Show ContentsRolph History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname Rolph is a name of ancient Norman origin, arriving in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The surname Rolph 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.

"Found as the name of a peasant in Danish Lincolnshire, it must sometimes be Anglo-Scandinavian, but the name was also common in Normandy where it became OFr Roul, Rou, often Latinized as Rollo and it is to this that the frequency and variety of the surnames are due." [1]

Early Origins of the Rolph family

The surname Rolph was first found in 1066 where the singular name Rolfe was listed in Northumberland and Norfolk. The same source listed the name Routf in Leicestershire at that time. [1] By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, other entries were found, specifically, Turstinus filius Rolf, Rou, Roffi and Robertus filius Rolui, Roulf. [2] "It was the name of the first Duke of Normandy (Rolf-r or Hrolf-r, contraction from Hróþúlf-r and Latinized Rollo)." [3]

In Lincolnshire, the name Roolf was listed in 1142 as was Rolfde in Ormesby in 1147. Later in Devon, we found Martin Rof in 1242. [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 included the following entries: Allan Rolfe, Cambridgeshire; Roger Rolf, Huntingdonshire; and John Rolf, Oxfordshire. [4]

Early History of the Rolph family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rolph research. Another 187 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1297, 1332, 1614, 1654, 1721, 1585, 1622, 1615, 1680, 1655 and 1676 are included under the topic Early Rolph History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rolph Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Rolph are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Rolph include Roffe, Rolfe, Rolph, Rolphe, Roalph and others.

Early Notables of the Rolph 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 Rolph Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rolph Ranking

In the United States, the name Rolph is the 17,165th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [5]

United States Rolph migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Rolph, or a variant listed above:

Rolph Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Rolph, who landed in Virginia in 1658 [6]
  • Danll Rolph, who landed in Virginia in 1665 [6]
Rolph Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James Rolph, who arrived in Virginia in 1705 [6]
  • William Rolph, who settled in Maryland in 1774
  • Thomas Rolph, who settled in Pennsylvania in 1774
Rolph Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Sophia Rolph, aged 28, who arrived in New York in 1849 [6]

Australia Rolph migration to Australia +

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

Rolph Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Rolph, (b. 1793), aged 22, English convict who was convicted in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England for life, transported aboard the "Fanny" on 25th August 1815, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1876 [7]
  • George Rolph, English convict from Essex, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on February 22, 1834, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [8]
  • Mr. James Rolph, English convict who was convicted in Essex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Charles Kerr" on 6th June 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. Samuel Rolph, British Convict who was convicted in Essex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 25th June 1838, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [10]
  • John Rolph, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Fairlee" in 1840 [11]
Rolph Settlers in Australia in the 20th Century
  • "Mrs. Ann Rolph, (b. 1791), aged 37, English servant who was convicted in Middlesex, England for life for stealing, transported aboard the ""Competitor"" on 9th June 1828, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, mother of Mary Ann Smith same ship" [12]

New Zealand Rolph 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:

Rolph Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Jacob Rolph, Australian settler travelling from Sydney aboard the ship "Earl Durham" arriving in Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand in 1841 [13]

West Indies Rolph 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. [14]
Rolph Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • William Rolph, who settled in Barbados in 1690

Contemporary Notables of the name Rolph (post 1700) +

  • Thomas Rolph (1885-1956), United States Representative from California
  • James Rolph Jr. (1869-1934), American politician and a member of the Republican Party
  • Thomas Rolph (1885-1956), American Republican politician, U.S. Representative from California 4th District, 1941-45; Defeated, 1944 [15]
  • Mrs. James Rolph Jr., American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from California, 1932 [15]
  • James Rolph Jr. (1869-1934), American Republican politician, Mayor of San Francisco, California, 1912-31; Delegate to Republican National Convention from California, 1920, 1928, 1932; Governor of California, 1931-34 [15]
  • George Rolph, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from California, 1928 [15]
  • Susan "Sue" Rolph (b. 1978), British former freestyle and medley swimmer
  • George Rolph (1794-1875), Canadian (English born) lawyer and political figure in Upper Canada
  • John Rolph (1793-1870), Canadian (English born) physician and politician, member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada

  1. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  3. Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  4. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. 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)
  7. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 28th September 2022).
  8. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Arab voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1834 with 230 passengers. Retrieved from
  9. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 1st February 2021 from
  10. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 19th March 2021). Retrieved from
  11. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) FAIRLIE/FAIRLEE 1840. Retrieved from
  12. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 8th March 2021). Retrieved from
  13. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  15. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 12) . Retrieved from on Facebook