "Adelaide" on August 08, 1849, settling in Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia
  • John Clifford, aged 19, a labourer, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "British Empire" in 1850


Clifford Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Alphonzo Charles Clifford landed in Flaxburn, Middle Is, New Zealand in 1840
  • Charles Clifford landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship George Fife
  • Charles Clifford, aged 37, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in 1841850
  • Mary Ann Clifford, aged 30, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in 1841850
  • George H. Clifford, aged 2, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in 1841850


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  • William Clifford (1877-1941), American actor and screenwriter of the silent era who appeared in 170 films between 1910 and 1929
  • Patrick Clifford (b. 1966), American musician, songwriter, and producer of Irish and folk music
  • John Henry Clifford (1809-1876), American lawyer and politician, 21st Governor of Massachusetts (1853-1854), 9th & 11th Massachusetts Attorney General (1849-1853) and (1854-1858)
  • Nathan Clifford (1803-1881), American statesman, diplomat and jurist, 19th United States Attorney General (1846-1848)
  • Mr. George Quincy Clifford (d. 1912), aged 40, American First Class passenger from Stoughton, Massachusetts who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking
  • Clark McAdams Clifford (1906-1998), American lawyer and politician, 9th U.S. Secretary of Defense (1968-1969), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Lieutenant Colonel Michael Richard "Rich" Clifford (b. 1952), former NASA Astronaut with 665 hours in space
  • John Gary Clifford (b. 1942), award-winning American historian
  • Doug "Cosmo" Clifford (b. 1945), American drummer for the rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Thomas Hugh Clifford (b. 1948), 14th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh

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  • The Family Histories of the Cliffords and Rollins by Leslie G. Perry.
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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: Semper paratus
Motto Translation: Always prepared.

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  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  2. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  3. Chadwick, Nora Kershaw and J.X.W.P Corcoran. The Celts. London: Penguin, 1790. Print. (ISBN 0140212116).
  4. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  5. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  6. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  7. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  9. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  10. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  11. ...

The Clifford Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Clifford 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 23 April 2016 at 21:33.

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