This interesting surname derives from the Old English pre 7th Century "stif" meaning stiff, rigid or inflexible and originated as a nickname 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). One, Robert Stife, is 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; and Alicia Stiff and Josephus Guarinova were married at St. Peter Paul's Wharf, on May 5th 1625. A coat of arms granted to the Stiff family consists of a shield divided by an embattled chevron. The upper half depicts two silver estoiles (star with six points) on a black field and in base two red tilting spears in saltire on a silver background. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Stife, which was dated 1273, Hundred Rolls of Wiltshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, "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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