This unusual and interesting surname is of early medieval English origin, and is an interesting example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were originally given with reference to occupation, and to a variety of personal characteristics, such as habits of dress and behaviour. The derivation, in this instance, is from the Middle English "wag(gen)", to brandish, shake, a development of the Olde English pre 7th Century "wagian", with "staff", a staff, rod, from the Olde English "staef"; hence, "Wagstaff", a nickname used to denote a bailiff, catchpoll, beadle, or some other medieval officer of the law who carried a staff, and shook it for effect. A quotation from the medieval writer, Coverdale, reads, "Be not afrayde for the Kinge of the Assirians - he shal wagg his staff at thee". One Robert Waggestaff was noted in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire. The name, with variant spelling Wagstaffe, is now chiefly found in the English Midlands, and in Yorkshire. On May 21st 1565, Thomas Wagstaff and Elizabeth Slater were married at Ecclesfield, Yorkshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the Wagstaff family is a silver shield with two black bends raguly. A black staff couped and raguly erect emerging out of a gold ducal coronet forms the Crest. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Waggestaf, which was dated 1219, in the "Curia Regis Rolls of Leicestershire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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