This interesting and unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Lancashire (near Kirkham), due to the prevalence of Church recordings of the surname in that County. An estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets are known to have disappeared in Britain since circa 1100, due to such natural disasters as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, or to the widespread practice of "clearing" large areas of rural land to make sheep pastures during the height of the wool-trade in the 15th Century. The placename is derived from an ancient British word cognate with the Welsh "carn", rock, with the Olde English pre 7th Century "leah", wood, glade. The place in Leicestershire now called Charley is derived from the same elements, and was recorded as "Cerneleia" in 1130. The name means "the wood by the rock of stone", or "the rocky or stony wood". Recordings of the surname from Lancashire Church Registers include the marriage of William Charnley and Issabell Burrow at Garstang, on September 5th 1567. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alic Charneley, which was dated March 24th 1542, christened at Kirkham, Lancashire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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