Recorded in many forms including Heyley, Highley, Highly, Hilee, Hiley, Hilley, Hillie, Hilly and others, this is an English locational surname. It originates from a place in the county of Shropshire called Highley. This is first recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as Hugelei, and later in 1291 as Huggeleye. The meaning is "Hugga's leah", from the Old English pre 7th Century personal name "Hugga" and leah, usually meaning a wood, or forest, although it can also be taken to mean a fenced clearing in a wood suitable for agriculture. Locational names were usually given either to the local lord of the manor and his descendants, or more often to former inhabitants who had left their original homes to live or work in another town. There they would be distinguished as, for example, John de Highley. In late medieval times the preposition 'de' was generally dropped. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving church registers of the city of London include those of Alce Heyley on January 19th 1576, at St Andrews Enfield, in Middlesex, and Elizabeth Hilley who married Hilley who married George Parish at Christ Church, Greyfriars, city of London, on May 22nd 1809. One John Higley was an early settler in the new colony of Virgina, being recorded there in 1679. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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