This unusual name 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. The nicknames were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, or to habits of dress and occupation. The surname Wagstaffe, chiefly found in the English Midlands and in Yorkshire, originated as an occupational nickname for a bailiff, catchpoll, beadle or some other medieval officer of the law who carried a staff, and shook it for effect. The derivation is from the Middle English "wag(gen), to brandish, shake, a development of the Olde English "wagian", with "staff", a staff, rod, from the Olde English "staef". 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, and a Thomas Wagstaffe of Warwickshire was entered in the Oxford University Register in 1585. A Coat of Arms granted to the Wagstaffe family of Derbyshire in 1611, is silver two black bends raguly, the lower one couped at the top. A black staff couped and raguly in pale, emerging out of a gold ducal coronet is on 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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