Recorded as Elwes, Elwess, Elfes, Elves and possibly others, this is an English medieval surname, but of French origins. Probably introduced at or shortly after the famous conquest of England in 1066, it is a metronymic and derives from a female personal name, in this case 'Eloise'. In its original spellings it is recorded as Heluis or Helois, but is ultimately from the pre 7th century Old German name 'Heilwidis'. This is or rather was, composed of the elements 'heil', meaning sound or healthy, and 'widis', which transles literally as 'wide', but almost certainly had some transposed meaning of a more personalised nature. In England the personal name is first recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 in the county of Norfolk, whilst a century later the Pipe Rolls of the county of Gloucestershire in 1160 record Heilewisa Extranea as being a landowner. The development of the surname includes William Helewys in the Subsidy Rolls of Cornwall in 1297, Thomas Helwys in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire in 1379, and Thomas Ellwes who appears in the Friary Rolls of Yorkshire in 1625. The marriage of John Elves and Margaret Holloway was recorded at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, London, on June 15th 1606. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Helewis. This was dated 1274, in the Essex Hundred Rolls, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England and known as 'The Hammer of the Scots', 1272-1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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