Show ContentsWhiffen History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The distinguished surname Whiffen 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 Whiffen 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 Whiffen family

The surname Whiffen 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.] " [1] 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. [2]

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 Whiffen family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Whiffen research. Another 124 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1640, 1710, 1837, 1890 and 1910 are included under the topic Early Whiffen History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Whiffen 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 Whiffen family

More information is included under the topic Early Whiffen Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Whiffen Ranking

In Newfoundland, Canada, the name Whiffen is the 530th most popular surname with an estimated 87 people with that name. [3]

Ireland Migration of the Whiffen family to Ireland

Some of the Whiffen 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.

Canada Whiffen migration to Canada +

An examination into the immigration and passenger lists has discovered a number of people bearing the name Whiffen:

Whiffen Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Whiffen, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
Whiffen Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Herbert Whiffen was granted land at Little Southern Harbour, Newfoundland in 1838 [4]

Australia Whiffen migration to Australia +

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

Whiffen Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Elisha Whiffen, English convict who was convicted in Essex, England for life, transported aboard the "Emma Eugenia" on 2nd November 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Mr. John Joseph Whiffen, (Wiffen), (b. 1840), aged 26, English shoe maker who was convicted in London, England for 15 years for burglary, transported aboard the "Belgravia" on 4th April 1866, arriving in Western Australia, he died in 1902 [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Whiffen (post 1700) +

  • Frederick J. Whiffen, American politician, Candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles, California, 1915 [7]
  • C. W. Whiffen, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Idaho, 1912 [7]

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. The order of Common Surnames in 1955 in Newfoundland retrieved on 20th October 2021 (retrieved from Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland by E.R. Seary corrected edition ISBN 0-7735-1782-0)
  4. Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  5. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 29th March 2022).
  6. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 30th September 2020). Retrieved from
  7. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, April 22) . Retrieved from on Facebook