Jolley is an example of that sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were given with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, or to habits of dress and occupation. In this instance, the derivation is from the Middle English and Old French "joli(f)", merry, lively, appy, originally denoting someone of a cheerful disposition. Perhaps the ultimate origin of the word lies in the Old Norse "jol", the midwinter festival when people celebrated the gradual lengthening of the days.This festival was later appropriated by the Christian Church for celebration of the birth of Christ. Jolley is found recorded all over the British Isles as would be expected of a soubriquet handed down as being complimentary. Early examples of the surname include: John le Goly (Wiltshire, 1275), and Henricus Joly (Yorkshire, 1379). Recordings from London Church Registers include: the christening of Thomas, son of William Jolly, on March 10th 1595, at St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, and the christening of Barbara, daughter of William and Katherine Jolly, on November 26th 1637, at St. Andrew's, Holborn. The family Coat of Arms is a silver shield with a red mullet between three black pheons. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Jolif, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire", 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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