The surname of WAGSTAFF was a nickname given to an official who was officious 'the wagstaff'. The name is chiefly found in the Midlands and Yorkshire, and was derived from the Old English WAGIANSTOEF. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. Early records of the name mention Walter Waggestaf, who was recorded in County Norfolk in 1273, and Robert Waggestaff appears in Oxford in the same year. Edward Wagstaffe of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Thomas Wagstaffe of County Warwickshire, registered at Oxford University in the year 1585. Ellen, daughter of Thomas Wagstaffe was baptised at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1696. John Wagstaffe and Alice Littler were married at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in the year 1737. The associated coat of arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered in County Derbyshire. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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