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Updated June 9, 2019

Family name origins & meanings

  • South German and Swiss German (also Näff) : variant of Neff.
  • Altered spelling of Knaf, from the Low German form of Knabe ‘boy’, ‘journeyman’.
  • By 1776, more than twenty families named Näff, Naff, or Neff had come to PA from Germany. Progenitors of Brethren Naff or Neff families comprise four groups. Brothers Francis and Johann Heinrich Neiff (Neff) were Swiss Mennonites who fled first to Alsace and then to Lancaster Co., PA, prior to 1715. Both had prominent descendants. Dr. John Henry Neff, a physician, probably a descendant of one of these two, settled in Shenandoah Co., VA, about 1750. Henry Neff and his wife joined the Conestoga congregation in PA on 24 April 1748. He was minister of Codorus in 1770. Brothers Jacob and Rudolph Naff arrived in Philadelphia on 11 September 1749, on the Priscilla and settled at Germantown, PA. Sebastian Naff came from the Swiss-German border. He was followed by his brother, Jacob, who arrived in Philadelphia on the Dragon on 26 September 1749. In 1782 Jacob settled in Franklin Co., VA, and was joined there in 1793 by Sebastian. Descendants who moved to the Midwest before the Civil War changed their name to Neff; those who remained in VA or moved to TN retained the form Naff.

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