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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

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

The name Clifton was brought to England in the wave of migration that followed the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Clifton family lived in Lancashire despite the fact that there are numerous places so named throughout Britain. The reason for the popularity of the place name is drawn from the fact that Clifton means "farmstead on or near a cliff or bank," from the Old English words "clif" + "tun." [1] The Bedfordshire local seems to be the oldest as it was recorded as Cliftune in 944. Many are listed in the Domesday Book with various spellings including Clistone (Avon), Cliftone ( Bedfordshire + Nottinghamshire + Buckinghamshire), Cliftune (Derbyshire), Cliftune (Staffordshire), Cliptone (Warwickshire) and so on. [1]

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Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England, as well as the official court languages of Latin and French, also had pronounced influences on the spelling of surnames. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings. The name has been spelled Clifton, Clyfton, Clyftoun, Cliffton, Cliffeton, Clifftown, Cliffetown, Cliftown, Cliftoun, Clifftoun, Clifftone and many more.

First found in Lancashire where the surname was first found at Kirkham, where William de Clifton held ten carucates of land in the 42nd year of Henry III. He was Collector of Aids for the county. His son Gilbert, Lord of Clifton, died in the seventeenth of Edward II. [2]


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clifton research. Another 395 words(28 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1257, 1278, 1368, 1414, 1587, 1666, 1614, 1666, 1626, 1670, 1659, 1612, 1675, 1663, 1686, 1683 and 1686 are included under the topic Early Clifton History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 163 words(12 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clifton Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Many English families emigrated to North American colonies in order to escape the political chaos in Britain at this time. Unfortunately, many English families made the trip to the New World under extremely harsh conditions. Overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the stormy Atlantic. Despite these hardships, many of the families prospered and went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Clifton or a variant listed above:

Clifton Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • Jane Clifton, who landed in Virginia in 1633
  • Richard Clifton, who landed in Virginia in 1642
  • Lady Clifton, who arrived in Virginia in 1648
  • Sarah Clifton, who landed in Maryland in 1650
  • Paul Clifton, who landed in Virginia in 1650


Clifton Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Dr. John Clifton, of London, England, settled in Maine in 1709
  • Hugh Clifton, who landed in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1712-1713
  • Thos Clifton, who landed in Virginia in 1714
  • Thomas Clifton, who landed in America in 1760-1763
  • John Clifton, who landed in New England in 1766

Clifton Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • John Clifton, English convict from Buckinghamshire, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on July 29th, 1823, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia
  • Thomas Clifton, English convict from Northampton, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on October 22nd, 1824, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • William Clifton, English convict from Northampton, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on October 22nd, 1824, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Thomas Clifton arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1849
  • Jesse Clifton arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Simlah" in 1849


Clifton Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Daniel Clifton landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • Richard Clifton landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840
  • Richard Clifton, aged 39, a farm labourer, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Lord William Bentinck" in 1841
  • Margaret Clifton, aged 32, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Lord William Bentinck" in 1841
  • Sarah Anne Clifton, aged 14, a sempstress, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Lord William Bentinck" in 1841


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  • Lucille Clifton (1936-2010), American poet and educator from Buffalo, New York
  • Mark Clifton (1906-1963), American science fiction author and businessman
  • Jeffrey Chad Clifton (b. 1976), American offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers
  • Chester Victor Clifton Jr. (1913-1991), Major General in the United States Army, aide to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard R. Clifton (b. 1950), federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Pete Clifton (b. 1962), British media executive, former head of BBC News Interactive
  • Shaw Clifton (b. 1945), the 18th General of The Salvation Army
  • Geoffrey Clifton -Brown (b. 1953), British politician and farmer
  • Bernie Clifton, British comedian and entertainer
  • Helen Clifton (b. 1948), British Salvation Army Commissioner, wife of the 18th General of The Salvation Army

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  • A Genealogy of the Clifton, Leaton, Rourke, and Secord Families by Richard Lee Secord.
  • Our Clifton Ancestors and Their Descendants by Nell M. Wright.
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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: Tenez le droit
Motto Translation: Guard the Right.

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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. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.

Other References

  1. Cook, Chris. English Historical Facts 1603-1688. London: MacMillan, 1980. Print.
  2. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  3. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  4. 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.
  5. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  7. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  8. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  9. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  10. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  11. ...

The Clifton Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Clifton 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 21 January 2015 at 08:56.

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