Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Clifford Name
Clifford Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is a locational or habitational last name meaning “of Clifford”, parishes in dioceses of Hereford, Gloucester, and Bristol, as well as a township in the parish of Braham, county Yorkshire, England, and a place in county Devon, place names which were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD (a survey of England and Wales dictated by the William the Conqueror) as Cliford and Clifort. The name derives from the Old English word clif, meaning a slope, steep bank, or cliff and ford, meaning a ford, a place where a river is crossable, and hence literally translates to “the ford at the cliff”. This family came to England from France with William the Conqueror in the eleventh century and were surnamed FitzPons at that time, having first settled in Herefordshire. The family lived at Clifford Castle located near the River Wye, which was a castle constructed on a cliff overlooking a ford on said river by William Fitzpond in 1070 AD. The family was also associated with Hopton Castle, of which which author Samuel Lewis writes in his 1848 book A Topographical Dictionary of England: “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”. In Ireland, it is sometimes an Anglicized spelling of the Irish surname O’Clumhain.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Clifforth, Clifforde, Clyfford, and Clyfforth.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Clifford ranks 1,486th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following seven states: Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho, and South Dakota.
The surname Clifford frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (531st), Scotland (1,002nd), Wales (519th), Ireland (292nd) and Northern Ireland (870th). In England, it ranks highest in counties Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Ayrshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in Glamorganshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Kerry. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in county Fermanagh.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,737th), New Zealand (865th), Australia (460th), and South Africa (2,323rd).
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “The Cliffords of Bobbing were an ancient Kentish family who held the manor of Shorne during the 15th century; they were descended from the Herefordshire Cliffords of Clifford Castle, who are still represented in the county of Gloucester”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
Walter de Clifford was documented in the Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire in 1182 AD. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists three bearers of this surname: Margaret de Clifford (Oxfordshire), Roger de Clifford (Wiltshire), and John de Clyfford (Gloucester). The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists two bearers of this last name: Johannes de Clyfford and Isabella de Clyfforth. An early baptism involving this surname was Edward, son of John Clifford, at St. James Clerkenwell in London in 1566 AD. An early marriage involving this surname was Matthias Clifford to Jane Tibballs in London in 1616 AD.
Clifford Family Tree & Clifford Genealogy
The following is a discussion of five different noble, royal, landed, or aristocratic families bearing this last name.
Clifford of Frampton
The lineage or ancestry of this branch of the Clifford family tree begins with Nathaniel Winchcombe, Esquire of Frampton, England, son of Nathaniel Winchcombe and Anne Bell, born in 1757. He assumed the surname and coat of arms Clifford by royal license in 1801 upon his marriage to Mary, daughter and co-heir of John Clifford of Frampton, with whom he had five issue as follows: Henry Clifford, Catherine Elizabeth, Maria (married Reverend Powell Colechester Guise, Rector of Craike), Charlotte Anne (married Purnell Bransby Purnell of Stancombe Park), and Rosamund. He died in 1817 and was succeeded by his son Henry. This Henry was an Esquire of Frampton, county Gloucester, England (modern day Great Britain or United Kingdom), was born in 1785. In 1808, he married, Elizabeth, daughter of John Wallington of Peers Court, and had the following issue with her: 1) Henry John (married Marianne Phelps, had children named Henry James, Walter John, William, Edward Arthur, George, Edith Elizabeth, Constance Mary, and Catherine Mabel), 2) Walter Charles, 3) William, 4) Reverend Edmund (married Sarah Matilda Audley Hall of Brighton), 5) Frederick (married Anna Maria Smith Tiley, had issue named Frederick, Henry Clifford, William Vernon, Rose, and Constance Caroline), 6) Reverend John (married Georgina Frances Cripps of Farm Hill), 7) Elizabeth, 8) Mary Anne, 9) Charlotte, 10) Catherine, and 11) Constance. He died and succeeded by his grandson Henry in 1867. This Henry James Clifford was an Esquire of Frampton, county Gloucester, England, born in 1840. In 1865, he married Annie Frances, daughter of Reverend Henry Green, and had five children with her as follows: Henry Francis, Lilian Annie, Evelyn Mary, Edith Katherine, and Mabel Constance. The Clifford Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Clifford Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Chequy azure and or, on a bend gules three lions passant of the second. Crest: A hand proper holding a fleur-de-lis or. Motto: Dulcis amor patriae. The family seat was Frampton Court, Stonehouse, county Gloucester, England, in modern day Great Britain or the United Kingdom.
Clifford of Perristone and Llantilio
The Clifford genealogy begins with William Morgan, son of Sir William Morgan of Tredegar and Elizabeth Wintour, who married a woman named Jane, having a son with her named Richard. This Richard Morgan married Eleanor, daughter and co-heir of Henry Probert of the Argoed and Pantglas, having a son with her named Richard as well. This son Richard married Miss Abigail Phelps and had a son with her named William. This William Morgan, Esquire, assumed the surname of Clifford through the hill of his cousin, Thomas Clifford, and he became William Morgan Clifford. He married Eliza Maria, daughter of Richard Lewis of Llantilio, and had a son with her named Morgan. Morgan married Sophia, daughter and co-heir of Jonathan Willington of Rapla, and had a son with her named Henry. Henry Morgan-Clifford was an Esquire of Perristone, county Hereford and Llantilio, county Monmouth, was a Colonel of the Monmouthshire Militia, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant, and Member of Parliament who was born in 1806. In 1834, he married Catherine Harriett, daughter of Joseph Yorke of Forthampton Court and Catherine Cocks, and had two children with her: Henry Somers Morgan (born 1836) and Marian (married Honorable James Fitz Waler Butler, son of Lord Dunboyne). The Clifford armorial bearing (mistakenly called the Clifford Family Shield by some) is blazoned as follows: Quarterly: 1st and 4th, chequy or and azure, a fess gules, for Clifford; 2nd, or, a griffin sergeant sable, for Morgan of Tredegar; 3rd, per pale sable and azure three fleur-de-lis argent for Probert. Crest: A griffin sergeant sable. Motto: Semper paratus. They were seated at Perristone near Ross, Scotland, and Llantilio Corssency, county Monmouth, Wales, both located in modern day United Kingdom or Great Britain.
Clifford of Chudleigh
The Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, Charles Oswald Hugh Clifford, of Devon, also a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, was born in 1887 and as a Captain of the 5th Bn. Devon Regiment who served in World War I. He succeeded his father as the 11th Baron in 1943. In 1917, he married Dorothy, daughter of Alfred Joseph Hornyold, and had a daughter with her named Agnes Mary (married Lieutenant Robert Weathered Stallybrass of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, had children with him). In 1940, he secondly married Clare Mary, daughter of Captain Jasper Graham Mayne of Gidleigh Park, Chagford, the grand-daughter of Sir Frederick Weld of Chidcock. The lineage or ancestry of this family traces back to Sir Lewis de Clifford, Ambassador to France in 1391 AD during the reign of King Richard II of England, who married Eleanor, daughter of John, Lord Delawarr, and had a son and daughter with his. He died in 1404 and was succeeded by his son William. This William Clifford married Eleanor, daughter of Sir Arnold Savage of Bobbing Court, Kent with whom he had issue named Lewis and John. The line of Lewis went extinct. The younger son, John, had a son named Thomas. Thomas was of Borscombe and he in turn had a son and heir named William. William was also of Borsbombe and he had a son named Henry. Henry married a member of the Hungerford family of Downe Omney, and had a son with her named Antony. This Anthony Clifford, of Borscombe, married Anne, daughter and co-heir of Sir Peter Courtenay of Ugbrooke, and had three sons with her. His youngest son was Thomas Clifford who inherited Ugbrooke and married Amy, daughter and heir of Hugh Steplehill of Bremble, and had four daughters and two sons with her, the sons named Hugh and Thomas. He died in 1634 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Colonel Hugh Clifford of Ubrooke, born around 1603. He married Mary, daughter of Sir George Chudleigh, Baronet of Ashton, and had sons with her named Thomas and George. He died in 1639 and was succeeded by the elder son Thomas. Sir Thomas Clifford, Knight, 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, was born in 1639. He held numerous positions and was elevated to the peerage in 1672. He married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of William Martin of Lindridge, and had seven sons and eight daughters with her. Lord Clifford was reconciled to the church of Rome prior to the Restoration. He died in 1673 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Hugh. Hugh, 2nd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, was born in 1663 and married Anne, daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Preston of Furness, and had several sons and daughters (became nuns) with her, including: 1) Thomas (married Charlotte Maria Livingstone, Countess of Newburgh in Scotland, having issue with her named Anne and Frances), 2) Hugh (3rd Baron), 3) Elizabeth (married William Constable, 4th Viscount Dunbar and later Charles Gregory Fairfax, Viscount), 4) Anne (married George Cary of Tor Abbey), and 5) Amy (married Cuthbert Tunstall, assumed the surname Constable). He died in 1730 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Hugh. Hugh, 3rd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, was born in 1700 and married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Blount of Blagden, and had children with her as follows: Hugh (4th Baron), Thomas (married Barbara, daughter of James, Lord Aston, had son Thomas and daughter Lucy among other issue), and Mary (married Sir Edward Smythe, 4th Baron of Eshe and Acton Burnell).He died in 1732 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Hugh, 4th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, who was born in 1726. In 1749, he married Lady Anne Lee, daughter of George Henry, Earl of Litchfield, and had four children with her as follows: Hugh Edward Henry (5th Baron), Charles (6th Baron), Robert Edward, and Thomas Edward (married Henrietta Philippina, Baroness de Lutzow, had three daughters named Laura Maria, Mary, and Henrietta Maria). He died in 1783 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Hugh Edward Henry, 5th Baron. The line continues down for several generations before arriving at Charles Oswald Hugh Clifford, 11th Baron, mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. The Clifford Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Clifford Family Crest) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Chequy, or an azure, a fesse, gules. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet, or, a demi-wyvern, rising, gules. Supporters: Two wyverns, purpure. Motto: Semper paratus. They were seated at Ugbrooke Park, Chudleigh, county Devon, England. They resided at Lawell House in Chudleigh.
Clifford of Flaxbourne
The lineage of this family traces back to George Lambert Clifford, son of Thomas, son of 3rd Lord Clifford, who was born in January 1779. In 1812, he married Mary, daughter of Walter Hill Coyney of Weston Coyney, having seven sons and three daughters, including Mary Lucy (Prioress of the Convent at Atherstone) and Sir Charles (1st Baronet). Sir Charles Clifford,1st Baronet, Speaker of the House of Representatives, New Zealand, was born in 1813. He was knighted in 1858 and created a Baronet in 1887. In 1847, he married Mary Anne, daughter of John Hercy of Cruchfield House, and had five children with her as follows: 1) Sir George Hugh Charles (2nd Baronet), 2) Sir Walter Lovelace (4th Baronet), 3) Charles William (Justice of the Peace for Salop, married Mary Eliza Chichester and had a son with her named Charles Aston, and secondly married Sicele Agnes de Trafford and had issue with her named George Gilbert Joseph, Walter Francis Joseph, Sir Lewis Arthur Joseph, Roger Joseph Gerard, Agnes Mary Annette, and Rosamond Mary Clare), 4) Francis Charles (married Fanny Dora Charlton of Chilwell Hall and later Mrs. Geraldine McKean Coventry), and 5) Mary Lucy (married Arthur John Moore of Tipperary). He died in 1893 and was succeeded by his eldest son, George. This Sir George Hugh Charles Clifford, 2nd Baronet, was born in 1847 and married Mary, daughter of Sir John Lawson of Brough Hall, and later Janet, daughter of James Burnett of Nelson, New Zealand, and later Helen Franes, daughter of Reverend James Dennis. He had the following children: Charles Lewis (3rd Baronet), Beatrice Mary (married George Ranald MacDonald), Mary Edith (married Henry Bruce Douglas), and Helen Mary (married Joseph A. Sapio de Belmonte). Sir George died in 1930 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles. Sir Charles Lewis Clifford, 3rd Baronet, was born in 1885 and was a Lieutenant Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry. He died in 1938 and was succeeded by his uncle, Walter. This Sir Walter Lovelace Clifford, 4th Baronet, was born in 1853, and in 1883, married Catherine, daughter of Edward Bath of Bryn-y-Mor, and had issue with her as follows: Catherine Mary (married Roland Richards and later William Herbert Wallis), Bertha Mary (married Lieutenant Commander Ian C. Shirriff Hilton of the Royal Navy), and Mary Lucy (married Alf Christoffer Brustad, son of Aska Brustad of Norway). He died in 1944 and was succeeded by his nephew. He died in 1896 and was succeeded by his nephew: Reverend Sir Lewis Arthur Joseph Clifford, 5th Baronet, of Flaxborune, in Marlborough, New Zealand, born in 1896 and served in World War II. Sir Lewis was in the Holy Orders of the Church of Rome. The Clifford Coat of Arms (erroneously called the Clifford Family Crest by those unfamiliar with heraldry and genealogy) is blazoned as follows: Chequy, or and azure a fesse gules. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet or, a wyvern rising, gules. Motto: Semper paratus.
Other Clifford Pedigree and Family Trees
The earliest known ancestor of this family was Hrolf Ragnvaldsson, also known as Rollo, The Dane, Duke of Normandy, who was born around 842 AD in Maer, Jutland, Norway. The following is a pedigree from him:
Guillaume, or William I, Duke of Normandy, Longsword (Normandie, France in 900 AD)}
Richard I, The Fearless (Fecamp, Seine-Maritime, France in 933 AD)
Guillaume I “Comte d’Hiémois et d’Eu (Normandy France around 970 AD)
Pons FitzWilliam (Normandie, France around 1000 AD)
Pons FitzPons (Normandy, France around 1034 AD)
Richard “Lord of Cantref Bychan” FitzPons (born in Lahnyndhry Castle, Wales, in 1080 AD)
Walter I, Baron Clifford, Lord of Cantref Bychan (Clifford Castle, Herefordshire, England, 1113 AD). This Walter married Margaret Toeni and had the following issue: Henry, Rosamund, Lucia (de Saye), Amicia, Richard, Robert, Roger, Simon, Hugh, William, and Walter. The following is a pedigree beginning with his son Walter:
Walter II, Baron Clifford (born in Clifford Castle, Hay, England around 1160 AD)
Baron Roger Clifford (born in Clifford Castle, Herefordshire around 1189 AD)
Baron Roger Clifford (born in Tenbury, Worcestershire, England around 1221 AD)
Roger II Clifford (born in Clifford Castle, England around 1242 AD)
Sir Robert, 1st Lord Clifford, 1st Lord of the Honour of Skipton (born 1276 AD)
Robert, 3rd Lord (born in Clifford, Herefordshire in 1305 AD)
Sir Roger, 5th Lord (born in Brougham, county Westmorland, England in 1333 AD)
Thomas, 6th Lord (born in Brougham Castle, Westmorland, Cumbria around 1363 AD)
John Clifford, 7th Lord (born in Appleby, England around 1389 AD)
Sir Thomas, 8th Lord (born in Westmorland around 1414)
Sir John, 9th Lord Clifford, Blackfaced Clifford, The Butcher (Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire, 1435)
Sir Henry (or Harry), 10th Lord (Skipton, Yorkshire, 1454)
Henry, 11th Lord of the Honour of Skipton, 1st Earl of Cumberland (Earl, Cumberland, 1493)
Sir Henry, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, 12th Lord of Skipton (Skipton, Yorkshire, England, 1517)
Sir George, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, 13th Lord Skipton (Brougham Castle, England, 1558)
Francis Clifford (Skipton, 1584 AD)
George Clifford was born in Arnold, Nottinghamshire, England around 1585. He went to colonial America and settled in Boston, Massachusetts 1644. He married a woman named Elizabeth and had a son with her named John. This John Sr. was born in born in the same town in 1614. He married three times: Sarah Godfrey, Elizabeth Wiseman, and Bridget (last name unknown). Prior to his death in New Hampshire, he had the following issue: John Jr., Israel, Hannah (Maloon), Elizabeth, Mehetabel, Elizabeth (Basford), Esther (Stanley), Isaac, and Mary. His son John Clifford Jr. was born in Hampton, New Hampshire prior to 1646. He married Sarah Godfrey and had issue with her as follows: John III, Sarah (Scribner), Deborah (Welch), Mehitible, Jacob Sr., Joseph Sr., and Zechariah. His son Jacob Sr. was born in Hampton, Rockingham, NH in 1679. He married Elizabeth Mayhew Allen and had six children with her as follows: Hannah (Sanborn), Mary (Luce), Sarah (Dunham), John, Elizabeth (Dolberry), and Jacob Jr. His son Jacob Clifford Jr. was born in the same town in 1715. He married Bathsheba Skiff and had a son with her named John. This John was born around 1774. He married Elizabeth Smith and had a son with her named Benjamin. This son Captain Benjamin was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1772. He married Achsah Wade and had five children with her as follows: Mary Ann (Greene), Joseph Peck, Fanny Eliza, John Henry, and Caroline Achsah. His son John Henry Clifford was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1809 and he became the 21st Governor of Massachusetts. He married Sarah Parker Allen and had the following issue with her: Ruth, Mary, Anna, Edward Everett, Robert Winthrop, Charles Warren, Ellen, Walter, and Arthur. His son Walter was born in New Bedford, MA in 1849. He married Harriet Perry Randall and had a daughter with her named Hilda who was born in 1883 and married John Weiss Stedman in 1908. She died in 1975.
Early American and New World Settlers
Marie Clifford, age 25, came to New England aboard the Susan & Ellin in 1635. Olliver Clifford, age 18, came to Virginia aboard the Primrose in July 1635. The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions one George Clifford of Boston, Massachusetts, a member of the artillery company in 1644, who had a son named John who was born two years later. Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Cave Clifford (Virginia 1635), Susana Clifford (Virginia 1705), and Andrew Clifford (Philadelphia 1746). In Canada, one of the earliest settlers with this name was John Clifford who came to Nova Scotia in 1829. In Australia, one of the earliest bearers of this last name was Thomas Clifford, a convict from London, England who came aboard the Anson in 1843, settling in Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania). In New Zealand, Alphonzo Charles Clifford came to Flaxburn in 1840.
Early Americans Bearing the Clifford Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains one entry for this surname:
1) Quarterly 1 and 6: Chequy or and azure on a fess gules three cinquefoils [argent]; 2: Gules a chevron or between three hounds’ heads argent; 3: Per fess azure and gules a lion rampant (argent?) within a bordure or; 4: Argent 3 crosses crosslet; 5: Per pale gules and azure three fleurs-de-lis argent. Crest: a griffin rampant. Motto: Semper paratus Bookplate H. M. Clifford. English?
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) do not contain an entries for this surname.
I have identified four Clifford family mottoes:
1) Semper paratus (Always prepared)
2) Dulcis amor patriae (The love of one’s country is sweet)
3) Desormais (Hereafter)
4) Virtus mille scuta (Virtue equals a thousand shields)
We have 22 coats of arms for the Clifford surname depicted here. These 22 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Clifford surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Sir Bede Edmund Hugh Clifford (1890-1969) who was a New Zealand diplomat who served as the 24th Governor of Mauritius from 1937-1942 and the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago from 1942-1947, 2) Admiral Sir Augustus William James, 1st Baronet (1788-1877) who was a British Royal Navy officer born in France, 3) Sir Charles Clifford, 1st Baronet (1813-1893) who was born in Mount Vernon, Lancashire, England and became the 1st Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives from 1854-1860, 4) Clark McAdams Clifford (1906-1998) who was an American lawyer who became the 9th Secretary of Defense during the Johnson Administration, born in Fort Scott, Kansas, 5) Douglas “Cosmos” Clifford (1945) who was born in Palo Alto, California who was a drummer and founding member of the popular rock bank Creedence Clearwater Revival, 6) Grahame Clifford (1905-1984) who was an English actor and singer born in Lancashire known for his roles in operas, 7) Major General Sir Henry Hugh Clifford (1826-1883) who was born in Irnham Hall, Lincolnshire and served in the Crimean War, Anglo-Zulu War, and Second Anglo-Chinese War, 8) Sir Hugh Charles Clifford (1866-1941) who was the 24th Governor of British Ceylon, born in Roehampton, London, 9) John Robert Clifford (1848-1933) who was the first African American attorney in West Virginia, a civil rights pioneer who was a founding member of the Niagara Movement (predecessor of the NAACP), and 10) Linda Clifford (1948) who was an American singer and actress from New York City who was known for hits such as “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “Bridge over Troubled Water”.