Many medieval English surnames are descriptive nicknames which mean what they say, this, however, is not the case with Goodlif(f)e. In this case, the origination is from a St. Godelive, a Flemish lady, although her name curiously was made up of the Olde English elements "god", meaning "good", and "heofu", dear love. Born at Boulogne in 1045, she was apparently done to death at the order of her husband! However, she was reported as having performed certain miracles, and it would seem that her name travelled to England with the Norman Invaders.It first appears as a personal baptismal name as early as 1066 in the Domesday Book for Cambridge as "Godlif", and later in the 1197 Rolls of Kent. Early surname recordings from London include: John Godlyf, who married Dorcas Kethin at All Hallows Church, London Wall, on February 8th 1563; Elizabeth Goodliff, who married John Allen at St. James' Church, Duke's Place, on October 28th 1695; and Robert Goodliffe, a christening witness at St. Mary's Church, St. Mary-le-Bone, on June 21st 1795. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maud Goodleef, which was dated 1272, in records of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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