Clifford History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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 West Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire. Of the three parishes, Clifford Chambers in Gloucestershire is the oldest, dating back to Saxon times when it was known as Clifforda in 932. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 where all were listed, the parishes were registered as either Cliford or Clifort. [1]

Early Origins of the Clifford family

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 (formerly in Gloucestershire.)

Part of the reason there is more than one location so named is that the literally the name means "ford at a cliff or bank" from the Old English words "clif" + "ford." [2]

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." [3]

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." [3]

"[Hopton Castle in Shropshire] was distinguished for its castle, which was given by Henry II. to Walter de Clifford, and which, during the parliamentary war, was garrisoned by the royalists, but after a fortnight's siege was surrendered to the assailants, when most of the garrison were put to the sword, and the governor was conveyed as a prisoner to Ludlow Castle." [3]

Now in ruins, the castle was featured in the British TV series Time Team in 2010 and as of November 2008, the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust has taken ownership.

Early History of the Clifford family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clifford research. Another 157 words (11 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 and printed products wherever possible.

Clifford Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Clifford family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford, also 1st Lord of Skipton (c. 1274-1314), an English soldier born in Clifford Castle, Herefordshire, he became first Lord Warden of the Marches, defending the English border with Scotland; Sir Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland KG (1493-1542), close friend of Henry VIII; Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland (1517-1570); Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, KG (1558-1605), an English peer, naval commander and courtier...
Another 81 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clifford Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Clifford World Ranking

In the United States, the name Clifford is the 1,630th most popular surname with an estimated 19,896 people with that name. [4] However, in Australia, the name Clifford is ranked the 479th most popular surname with an estimated 7,896 people with that name. [5] And in New Zealand, the name Clifford is the 865th popular surname with an estimated 848 people with that name. [6] The United Kingdom ranks Clifford as 562nd with 11,548 people. [7]

Ireland Migration of the Clifford family to Ireland

Some of the Clifford family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 69 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Clifford migration to the United States +

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, who settled in Virginia in 1635
  • Marie Clifford, aged 25, who landed in America in 1635 [8]
  • Caver Clifford, aged 18, who arrived in Virginia in 1635 [8]
  • Oliver Clifford, who landed in Virginia in 1640 [8]
  • George Clifford, who settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1645, member of the Artillery Company
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Clifford Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Susana Clifford, who arrived in Virginia in 1705 [8]
  • Andrew Clifford, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746 [8]
Clifford Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Clifford, aged 27, who arrived in New York in 1800 [8]
  • A C Clifford, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850 [8]
  • John Clifford, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County Pennsylvania in 1852 [8]
  • C Clifford, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1856 [8]
  • Catharine Clifford, aged 30, who arrived in New York in 1864 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Clifford migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Clifford Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Clifford, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1829
  • John Clifford, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1832
  • Mary Clifford, aged 20, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the brig "Thomas Hanford" from Cork, Ireland
  • Timothy Clifford, aged 30, a labourer, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork, Ireland
  • Nelly Clifford, aged 30, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1837 aboard the brig "Thetis" from Cork, Ireland
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Clifford migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Clifford Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Robert Clifford, British Convict who was convicted in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Countess of Harcourt" on 8th April 1821, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • Mr. Joseph Clifford, English convict who was convicted in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Claudine" on 19th August 1829, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1833 [10]
  • Mr. Thomas Clifford, (b. 1811), aged 20, English convict who was convicted in Worcester, Worcestershire, England for life for stealing, transported aboard the "Camden" on 21st March 1831, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1883 [11]
  • Mr. Charles Clifford, (b. 1791), aged 47, English mason who was convicted in Somerset, England for 10 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 25th June 1838, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land), he died in 1839 [12]
  • Thomas Clifford, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [13]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Clifford migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Clifford Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Alphonzo Charles Clifford, who landed in Flaxburn, Middle Is, New Zealand in 1840
  • Charles Clifford, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship George Fife
  • Charles Clifford, aged 37, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" between 1841 and 1850
  • Mary Ann Clifford, aged 30, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" between 1841 and 1850
  • George H. Clifford, aged 2, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoebe Dunbar" between 1841 and 1850
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Clifford (post 1700) +

  • Clark McAdams Clifford (1906-1998), American lawyer and politician, 9th U.S. Secretary of Defense (1968-1969), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Nick Clifford (1921-2019), American construction worker, the last surviving Mount Rushmore carver
  • Reese Francis Clifford III (1942-2018), known professionally as Buzz Clifford, an American pop singer and songwriter, best known for his recording of "Baby Sittin' Boogie" (1961)
  • 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)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Michael Richard "Rich" Clifford (b. 1952), former NASA Astronaut with 665 hours in space [14]
  • John Gary Clifford (b. 1942), award-winning American historian
  • Doug "Cosmo" Clifford (b. 1945), American drummer for the rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • ... (Another 24 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Ernest Clifford, British Stoker, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [15]
Prince of Wales colliery
  • Mr. Joseph Clifford (b. 1851), Welsh coal miner who was working at the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn, Wales on the 11th September 1878 when there was a coal mine explosion; he died [16]
  • Mr. William Clifford (b. 1860), Welsh coal miner who was working at the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn, Wales on the 11th September 1878 when there was a coal mine explosion; he died [16]
RMS Titanic
  • 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 [17]


The Clifford Motto +

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.


Suggested Readings for the name Clifford +

  • The Family Histories of the Cliffords and Rollins by Leslie G. Perry.

  1. ^ Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  5. ^ https://forebears.io/australia/surnames
  6. ^ https://forebears.io/new-zealand/surnames
  7. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  8. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/countess-of-harcourt
  10. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 18th February 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/claudine
  11. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 2nd December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/camden
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 19th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/coromandel
  13. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Anson voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1843 with 499 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/anson/1843
  14. ^ NASA Astronauts Homepage. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Michael Clifford. Retrieved from http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/clifford.html
  15. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html
  16. ^ Entombed in flood and flame (retrieved 3rd August 2021). Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20120603025705/http://www.crosskeys.me.uk/history/prince.htm
  17. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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