Recorded in many forms as shown below, this is an English medieval surname. It is one however whose origins of which there are at least three, may lie overseas. Firstly it may originate from the French word "saffre," a medieval nickname for a glutton, or secondly from the French word "salf." This translates as "safety" but does not seem to have a logical use as a surname, whilst thirdly it may be a fused form of "saefogl". This was a Norse word translating as "sea bird." It specificaly referred to the cormorant, held in great esteem for its fierce and vicious temperament, and having much in common with the Vikings. As a personal name Saefogl is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 for the county of Hampshire. The surname is later, first appearing in the 13th Century (see below). It has developed a range of spellings and these include Safe, Saffe, Safell, Saffell, Saffill, Saffle and Safhill. Early recordings include examples such as Robert Sefoul in the Hundred Rolls of Oxford in 1279; John Safowel in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Essex; John Sefughel in 1332 (Sussex), and John Safoul in the Assize Court Rolls of Essex in 1376. Later examples are those of Isaac Saffole ecorded at Little Baddow, Essex, on April 1st 1569, Thomas Safe who married Mary Jordan at St Botolphs Bishopgate, on February 16th 1589, and Henry Saffell christened at Great Wallham, on April 24th 1757. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Seful. 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 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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