This interesting and unusual surname is of Germanic origin, and is a metonymic occupational name for a maker or repairer of wooden vessels such as barrels, tubs, casks and vats. The derivation is from the German "kief(e), kufe", itself coming from the Old High German "kuofa", barrel. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary. The importance of this specialist trade in the Middle ages is borne out by the number of surnames derived from the above source including Kiffe, Kieff, Kief, Kiefer, Kupper and Kupker, cognate with the English Coop(e), Coupe, Cooper, Cupper and Kooper. Recordings of the surname from German Church Registers include the marriage of Maria Kiff to Henrich Swenne at Sankt Clemens Katholisch, Telgte Stadt, Westfalen, on February 2nd 1677, and the marriage of Maria Kiff to Johannes Eluerick, in the same place on April 14th 1695. On March 20th 1742, Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew Kiff, was christened at St. Michael's, Saint Albans, Hertfordshire, a parish which incidentally the name is particularly widespread. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Kiffe, which was dated February 23rd 1588, christened at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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