This very unusual surname is almost certainly of Olde English origins, and locational. It probably derives from the slightly mystical 'be efre', which described a lonely place, a place where 'elves' were to be found, as in a recording for Berkshire county in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 944 a.d. However this is conjecture, as no absolute proof has been discovered, and there remains a possibility of a continual origin as 'Hifferman', which may be another form, is almost certainly German but found occasionally in the U K. The early rolls are silent on the origin of the name. Nor does the site appear in the list of 'lost' medieval villages issued by the Historical Research Society, although this is not uncommon as at least five thousand surnames are known to derive from sites now wholly extinct. In its modern surname spelling forms the name is recorded as Hiff, Hiffe, Iffe, Ife, and possibly the above mentioned 'Hifferman'. Nethertheless the surname is fairly well recorded from the early 17th century in England, and recordings of the surname taken from early church registers include Thomas Yffe, the son of Thomas, christened at St Botolphs without Aldergate, London, on October 24th 1681, John Ife who married Mary Smith at St Georges church, Westminster, on May 8th 1771, whilst Anthony Hiff was christened at the famous church of St-Mary-Le-Bone, London on March 16th 1794, just in time for the commencement of the twenty years of the Napoleonic Wars. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Hiffe, which was dated February 1st 1680, christened at St Zachary church, London, during the reign of King Charles 11, known as 'The merry monarch', 1649 - 1685. 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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