Recorded in several forms including Stife, Stiff, and the diminutives Stifel, Stiffel, and Stiffell, this is a surname of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It derives from the ancient word "stif", which does mean rigid or inflexible, and as such it originated as a medieval nickname and later surname, for someone who had difficulty in movement or in bending. The term was also used in a transferred sense of character (generally in the approving sense "resolute" or "steadfast") from the 12th Century, and this use may lie behind many examples of the surname. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century, (see below), whilst Robert Stife was noted in the Hundred Rolls of Wiltshire (1273). Recordings of the surname from the London church registers include; Rebecca, daughter of Edmund Stiff, who was christened on October 12th 1572, at St. Dunstan, Stepney; on July 25th 1621, the marriage of Faith Stiff and John Palmer took place at St. Margaret's, Westminster; Alicia Stiff and Josephus Guarinova were married at St. Peter's, Paul's Wharf, on May 5th 1625, whilst Sarah Stiffell was christened at St Leonards Shoreditch, on August 27th 1798. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Stife, which was dated 1273, in the Hundred Rolls of Wiltshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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