This most interesting and unusual name is an English surname of Scandinavian origin, deriving from the old Norse personal name "Oleifr", or the old Danish personal name "Olafr", which are composed of the elements "and", god or ancestral and "leifr", relic. The name was very popular among Scandinavians and also became widespread in North Scotland and Ireland, where it gave rise to McAuliffe (Ireland) and MacAuley (Scotland). The McAuliffe's in Ireland are a branch of the McCarthy sept of County Cork.The personal name continued to be popular in the Middle Ages in part as a result of the fame of St. Olaf, King of Norway, who brought Christianity to his country circa 1015. The personal name "Olefus" was recorded in 1221 in the Salop (Shropshire) Court Rolls. The Subsidy Rolls of Sussex mentions a John Olf in 1296 while Adam Olif appears in the Poll Tax Records of Yorkshire in 1379. Sir Joseph Francis Olliffe (1808 - 1869) a physician who was knighted in 1852 was also an assessor at exhibitions 1855 and 1862, having been the physician to the British Embassy in Paris in 1852. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Olef, which was dated 1275, The Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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