Recorded as McColley, Coley, Coiley, Coly, Colley, Colly, and Cooley, this is both an English and Irish surname of similar origins, of which there are several possibilities. The English surname derives from the pre 7th century Olde English and Welsh word "colig" meaning dark or swarthy. As such it seems to have been descriptive ethnic word used by the Anglo-Saxons, who were fairer skinned, to describe the original Celtic (English, Welsh and Scottish) inhabitants, who were much darker in appearance. A second possible origin in the West County of England is that some name holders may derive from the Somersetshire word 'colley' meaning a blackbird. In Ireland there name may have exactly the same origins as it is known to have been taken to that country in the time of King Henry V111 (1510 - 1547), or it may be from an early patronymic MacColla recorded in County Roscommon and meaning the 'son of Colla'. However Colla itself also appears to be a form of colig mean black. The early surname development includes recordings such as Dande Colly of Yorkshire in the year 1219, Philip Coli of Worcester in the Subsidy Tax rolls of 1275, whilst Anne Coley married Myles Spence at Holy Trinity church, York, in 1599. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh Coly. This was dated 1212, in the King Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King John of England, 1199 - 1216. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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