This interesting and unusual surname is a contraction of Jolliffe, which derived from the Middle English or Old French "jolif" or "joli" meaning "merry" and "lively" and was originally given as a nickname to one of cheerful disposition. Perhaps the word ultimately derives from the Old Norse "jol" a midwinter festival when people celebrated the gradual lengthening of the days. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century (see below). One Walter Jolyf appears in the "calendar of letter books for Bedfordshire", dated 1281, and an Alicia Jolyff in the 1379 "Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire". In 1415 a John Joly was entered in "The Register of the Freeman of York City". The modern surname can be found as Joliffe, Jolley, Jollie, Jollye and Joly, while the contractions of the name include Jelfs and Jelphs. Among the sample recordings in London is the christening of Job, son of Job and Mary Jelfs, on December 19th 1742 at St. Mary's, St. Marylebone. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Jolyf, which was dated 1279, "The Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "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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