This is a variant spelling of a village name which itself has undergone a number of changes. It was a residential surname from the Gatley in Cheshire. In the medieval court rolls of the county the village appears as 'Gateclyve' or 'Gaticlyve' and it is from these spellings that the current surname derives. And derives is the correct description as the forms include Gatcliff, Gatecliff, Gatecliffe, Getcliff, Getcliffe, Gotliff, Gothliff, Gotecliffe and no doubt many others as well! It is often a mystery as to how these variants forms developed, but generally the explanation is that fewer than five percent of the population could read or write before the 19th century, and local dialects were extremely pronounced, to the point of almost being separate languages. In this case despite the many varied spellings the nameholders seem to have stayed near to home, although the surname is quite well recorded in West Yorkshire. The name means 'the bank of the wild goats', from the Olde English and Norse-Viking 'gat-clif'. Examples of the name recordings include Charles Gatliff who married Jane Helsbie at Frodsham, Cheshire, on May 5th 1572, John Gotliffe who married Alice Wainwright at Hale Chapel, Childwall, on September 14th 1641, Johannes Getliffe of Melling by Maghull on February 28th 1676, and Thomas Gotliff, a witness at St Peters, Liverpool on September 28th 1726. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Gytclyff, which was dated 1457, in the Friary Rolls of the county of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry V1, of the House of Lancaster, 1422 - 1461. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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