This very interesting surname recorded in the spellings of Medcalf, Metcalf and Metcalfe, is English. It is chiefly recorded in the county of Yorkshire, and there have been claims that it represents the very first hereditary surname. This is arguable, but there is no doubt that it was one of the very first. It is probably topographical, but may be occupational, and in either case derives either from the Olde English pre 7th century word "mete" meaning food or meat, plus "cealf", a calf, with the translation of "a calf to be fattened for eating (at the end of the Summer)", or when the first element is written as "med" it may derive from "mead", and describe a pasture or meadow where calves were fattened.Early examples of the surname recording taken from authentic survivng rolls and charters of the medieval period include: John Medcalfe who appears in the register of the Freemen of the City of York in 1463, William Metcalf, married Marageret Stansfield at Kippax, Yorkshire, on October 12th 1596, and Michill Metcalfe of Norwich aged 45, his wife Sarah and eight children, who left England to settle in Boston, New England, in 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is possibly that of Adam Medecalf. This was dated 1301, in the Subsidy Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, 1272 - 1307. 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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