Last name: Wolfe
This is a famous Anglo-Irish surname of Norman-French origins! Almost all nameholders have some connection with the conquest of England in 066 by William of Normandy, the name being taken to Ireland in 1170 following Strongbows invasion. What is less certain is why the name was given in the first place. It seems to have been a nickname in that almost all early records include the preposition 'Le', suggesting that the original holders were men (and women) of considerable ferocity and cunning, and this seems to have come down through the ages, the Irish nameholders in particular having provided more than their fair share of soldiers of the British (and sometimes) French Empires. Canon C W Barsley, the eminent Victorian etymologist, suggests that the name refers to a hunter of wolves, and that maybe the case with the first name holder as shown below. Captain George Wolfe of Limerick, who took part in the famous siege of that city in 1690, was the great grandfather of General James Wolfe, the victor of Quebec in 1759. What is certain is that nameholders which include the variant forms Wolfes, Woolf, Woolfe, Woulf, Wulff, Woof, Wooff, etc, have always played a full part in history. Early examples of the name recording include Johm le Wolf of Bedford in 1273, and in the same year Agnes Le Wolf of Huntingdon, perhaps the first feminist! Reyner Wolfe was the papal legate to Ireland in 1570, whilst Stephen Woulf, was the chief of the Irish Exchequer in 1839, and the first catholic to hold the post. Other name holders of importance include Arthur Woolf (1766-1837) who was a master-engineer in Cornwall and held many patents on the development of steam engines, and Peter Woulf (1727 - 1808) who it is said, discovered tin in Cornwall. The Coat of Arms has two black wolves on a silver field, and the crest of a wolf. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Wulf, which was dated 1166, the pipe rolls of the county of Lincoln, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder' 1154 - 1189. 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.
© Copyright: Name Origin Research www.surnamedb.com 1980 - 2015
Want to dig deeper into your family history? Take a look at our page on building a Family Tree
. Or get scientific and enter the exciting world of Ancestral DNA
I would love to get to the bottom of why I have this last name that is spelt so awkwardly!
Your website (optional)
ANDREW WOLFE , LEICESTER, ENGLAND,
Would love to find out more about this name ,
Tom Wolfe - Also Leicester!!!!
Ian the Irishman
Plenty of good info on the name Wolfe. It is a actually a 'Germanic' name, and in its variant spellings such as Welf, can harken back to a ruling dynasty in Germany's south from the Rhineland to Bavaria. Frankish, (Germanic speaking people) rulers, according to old Germanic practice, frequently divided their family counties among the sons of a leader upon their death often with slight name changes etc. One of the oldest cities in Germany, Trier has some interesting 'Wolfen' history!
My families surname used to be Wolfgang till it got shortened in1835.
I always loved my last name, but I always wondered where it came from
I live in USA and have always been told the Wolfe side of my family originates from Germany and they settled mostly in Tennessee and Kentucky hills and a few in West Virginia.
I was always told "Wolfe" was German and Irish