This most unusual surname is medieval English. It is locational from a place called Illey, a hamlet near the town of Halesowen, in the south-east part of the county of Worcestershire. The village is ancient and was first recorded as Hillely in the year 1199, and as Hilleleye some years later in 1216. The placename and hence the surname, is composed of the Olde English pre 7th century personal name Hilla of Illa, and leah, meaning a wood, or possibly an area cleared for agriculture within a wood. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common place, people often took or were given as their surname, the name of their former village. This action often resulted in a wide dispersal of the surname. Early examples of the surname recordings include the marriage of Jeames Ilay and Margarett Henry on November 6th 1568, at St. Martin Orgar; and the marriage of Anthony Iley and Tasey Crewes on July 31st 1587, at St. Gregory by St. Paul's Cathedral both in the city of London. In its home county a recording is that of the marriage of John Iley and Sarah Adiss on May 1st 1777, at Wolverley in Worcestershire. 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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