This interesting surname, with variant spelling Cully, is a patronymic form of the personal name "Col", itself being a nickname or shortened form of Nicholas -(Ni)col(as). The Greek name of great antiquity is derived from the elements "nike" meaning victory, and "laos" people; hence "victory people". The name is found in pre-Conquest England, with one appearing in the Domesday Book as holding land before 1086. It would seem that in Norfolk circa 1550, it was common for "o" to be substituted by "u" to create Cubitt from Cobbett, and Cullyer from Collier; hence Culley from Colley. The surname is first recorded in the mid 16th Century (see below). and one Thomas Culley, was sheriff of Norwich in 1559. On December 4th 1606, the marriage of Jhon Culley to Elis Aily took place at St. Andrew's, Enfield, London. Henry Culley married Hester Childe on November 5th 1620, at St. Mary Mounthaw. One Samwell Culley, is recorded as living at Martins Hundred, Virginia, on February 16th 1623; he was one of the earliest namebearers in the New World. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Cully, which was dated July 4th 1545, witness at St. Clement's, Norwich, Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Good King Hal", 1510 - 1548. 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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