This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is of locational origin from either Godley, in Cheshire, or Goodleigh in Devonshire; the former was recorded in the "County Court, City Court and Eyre Rolls of Chester" as "Godelegh" in 1285; while the latter place in Devonshire appears as "Godelege", in the Domesday Book of 1086. These placenames share the same derivation; they are both composed of the Olde English personal name "Goda", Good, with "leah", wood, clearing. During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, resulting in a wide dispersal of the name.The surname itself first appears in the late 13th Century (see below), while one Robert de Godely is recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex in 1296. In London, the christening of William, son of William and Grace Godley, was recorded at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, on August 18th 1698. The Coat of Arms most associated with the name depicts on a silver shield, three black unicorns heads' erased, horned red, two and one, and three green trefoils slipped, one and two, and the Motto "Sans Dieu rien", (Without God nothing). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Goddeley, which was dated 1275, in the "Hundred Rolls of Devonshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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