This interesting and unusual name is medieval English, but its origins are from the pre 7th century Norse personal name Anleifr or Olaf, meaning "Gods relic". As to who,m the god was is unclear but nevertheless the name was very popular in Scandinavia in ancient times and became equally popular in the British Isles both through the Vikings and the later Normans, who adopted it as their own. 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 in circa 1015. Early examples of the surname development in England after the earliest recording (see below), include John Olof in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Sussex in 1296, and Adam Olif in the Poll Tax register for Yorkshire in 1379. Amongst the early surviving church register recordings in the city of London are the christenings of two sisters, Grace Oliff on November 17th 1566, and Elena Oliff, March 6th 1568, both at St. Andrews Hubbard. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Olef. This was dated 1275, in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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