This name SHERRIFFS was a name for a sheriff a word derived from the Old English word SCIR (shire) an administrative district (the original sense being 'sphere' meaning office, duty. In some cases the name may also have arisen as a nickname. In England before the Norman Conquest, the sheriff was the king's representative in a county, responsible for every aspect of local administration. Gradually the duties of the office became restricted, until by the 19th century they were more or less confined to the administration of a county court and prisons, this being something of a sinecure. In some counties the office was hereditary, a practice which continued in Westmorland until 1850. Similar officials were found in Scotland in the Middle Ages, and from the 16th century in Ireland. Occupational surnames refer directly to the particular trade or occupation followed by the first bearer of the name. These occupations can be divided into classes such as agricultural, manufacturing, retailing and so on. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today. Smiths, millers and wrights were indeed specialists, but even they would normally have their own smallholdings for growing crops and keeping a few animals. Others were simply designated as the servant of some person of a higher social status, as a maid or parson. Robert Schirraff was recorded in Aberdeen in the year 1398, and is probably the same Robertus Schirafe who was a juror on an inquisition there in 1400. Andrew Shirrefs published his 'Poems' chiefly in the Scottish dialect in 1790. Early instances in England include Robert le Shirreve, who was recorded in County Suffolk in the year 1273, and John Schiref was recorded in County Northumberland in the same year. Johannes Schyref of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Alex Sherrif and Mary Chilcot were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1786. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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