Recorded in many forms including Ainslie, Ainsley, Annesley, Aynsley, Ensley and Insley, this is a surname which can be either English or Scottish. However spelt it is locational, and originates from any of several places such as Ansley in Warwickshire, Annesley in Nottinghamshire, or from either of two now "lost" medieval villages one called Ansley in the county of Northumberland, the other probably called Hensley or Hensleigh in the county of Devonshire. The place in Warwickshire is recorded as "Hanslei" in the Domesday Book of 1086, from the Olde English word "ansetl", meaning a hermitage, with "leah", a wood or glade, whilst Annesley in Nottinghamshire is recorded in the Domesday Book as "Aneslei", and means "the solitary glade". This is from the Olde English word "an", or one, and this is probably a meaning which applies to the other villages. The surname is first recorded in Scotland with early recordings including those of Thomas de Aneslei in Glasgow in 1221; Johan de Anesleye of Roxburghshire in 1296; and in England, John de Annesley of York in the same year. Early examples of surname recordings taken from surviving church registers include: Thomas Hensley of North Molton, Devonshire, on August 16th 1557, Anthony Aynsley who married Catharine Steventon at Moulsoe, Buckinghamshire, on July 29th 1632, Mary Insley christened at St Ann's Blackfriars, in the city of London, on December 5th 1658, and William Ensley, who married Agnes Lancaster at St Pauls Exeter, Devon, on February 28th 1828. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Anslee. He was the canon of Glasgow, in the year 1220, and is recorded in the "Register of the Monastery of Passelet", during the reign of Alexander 11, King of Scotland, 1214 - 1249. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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