Cleff History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
- Origins Available:
The surname Cleff 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 Cleff 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.
Early Origins of the Cleff family
The surname Cleff was first found in Shropshire and Cheshire. The latter county "in the hundred of Northwich, is Clive, from whence their ancestor Warin assumed his name in the time of Henry II. About the reign of Edward II the family removed to Huxley, also in Cheshire, Henry de Clive having married the co-heiress. " 
The Shropshire branch claim descent from the village and civil parish so named. "James Clive with the heiress of Styche, of Styche, they settled in Shropshire at that place, which is in the parish of Moreton-Say, and has remained uninterruptedly in the Clive family." 
Henry de Cliff (d. 1334), the English judge, "is first mentioned as accompanying the king abroad in May 1313; and on 11 May 1317, as a master in chancery, he had charge of the great seal at the house of the Lord Chancellor, John de Sandale, Bishop of Winchester. There is another master in chancery in Edward II's reign of the same name, probably a brother. " 
Important Dates for the Cleff family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cleff research. Another 138 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1725, 1774, 1767, 1558, 1514, 1522, 1523, 1522, 1529, 1526 and 1532 are included under the topic Early Cleff History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Cleff Spelling Variations
There are relatively few surnames native to Wales, but they have an inordinately large number of spelling variations. Early variations of Welsh surnames can be explained by the fact that very few people in the early Middle Ages were literate. Priests and the few other literate people were responsible for recording names in official documents. And because most people could not specific how to properly record their names it was up to the individual recorder of that time to determine how a spoken name should be recorded. Variations due to the imprecise or improper recording of a name continued later in history when names originally composed in the Brythonic Celtic, language of Wales, known by natives as Cymraeg, were transliterated into English. Welsh names that were documented in English often changed dramatically since the native language of Wales, which was highly inflected, did not copy well. Occasionally, however, spelling variations were carried out according to an individual's specific design: a branch loyalty within the family, a religious adherence, or even patriotic affiliations could be indicated by minor variations. The spelling variations of the name Cleff have included Cliffe, Cliff, Clive, Cleeves, Cleave, Cleaves and many more.
Early Notables of the Cleff family (pre 1700)
Prominent amongst the family during the late Middle Ages was William Clyffe (d. 1558), English divine, educated at Cambridge, where he graduated LL.B. in 1514, was admitted advocate at Doctors' Commons on 16 Dec. 1522, graduated LL.D...
Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cleff Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Cleff migration to the United States
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 Cleff:
Cleff Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
- John Cleff, who arrived in New York City, New York in 1919 aboard the ship "Cretic" from Liverpool, England 
- Alfred Cleff, aged 34, originally from Elberfeld, Germany, who arrived in New York in 1921 aboard the ship "George Washington" from Bremen, Germany 
- ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
- ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
- ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J64Q-4Z8 : 6 December 2014), John Cleff, 15 Sep 1919; citing departure port Liverpool, arrival port New York City, New York, New York, ship name Cretic, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
- ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J6NS-GTL : 6 December 2014), Alfred Cleff, 27 Sep 1921; citing departure port Bremen, arrival port New York, ship name George Washington, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).