This interesting name is of early medieval English origin, and is a locational surname deriving from either of the places called "Thornley" in County Durham and in Lancashire. The latter place has generated the major proportion of the modern bearers of the surname, and is recorded as "Thorenteleg" in the 1202 Fines Court Rolls of Lancashire, and in 1246 as "Thornideley", showing its derivations from the Olde English pre 7th Century "thornihte", "thornede", thorny, with "leah", a clearing in a wood, or glade. "Thornley" in Durham was a later settlement, and derives from the late Olde English "thorn", thorn, and "leah" as before, the meaning of both places being "the thorny glade". In the modern idiom the surname has several variant spellings including Thornally, Thornley and Thornelie. John Thornelie of Cheshire is listed in the Oxford University Register of 1581, and the will of Richard Thornley of Chipping was recorded in "Lancashire Wills" of 1662 held at Richmond, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elina Thorneley, which was dated 5th June 1559, marriage to Henry Sagar, at Whalley, Lancashire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, 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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