This interesting surname is of early medieval English origins. It derives either as a locational name from the place called Ely in Cambridgeshire, or it is a short form of the ancient hebrew 'Elijah'. In the first case the development is from the Old English pre 7th Century 'oel' meaning 'eel' plus 'ge', a region or district. It is said that Ely received its name from the large number of eels caught in the nearby fens. The second origin may be derived from the Old French personal name Elie, itself from the given name Elijah. This was first introduced by the Normans after the 1066 Invasion. However the greatest 'boost' came as a result of Crusaders returning from the Holy Land. These knights tended to give their children biblical names, in memory of their 'pilgrimage'. Early examples of the recordings include Hely de Amandevilla in the 1150 Rolls of Lincoln, and Phillipus filius Helie in Somerset in 1213 a.d. The first surname examples include William Heli in the Danelaw Rolls of Nottingham in 1154, and John Elye in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Cambridge. The modern surname spellings include Ealey, Eeley, Eley, Ely, Heley, and Hely, whilst recordings taken from early church registers after 1535, include Anne Elye, who married Anthony Shipsett, at St. Olave's, Old Jewry, London on April 8th 1562, and Henry Ely who married Christian Cults at Allhallows, London Wall, on April 12th 1562. The coat of arms most associated with the surname has the blazon of a barry of ten silver and blue, over all a red bend. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Huna de Ely, which was dated 1086, in the 'The Inquisition Rolls of Cambridgeshire', during the reign of King William 1, known as 'The Conqueror', 1066 - 1087. 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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