Recorded in several forms including Helmsley, and the dialectals Hemsley, Heminsley and Hemesley, this is an English surname. It is locational and originates from either of two places in the North Riding of Yorkshire called Helmsley. One situated near Rievaulx Abbey, recorded as "Elmeslac" in the Domesday Book of 1086, derives from the pre 7th Century personal name "Helm", with "leah", a wood or clearing; hence "Helm's clearing". The other place is near York and is recorded in the Domesday Book as "Hamelsech", which derives from the Olde English personal name "Hemele", with "eg", an island; hence "Hemele's island". 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, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Walter de Helmeslay is listed in the Yorkshire pipe rolls of 1260, and William Hemsley is noted in the Nottinghamshire pipe rolls of 1477. Recordings of the surname from Yorkshire church registers include the marriage of William Hemsley and Maria Beeston on September 23rd 1562 at Whitgift, near York. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Helmeslac. This was dated 1160, in the early Yorkshire Charters, during the reign of King Henry 11nd, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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