Recorded in many forms including Rollo, the usual spelling, as well as Rao, Raol, Rau, and diminutives such as Rollett, Rollitt, Rowlett, and others, this is an Anglo-French surname. It is pre medieval and derives from Rou, Roul and the usual Norman Rolf, ultimately from the Germanic "Hrodwulf". This was a compound with the elements "hrod", meaning renown, and "wulf", a wolf. The name was especially popular among Nordic peoples in the contracted version "Hrolf", and seems to have reached England by two separate channels. This was partly through the Vikings of the 7th century, and partly through its popularity amongst the Normans after 1066. "Rolf" (without a surname) is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, and in 1142, Robertus filius Rouli was noted in Early Northamptonshire Charters. Early examples of the surname in Scotland where it is Rollo, Rollow and Rollock, include John Rollo, cleric of the diocese of Moray in 1373, whilst in France where few records exist before 1792, the majority being destroyed by the Revolutionaries of that year, include Pierre Rao of Gugney-sous-Vaudevent, Meurthe-et-Moselle, on January 10th 1757. A coat of arms associated with the name has the blazon of a gold shield, charged with a chevron between three boars' heads erased blue, all within a bordure engrailed of the second. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Rolle. This was dated 1279, in the "Hundred Rolls of Bedfordshire", 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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