Rolfe History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname Rolfe is a name of ancient Norman origin, arriving in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The surname Rolfe derives from the Middle English personal (pre-surname) name Rolf. It is thought that the earliest origins of the name are Nordic, and that the name reached England in both pre-Norman Nordic invasion, and with the Normans.

Early Origins of the Rolfe family

The surname Rolfe was first found in Norfolk where they held a family seat from early times, soon after the Norman Conquest by Duke William of Normandy in 1066 A.D.

Early History of the Rolfe family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rolfe research. Another 148 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1297, 1332, 1585, 1622, 1615, 1680, 1655 and 1676 are included under the topic Early Rolfe History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rolfe Spelling Variations

Before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Sound was what guided spelling in the Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Rolfe family name include Roffe, Rolfe, Rolph, Rolphe, Roalph and others.

Early Notables of the Rolfe family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John Rolfe (c.1585-1622), an early English settler of North America, credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco in Virginia, perhaps best known as the...
Another 33 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rolfe Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rolfe Ranking

In the United States, the name Rolfe is the 5,085th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [1]


United States Rolfe migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious chaos of this era, thousands of English families began to migrate to the New World in search of land and freedom from religious and political persecution. The passage was expensive and the ships were dark, crowded, and unsafe; however, those who made the voyage safely were encountered opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. Many of the families that reached the New World at this time went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of the United States and Canada. Research into various historical records has revealed some of first members of the Rolfe family to immigrate North America:

Rolfe Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Rolfe, who landed in Virginia in 1622 [2]
  • Elizabeth Rolfe who settled in Virginia in 1623 along with James her husband, John and Thomas
  • James Rolfe and his wife Elizabeth Rolfe, who arrived in Virginia in 1623 with their son
  • Elizabeth Rolfe, who arrived in Jamestown, Va in 1624 [2]
  • Henry Rolfe, who settled in New England in 1630
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Rolfe Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Marcus Rolfe, who settled in New Jersey in 1773
Rolfe Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • William Rolfe, who landed in New York in 1839 [2]

Canada Rolfe migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Rolfe Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Paul Rolfe, who landed in Quebec in 1901

Australia Rolfe migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Rolfe Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. George Rolfe who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 24th March 1828, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [3]
  • Mr. George Rolfe who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Circassian" on 4th November 1832, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [4]
  • Mr. Joseph Rolfe, British convict who was convicted in Surrey, England for life, transported aboard the "Henry Tanner" on 27th June 1834, settling in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • James Rolfe, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Charles Kerr" in 1840 [6]
  • William Rolfe, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Anson" on September 23, 1843, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Rolfe migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Rolfe Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Samuel Rolfe, aged 15, who arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ambrosine" in 1860
  • Mr. John Rolfe, (b. 1848), aged 31, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Stad Haarlem" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1879 [8]
  • Mrs. Mary Rolfe, (b. 1851), aged 28, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Stad Haarlem" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1879 [8]
  • Miss Emily Rolfe, (b. 1871), aged 8, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Stad Haarlem" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1879 [8]
  • Mr. Albert Rolfe, (b. 1873), aged 6, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Stad Haarlem" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in 1879 [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Rolfe migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [9]
Rolfe Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Robert Rolfe, aged 23, who arrived in St Christopher in 1635 [2]

Contemporary Notables of the name Rolfe (post 1700) +

  • Brigadier-General Onslow Sherburne Rolfe (1895-1985), American Deputy Chief of Staff, Army Forces Far East (1953-1954) [10]
  • Sam Rolfe (1924-1993), American screenwriter
  • William James Rolfe (1827-1910), American Shakespearean scholar and educator
  • Sir Robert Monsey Rolfe (1790-1868), English politician, 1st Baron Cranworth, Lord Chancellor of England in 1852
  • Frederick William Rolfe (1860-1913), English novelist
  • Mrs. Louisa Helen Rolfe O.B.E., British Deputy Chief Constable for West Midlands Police, was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire on 29th December 2018 for services to Policing [11]
  • David Rolfe Graeber (b. 1961), American-born, England-based anthropologist and anarchist activist
  • Rolfe S. Saunders, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Memphis, Tennessee, 1861 [12]
  • Rolfe L. Wells, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for Michigan State House of Representatives from Cass County, 1940, 1942 [13]
  • Rolfe E. Rowe, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for Connecticut State House of Representatives from Bristol, 1924 [14]

HMAS Sydney II
Pemberton Mill
  • Mr. Samuel Rolfe, factory worker in the Pemberton Mill on 10th January 1860 when the mill collapsed trapping 900 workers as rescue attempts continued into the night, an oil lantern was knocked over further engulfing the trapped workers in fire, he died
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. George Sommerville Rolfe, Canadian 2nd Class passenger from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking [16]


  1. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  2. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 5th November 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bussorah-merchant
  4. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retrieved 8th February 2021, retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/circassian)
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th January 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/henry-tanner
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) CHARLES KERR 1840. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1840CharlesKerr.htm
  7. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Anson voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1843 with 499 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/anson/1843
  8. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  9. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  10. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2014, March 26) Onslow Rolfe. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Rolfe/Onslow_Sherburne/USA.html
  11. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists
  12. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 18) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  13. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 4) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  14. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 9) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  15. ^ HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from http://www.findingsydney.com/roll.asp
  16. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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