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

Where did the English Clifton family come from? 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?

Clifton is a name that first reached England following 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]


It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Clifton are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Clifton include 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] In Nottinghamshire, "Gervase de Clifton, living in the fifth of John, is the patriarch of this honourable family, who took their name from the manor of Clifton, which was the inheritance of Sir Gervase Clifton, in the ninth of Edward II." [2] Clifton Hall is a country house that dates back to the 11th century and was held by the Clifton family until the mid 20th century. In 2008, the new millionaire owner, Anwar Rashid, and his family left the house and stopped paying the mortgage because they believed it was haunted. The property was then repossessed by the bank and at the time of writing is still up for sale.


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.


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


Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried 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


  • Richard R. Clifton (b. 1950), federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Chester Victor Clifton Jr. (1913-1991), Major General in the United States Army, aide to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Jeffrey Chad Clifton (b. 1976), American offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers
  • Mark Clifton (1906-1963), American science fiction author and businessman
  • Lucille Clifton (1936-2010), American poet and educator from Buffalo, New York
  • Mr. James Irvine Clifton (1916-1941), Australian Paymaster Lieutenant (S) from Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking
  • Bill Clifton (1916-1963), nicknamed "Canada Bill", Canadian jazz pianist who worked with Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, Woody Herman and Paul Whiteman, one of the first musicians to make a long playing record, his "Piano Moods" in 1948
  • Helen Clifton (b. 1948), British Salvation Army Commissioner, wife of the 18th General of The Salvation Army
  • Bernie Clifton, British comedian and entertainer
  • Pete Clifton (b. 1962), British media executive, former head of BBC News Interactive



  • A Genealogy of the Clifton, Leaton, Rourke, and Secord Families by Richard Lee Secord.
  • Our Clifton Ancestors and Their Descendants by Nell M. Wright.


  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. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  2. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  5. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  6. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  10. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 24 September 2015 at 13:56.

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