This is an English locational surname. Recorded in various spellings including Curtley, Kertley, Kirtley, and originally Kyrtlye, it originates either from a now 'lost' medieval village, or at least if there is any such place in any of the known surname recordings, we have not been able to find it, or from some place of a different spelling. This situation is not unusual. It is estimated that at least three thousand surnames of the British IsIes originate from 'lost' places, of which the only public reminder in the late 20th century is usually the surname itself. This surname almost certainly originates from the pre 7th century Olde English words 'kirk-leah', meaning the church in the (forest) enclosure, the nearest name to this being the village of Kirkley in the county of Northumberland. Locational surnames are usually 'from' names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes to move somewhere else. In this case examples of the surname recording in early surviving church registers of the city of London include: Mathewe Kyrtlye, a witness at St Michaels Cornhill, on October 15th 1557, and Ralph Kirtley, who was christened at St George's Southwark, on July 4th 1802.
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