This unusual surname recorded in the spellings of Rafter, Raftiss and Wrafter, is Irish. It seems to originate from the popular clan name of O'Raferty, as it seems that in the registers of County Mayo, the spellings are quite interchangeable upto this century. As few people before late Victorian times could do much more than write their name, and it probably did not greatly effect the small communities of those times. It seems that the name was never recorded as O' Rafter, which does perhaps suggest that the origin was not Gaelic but Norman, as the name is quite well recorded in England. However there are no satisfactory recordings proving the matter either way. The earliest known recording is probably that of Thomas Raghtor, a burgess of Kilkenny in 1518. In the census of Ireland in 1659 it is said that Rafter is one of the principle surnames of County Leix, whilst a James Rafter is listed as one of the principal citizens of Kilkenny. Finally in 1713, Ignatius Rafter given as being a "Catholic gentleman of Kilkenny City," had the extraordinary honour for those days, of being licenced to carry "a sword, a gun (?), and a case of pistols". He was literally a walking armoury, although as to why he needed all this protection, is unclear.
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