Select Shelley Surname Genealogy

The name “Shelley” appears to be locational in origin.  The word is said to have derived from the Old English word scyf or “shelf,” a ledge or plateau, and “ley”, a field or clearing, and describes someone who lives at such a place.

The name is thought to have originated in Essex.  There is in fact a small hamlet called Shelley near Chipping Ongar in the county.  A manor of that name has existed on the edge of Epping Forest since pre-Domesday times. But other early sightings of the name can be found elsewhere, in Suffolk and West Yorkshire.

Select Shelley Resources on The Internet

Select Shelley Ancestry

England.  Essex comprises one cluster of Shelleys in England.  The South East appears to be another (where the name is equally distributed around Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire).  Staffordshire is a third, from Stoke to Wolverhampton.  There are some Irish Shelleys as well, but from very different roots.

Shelleys in Sussex were recorded in Rye in East Sussex in the early fourteenth century. A John Shelley was able, in 1474, to secure the marriage of Elizabeth Michelgrove and thereby bring the extensive Michelgrove estates near Arundel under his control. For three centuries thereafter, the Shelleys were landed gentry in Sussex, with various branches in West and East Sussex. The branch in East Sussex included the black sheep of the family, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

America.  Although Shelley is an English-origin name. there are more than twice the number of Shelleys in America than in England.  An important factor has been the Anglicization of foreign names by immigrants either on their entry into the United States or with the next generation. German names such as “Schille” or “Schelle” became Shelley in America. So at times did the Irish “Shealy.”  There is a cluster of Shelleys from German Mennonite roots in Pennsylvania.  And Irish Shelleys have made their way to California and Idaho, amidst other places.  Shelley clusters from English roots can be found in South Carolina, Alabama, and Utah.

Australia.  There are many Shelleys in Australia.  The first Shelley to emigrate to Australia was William Shelley, a missionary from Hanley in Staffordshire who arrived there in 1800.

Select Shelley Names

John Shelley established the Shelleys as landed gentry in Sussex with his marriage to Elizabeth Michelgrove in 1474.
Sir Richard Shelley, a staunch Catholic from the Shelley Michelgrove branch, was active in several plots against Queen Elizabeth during the 1560's.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
, born into gentry in East Sussex, is one of the best-known English Romantic poets. His wife Mary Shelley (nee Godwin) wrote Frankenstein.
William Shelley
was a missionary from Hanley in Staffordshire who sailed to Australia in 1800. His school for Aboriginal children has now been described as Shelley's mistake.
Percy Shelley reinvigorated Shelley Potteries in Stoke in the early part of the twentieth century.
Jack Shelley of working class Irish roots was the mayor of San Francisco during the turbulent 1960's.

Select Shelleys Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 4,500 in America (most numerous in South Carolina).
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surnames

Adams Cohen Harding McDonald Reynolds
Armstrong Corbett Harmer Meredith Richardson
Bacon Crawford Harris Mitchell Rooney
Baldwin Crowther Hayward Moore Sawyer
Bannister Doyle Henderson Murray  
Bartlett Drake Hepburn Myers Sheraton
Bennett Driscoll Higgins Nash Spencer
Booth Ellis Hilton Newton Swan
Bowles Fitzgerald Holmes
Nightingale Sykes
Brett Fleming  Hopkins Oakes Tattersall      
Burden/Borden Foster Hudson Osborne Todd
Fox Jackson Palin
Carpenter Fraser Jefferson Palmer Vaughan
Carter Fry Jenner Pascoe Wade
Cassidy Fuller Lofthouse  Perry/Parry        
Cavendish Gallagher        
Lynch  Pertwee Warren  
Chapman Goodwin Maloney Powell Washington
Chisholm Gould Marriott Pratt Webster
Clay Grant Maynard          
Probyn Witherspoon
Clinton Hancock McCarthy Quayle Wyatt 

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 500 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page