This very unusual surname, of Anglo-Saxon origin, can be either a topographical name for someone who lived on a patch or land thickly grown with woodruff, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "wudurofe" meaning "woodruff", or, it may be a nickname for one who used woodruff as a perfume because of its strongly scented leaves. The name dates back to the late 12th Century (see below), and further recordings include: Robert Woderove (1225), in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset, and Henry Woderoue (1273), in the Subsidy Rolls of Lincolnshire. Variations in the idiom of the spelling include Woodroff, Woodroffe, Woodroof, Woodroofe, Woodrooffe, Woodrough, Woodruffe and Woodrup. John Woodroof was christened on May 7th 1542, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, London, and Mary Woodruff was christened at St. Olave's, Hart Street, also in London, on July 15th 1698. Anne Woodruffe, aged 36 yrs., a famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool to New York aboard the "Fredonia" in April 1846, together with her three daughters, Betsy (8 yrs.), Ellen (5 yrs.), and Sophia (1 yr.), and her son William (3 yrs.). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugo Wuderove, which was dated 1185, in the "Knight Templars List of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 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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