This interesting and unusual name is of medieval English origin and is from the Old Norse personal name "Anleifr", or "Olaf", which is composed of the elements "ans", god and "leifr", a relic. The name was a common Scandinavian one and became popular in Northern Scotland and Ireland, both countries receiving Scandinavian Colonists at an early date. During the Middle Ages, the name continued to enjoy popularity partly as a result of the fame of St. Olaf, King of Norway, who brought Christianity to his country (circa 1015). The following examples illustrate the name development after the earliest recording (see below), John Olof (1296, the Subsidy Rolls, Sussex), Adam Olif (1379, the Poll Tax Records). Amongst the records in London are the christenings of two sisters, Grace Oliff on November 17th 1566, and Elena Oliff, March 6th 1568, both at St. Andrew, Hubbard. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Olef, which was dated 1275, in the "Subsidy Rolls", Worcestershire, 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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