MacGiffen History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
The distinguished surname MacGiffen emerged among the industrious people of Flanders, which was an important trading partner and political ally of Britain during the Middle Ages. As a result of the frequent commercial intercourse between the Flemish and English nations, many Flemish migrants settled in Britain. In early times, people were known by only a single name. However, as the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. One of the most common classes of surname is the patronymic surname, which was usually derived from the first name of the person's father. Flemish surnames of this type are often characterized by the diminutive suffix -kin, which became very frequent in England during the 14th century. The surname MacGiffen is derived from Giff, a pet form of the personal name Geoffrey. This pet form is supplemented by the diminutive suffix -on or -in.
Early Origins of the MacGiffen family
The surname MacGiffen was first found in North Ayrshire where the Barony of Giffen was in the parish of Beith in the former District of Cunninghame. Giffen Castle is today in ruins but the castle was home to the Lordship of Giffin, which included the Baronies of Giffen, Trearne, Hessilhead, Broadstone, Roughwood and Ramshead dating back to the 15th century. It fell into disrepair soon after 1726 and finally collapsed in 1838.
Further to the south, "the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire (1327) and Warwickshire (1332) contain at least 40 surnames [with the] -en [suffix.] "  By example, Peter and Rose Geffen were listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Warwickshire in 1332. Willelmus Gyffon was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379. 
The McGuffin or MacGuffin variant is an interesting one. There are two known uses of the name and in both cases, the reason for its use is unknown.
First, MacGuffin or McGuffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues that has been made popular by Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas and Yves Lavandier. The name MacGuffin was first coined by the English screenwriter Angus MacPhail (1903-1962.)
Secondly, MacGuffin is a block cipher created in 1994 by Bruce Schneier and Matt Blaze at a Fast Software Encryption workshop.
Early History of the MacGiffen family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our MacGiffen research. Another 124 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1710, 1837, 1910, 1640 and are included under the topic Early MacGiffen History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
MacGiffen Spelling Variations
Flemish surnames are characterized by a large number of spelling variations. One reason for this is that medieval English lacked definite spelling rules. The spellings of surnames were also influenced by the official court languages, which were French and Latin. Names were rarely spelled consistently in medieval times. Scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to specific spelling rules, and people often had their names registered in several different forms throughout their lives. One of the greatest reasons for change is the linguistic uniqueness of the Flemish settlers in England, who spoke a language closely related to Dutch. The pronunciation and spelling of Flemish names were often altered to suit the tastes of English-speaking people. In many cases, the first, final, or middle syllables of surnames were eliminated. The name has been spelled Giffin, Giffen, Geffen, Giffan, Giffon, Geffan, Geffon, Giffines, Giffins, Giffans, Giffons, Whiffen, Whiffin, Wiffin, Wiffen, McGiffen and many more.
Early Notables of the MacGiffen family (pre 1700)
More information is included under the topic Early MacGiffen Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the MacGiffen family to Ireland
Some of the MacGiffen family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 57 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the MacGiffen family
A search of the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name MacGiffen: Mr. Giffen settled in Boston in 1769; Thomas Giffen settled in Jamaica in 1801; Hannah Giffin settled in Pennsylvania in 1771; followed by John Giffin in 1840. In Newfoundland the surname came to be spelled Whiffen and Wiffin, with many family members established at Bonavista. William Wiffen was registered in Bonavista in 1828.
Related Stories +
- ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
- ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)