Recorded in many forms as shown below, this is an English medieval surname. It is one however whose origins may lie overseas. It probably originates from the French word "saffre" introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. If so it could be occupational and describe a grower of herbs particularly saffron, or a nickname for a man who enjoyed his food! Another suggestion is that the origin is pre 7th century Norse Viking from the name"Saefogl" meaning sea bird. If so 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 much later, first appearing in the 13th Century (see below). It has developed a wide range of spellings said to include Safe, Saffe, Safell, Saffell, Saffill, Saffle, Safhill, and Saffer. Early recordings include examples such as Robert Sefoul in the Hundred Rolls of Oxford in 1279; and John Safoul in the Assize Court Rolls of Essex in 1376. Later examples are those of Isaac Saffole recorded at Little Baddow, Essex, on April 1st 1569, Thomas Safe who married Mary Jordan at St Botolphs Bishopgate, on February 16th 1589, Johyn Saffer who married Margaret Hooke at St Dunstans in the east, Stepney, on January 11th 1623, 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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