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Van Cleef Genealogy and Van Cleef Family History Information

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About the Van Cleef surname

Van Cleefs from Kleve

Anybody with the name 'van Cleef' is, somewhere deep down in his or her ancestry, connected with the German town of Kleve (in Dutch: Kleef, in English: Cleves) just east of the Netherlands. Some could be descendant of the dukes of Cleves. Like Anna van Kleef (1515 – 1557), who became queen of England by her marriage with Henry VIII (as his fourth wife). Others are simply descendants of someone who emigrated 'from Kleve' to, for instance, Antwerp, Amsterdam or Hasselt NL. One of these migrants from Kleve to Amsterdam was the jewish merchant Isaac Hijman (Eizik Chaim) van Kleef, born 1686 in Kleve. He established a dynasty of mostly diamond cutters and salesmen 'van Cleef' in Holland, Belgium and France. One of his most famous descendants is Alfred van Cleef, who combined diamonds and sales by establishing the jeweller 'van Cleef & Arpels' in Paris.

About 1653 a Jan van Cleef (1628), who claimed to be the heir of the dukes of Cleves, emigrated to New Utrecht (Long Island) in America. His original name was Jacob. Probably he also was part of the jewish van Cleefs of the Netherlands. Anyway: he was the founder of the van Cleef–dynasty in the USA. Actor Lee van Cleef was a famous member of that dynasty.

More than 350 members of the several 'van Cleef' and 'van Kleef' families, mostly from Holland, but also from Belgium, Germany and France were killed in german concentration camps like Auschwitz and Sobibor (see The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names of Yad Vashem).