This interesting and unusual surname is of topographical origin and is derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "stelling" meaning cattle fold, i.e. a place where cattle take shelter from the sun, and the suffix "-ey" implies dweller by; hence, "dweller by the cattle fold". The surname is first recorded in the mid 16th Century (see below). In the modern idiom the surname is found as Steely, Stealy, Stilly and Stealey. Early recordings of the surname from church registers include; Richard Stilly, who married Mary Burges, on May 17th 1660, at St. Margaret Pattens, London; On August 31st 1704, Susan Stilee married Daniel Cardie, at St. Mary Magdelenes, Old Fish Street, London; Adam Stealey, married Elizabeth Weston, on November 21st 1785, at Smethcott, Shropshire, and on November 26th 1786, their daughter Catherine was christened there; on April 3rd 1811, Thomas Stealey married Eliza Miller, at St. Giles, Cripplegate London; and Margaret Stealey married Mathew Pugh, on February 6th 1814, at Habberley, Shropshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Margaret Steeley, who married william Tayler, which was dated June 20th 1567, at Lanchester, Durham. during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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