Recorded in many forms as shown below, this is an English surname. It is locational from any of the various places named from the Old English pre 7th century words "hris", meaning brushwood, plus "leah", a wood or clearing. In effect the name is an abbreviated form of 'a fenced area cleared for agriculture in a place of brushwood'. These places include Risley in Derbyshire, recorded as Riselei in the Domesday Book of 1086, Risley, Lancashire, recorded as Ryselegh in the Assize Court Rolls of 1284 for that county, and Riseley in Bedfordshire and Berkshire, entered respectively as Riselai and Kiselee in the Domesday Book of 1086. The surname was first recorded in the latter part of the 13th Century, see below, and other examples are those of William de Riseleq, of Derbyshire, in the Hundred Rolls of 1273; John de Risely, of Norfolk, in the pipe rolls of 1371; and Thomas de Rysshelegh in the Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire in 1379. In 1680, Cressent Risley, an early emigrant to the New World, was recorded as a landowner of some standing in Christ Church Parish, of the island of Barbados. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Nigel de Risleye. This was dated 1272, in the Hundred Rolls of Norfolk, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England and known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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