This interesting and unusual name is of Medieval English and Scottish origin and is a nickname surname for a gentle, timid person, and derives from the Old English pre 7th Century 'ra', and Middle English 12th Century 'Ro', meaning Roe, a female deer. Generally, in the south the name occurs as Roe, or Roo, and in the North as Rae or Ray. A picturesque combination of names appears in St. James Church, Clerkenwell, London, in 1630, when Robert Roe married Elizabeth Hart. In Scotland Rae is an old surname in Dumfriesshire, and there are numerous records of namebearers from as early as 1231, when one Robert Raa, mason, witnessed a charter to the Abbey of Culross. A notable name bearer is one Dr. John Rae, who was an Artic Explorer, and a Gael, born in Orkney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Vlui Ra, which was dated 1095, in the Records of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as the Lion of Justice, 1087 - 1100. 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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