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Biltcliffe Family Information


So far we have two stories:-
A paragraph in the Parish Register of Kirkburton (published1902) reads:-

"Bilcliff is a homestead two miles south-west of Penistone and three miles south-east of the boundary of Kirkburton parish in the township of Hepworth. In the Ordnance map the name is given as Belle Clive."

There are gravestones in Penistone churchyard where the surname is followed by "of Billcliff". A modern Ordnance Survey map at a scale of 1:25,000 shows the farm of Lower Belle Clive at National Grid Reference SE219015, not far from the A628 and just south of a minor road.

Alternatively, one book on names suggests the origin as “Billa’s Cliff” where “Billa” is a Saxon name.

Literacy before 1850 was not that high. Consequently the spelling was set by the cleric who wrote the entries in the parish register or the clerk who recorded a legal transaction. When the curate was replaced, the spelling might change. In some cases the writing is ambiguous.

One example is that “Billcliffe” was written with a loop on the first “l” but not the second one. This could be taken as an un-crossed “t”. Two badly written “l” s can look like “n” or “nt” and the tendency to slur names soon leads to changes. The 'T' seems to have come from the curate at Cumberworth.

We can be sure that most people now called Bilcliff, Billcliff, Bilcliffe, Billcliffe, Biltcliff and Biltcliffe are related. Biltcluff is very probable. Bintcliff and Bintcliffe are also linked as most occurrences of Bintliff and Bintliffe.

On Tyneside Bilcluff, Bilclough, Bilcleugh, and Bilclugh are less sure. Some people moved there from West Yorkshire but we cannot yet link many of them directly. However, "Bilclough" is common after 1800 and rare before so it appears that "Bilcliff" is the earlier spelling.

Where are we?
Most Biltcliffes were in West Yorkshire before about 1850. There were some in the London area and in Surrey and some on Tyneside. We moved into the Manchester area in the early 19th century.

One family migrated to New Zealand in the 1880’s and another went to Connecticut., USA. They have spread to Pennsylvania, Tennessee and North Carolina. About twenty years ago we met a young Biltcliffe from Queensland, Australia so there must be at least one family there.

Genealogy Tips
Everyone makes mistakes, including us! Check everything if you are serious. Even original sources can be wrong. One Marsden family were called “Biltcliffe” in 1861 and 1881 but “Bentley” in 1871! Several families were "Billcliffe" or "Bilcliff" around 1800 and Bilclough by 1901.

In the case of British Census information now available on-line, be particularly careful. The enumerators spelled as best they could if the people were illiterate. They also made mistakes such as spelling surnames different ways on consecutive lines of one family and occasionally describing daughters as sons and vice versa. They were particularly prone to writing “Bi” as “Be”. Then the transcribers have produced their own variants such as “Bildippe” , “Bilchppe”, "Rildiff" and “Billaleffe”, as well as “Bellcliff”.

The IGI is usually accurate but has some oddities such as “Hannah Herd” for “ Hannah Ward”


Cumberworth Parish Registers

Our transciptrion of entries from the Registers of Cumberworth, West Yorkshire from 1666 through to 1864 using the microfilm copies of the Bishops’ Transcripts held in York and then checked against the original now held at Wakefield Record Office.

Download PDF of Extracts


Penistone Parish Registers

Entries from the Registers of Penistone, West Yorkshire. Transcribed them from the original parish registers held at Wakefield Record Office. The original is in a poor state but a copy was made in the 19th century, which shows some parts were illegible then.

Download PDF of Extracts



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