Recorded as Jelf, Jelfs, Jolif, Joliff, Joly, Joliffe, Jolly, Jollie and others, this is an English surname and probably of French origins. If so it is derived from the word "joli" meaning merry and lively and was originally given as a nickname to one of cheerful disposition, or perhaps given the robust Chaucerian humour of the time, the absolute reverse! Another possible origination is from the pre 7th century Old Norse word "jol" meaning a midwinter festival when people celebrated the gradual lengthening of the days.Either way the name has been around a long time, the surname being first recorded in the latter half of the 13th century (see below). Other early examples inclkude Walter Jolyf in the "calendar of letter books for Bedfordshire", dated 1281, and Alicia Jolyff in the Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire in 1379. In 1415 John Joly was entered in the Register of the Freeman of York City", whilst amongst the recordings in the surviving registers of the city of London is the christening of Job, the son of Job and Mary Jelfs, on December 19th 1742 at St. Mary-le-Bone, Marylebone. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Jolyf. This was dated 1279, in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as The Hammer of the Scots, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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