WOLFE Family History
This surname originates in Central, Southern and Eastern Germany, notably in the provinces of Thüringen, Baden-Württemburg, Hessen, Sachsen and Nieder-Sachsen. It also occurs in some numbers in Bayern in Southern Germany. Wolf is an epithet type surname, for someone ?wolf-like? in appearance, or behaviour(!), and is often spelt as Wolff. It also occurs from early times as Wulf(f). There is even a Shwabien form of Wölfle. The name has a similar ancestry to the prename Wolfgang. In Medieval Europe the wolf was an enduring symbol of the wilderness- the perennial outsider. In very early times in Nordic countries the beast was considered as a ?sacred? animal under the protection of the god Woden.
It should be noted that the surname ending in -e is often of Anglo-Norman origin, occurring in Britain and Ireland; the Norman name follows the same epithet naming pattern, i.e. literally 'wolf/wolf-like''. In Ireland it is normally spelt Woulfe, and Normans of the name settled in Kildare and Limerick in the 13th century. It is worth noting that the Norman army which invaded England in 1066, included German mercenaries. In the United States the orthographical form would be no reliable guide as to origin, and attention should be given to State of location and family tradition. Finally, Wolf is also a German Jewish surname.
There are approximately 99,000 bearers of the surname Wolf in modern Germany, and it occupies the 16th place in the rankings of most common German surnames.
In the United States emigrants bearing the surname arrived in Pennsylvania in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The 1920 Federal Census shows that settlement was significant also in the states of New York, Ohio and Illinois.
In the U.S.A. in the modern period the most popular spelling is Wolfe with 83, 112 bearers, ranked at 337th, then Wolf with 68, 905 bearers, ranked at 427th (Source: United States Census Bureau).
No less that 18 coats of arms are recorded in Siebmacher?s 17th century work ?Wappen? for this surname: one such is a green shield bearing a wolf rampant.
Over the years many bearers have made the surname famous; among them are:
Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824): German classical scholar born in Brandenburg. He is regarded widely as the founder of modern philology. His best known work is a study of the Greek poet Homer, the supposed sole author of the ?Iliad? and the ?Odyssey?. Wolf?s ?Prolegomena? contends that these works were the oral product of more than one author.
Max Wolf (1863-1932): born in Heidelberg, Germany, he was a celebrated astronomer, whose application of photography to astronomical observation resulted in the discovery of 228 asteroids!
Hugo Wolf (1860-1903): Austrian composer, born in what is now Slovenia, perfected the German form of song known as ?Lieder?. His compositions number the arrangements of Goethe?s poems. He also wrote one complete opera, ?Corregidor? and one unfinished opera ?Manuel Venegas?.