Recorded in the spellings of Raft, Roft, Rafter, Raftiss and Wrafter, this may be an English or possibly Irish surname. If English it is derived from the pre 7th century Norse Viking word 'raftr' meaning a roof made of sloping beams, and hence was occupational for a roofer or possibly residential for a person who lived in what would have been a lavish dwelling by the standards of the medieval period. In Ireland it is sometimes claimed that it originates as a derivation of the popular clan name O' Raferty, and that in the registers of County Mayo, upto the 20th century the recordings are interchangeable.As few people before late Victorian times could do much more than write their name, it probably did not greatly effect the small communities of those times how the name was spelt. However our research clearly indicates that the name was never recorded as O' Rafter, which does suggest that the origin was not Irish Gaelic at all, but an English settler name. However there are no satisfactory link recordings proving the matter either way. Surprisingly the various popular dictionaries of surnames seem to omit the name altogether. Early examples of recordings include Thomas Raghtor, a burgess of the city of Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1518, and in England Valentyn Roft at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, in 1619, and William Raft at St Andrews Holborn, in the city of London, in the year 1706. Amongst the interesting recordings is that of Ignatius Rafter. He is recorded 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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