Recorded in many spelling forms including Tansey, Tansie, Tansye, Tansley, Tanslie and Tansly, this is an English surname. It was originally locational, and described a former inhabitant of the village of Tansley, in the county of Derbyshire. Tansley itself is a development of the Olde English pre 7th century word "tan" meaning branch, as in a branch off from a main valley or dale, and "leah," a fenced enclosure or more likely a farm in a forest. First recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as Teneslege, the village is in an area of the country, which although remote, was greatly affected by the infamous plague of the 1660's known as the Bubonic Plague, and many people fled the area never to return. Apparently the local pronunciation of Tansley is Tansey, and this pronunciation developed into a parallel source of the surname. The first recorded spelling of the family name in the diocese of Greater London to where many early inhabitants moved, was that of Agnes Tanslie, christened at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on August 1st 1591. Later examples also taken from surviving registers include: James Tansley, a witness at St.Leonards church, Shoreditch, on October 1st 1617, Anne Tansye, the daughter of Alexander Tansye, christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on August 19th 1621, and Michael Tansey, a witness at St Olaves church, Southwark, on May 3rd 1688. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop," often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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