Last name: Woolen

This is an ancient surname of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It derives from the words 'woh-landa' and is topographical for a person who lived at 'the curved (woh) lands'. The precise early meaning is uncertain, but it probably referred to a land holding which climbed a bank or hill. However it is possible that it referred to lands cut from the virgin forest in a curve, to avoid a marsh or other obstacle. In its many and varied spellings which range from Woolland and Wooland through Woolen to Woollam and Woolham, the name is recorded widely, although rarely in any quantity. Curiously for such a 'country' surname, the earliest recordings seem to be in London! This suggests that early name holders may have been dispossessed from their lands either through changes in agricultural practices or from some civil problem such as plague, and they then fled to London where they were given the name of their former home as their (probably) new surname. In addition to the topographical explanation there were several now 'lost' medieval villages from which the name could have developed such as 'La Woweland' which in 1235 was situated in Hertfordshire and Woolens Copse, formerly in Cambridgeshire. Examples of the surname recordings include Samuel Woolens of Yorkshire in the Friary Register of 1637, and John Woolland in the Hearth Tax Rolls of 1674 for the county of Suffolk. A later recording is that of Elizabeth Wolland who married William Thorogood at All Hallows Church, London Wall, London, on Boxing Day, 1798, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1794 - 1815. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Woolland, which was dated May 14th 1558, who married Marie Nevill at St Mary Colechurch, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good Queen Bess' , 1558 - 1603. 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.

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