This is a famous Anglo-Irish surname of Norman-French origins! Almost all nameholders have some connection with the conquest of England in 066 by William of Normandy, the name being taken to Ireland in 1170 following Strongbows invasion. What is less certain is why the name was given in the first place. It seems to have been a nickname in that almost all early records include the preposition 'Le', suggesting that the original holders were men (and women) of considerable ferocity and cunning, and this seems to have come down through the ages, the Irish nameholders in particular having provided more than their fair share of soldiers of the British (and sometimes) French Empires. Canon C W Barsley, the eminent Victorian etymologist, suggests that the name refers to a hunter of wolves, and that maybe the case with the first name holder as shown below. Captain George Wolfe of Limerick, who took part in the famous siege of that city in 1690, was the great grandfather of General James Wolfe, the victor of Quebec in 1759. What is certain is that nameholders which include the variant forms Wolfes, Woolf, Woolfe, Woulf, Wulff, Woof, Wooff, etc, have always played a full part in history. Early examples of the name recording include Johm le Wolf of Bedford in 1273, and in the same year Agnes Le Wolf of Huntingdon, perhaps the first feminist! Reyner Wolfe was the papal legate to Ireland in 1570, whilst Stephen Woulf, was the chief of the Irish Exchequer in 1839, and the first catholic to hold the post. Other name holders of importance include Arthur Woolf (1766-1837) who was a master-engineer in Cornwall and held many patents on the development of steam engines, and Peter Woulf (1727 - 1808) who it is said, discovered tin in Cornwall. The Coat of Arms has two black wolves on a silver field, and the crest of a wolf. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Wulf, which was dated 1166, the pipe rolls of the county of Lincoln, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder' 1154 - 1189. 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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