This interesting surname can be of either early medieval English or French Provencal origin. In either case it is a diminutive of the female given name "Olive". The name was first recorded as "Oliva" in the 1207 Curia Regis Rolls of Oxfordshire, and derives as either a feminine equivalent of Oliver, or from the Latin "oliva", olive (tree), the symbol of peace. Olive trees mature slowly, so that in ancient Greece, where olive-oil was used for soap, lamp fuel and cooking-oil, if an invader destroyed the olive trees the region was impoverished for up to twenty years. Only in times of lasting peace could the trees produce their precious fruit; hence, the olive branch was used as a sign of peace. Legend also links the olive branch with Noah and the dove "a symbol of God's reconciliation with man". There were two saints named "Oliva", one the patroness of olive trees. Agnes Olyot is noted in the 1379 Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire. In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings ranging from Ollet, Oylett, Oulet and Oulett, to Olivet, Ollett and Olyett. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the christening of Alice, daughter of John Ollett, on March 11th 1581, at Rushbrooke, Suffolk; the marriage of Christopher Ollyett and Margarett Holton, on July 14th 1619, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, London; and the marriage of Richard Ollett and Jane Jollippe on January 16th 1630, at Caston, Norfolk. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Olivat, which was dated 1324, in the "Liberate Rolls of London", during the reign of King Edward 11, known as "Edward of Caernafon", 1307 - 1327. 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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