This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from either of two places. Wensley in Derbyshire was recorded as "Wodnesleie" in the Domesday Book of 1086; the placename derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name "Woden" (also found as the first element in Wednesday, Olde English "Woden's daeg") with "leah", wood or clearing; hence "clearing dedicated to Woden". Wensley in the North Riding of Yorkshire was recorded as "Wendreslaga" in the Domesday Book, and has as its first element the Olde English given name "Wendel"; hence "Wendel's clearing". The "l" was lost owing to dissimilation. During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. The surname is first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below), and can also be found as Wensly. Walter de Wendeslay was recorded in the 1339 Feet of Fines of Yorkshire. On August 19th 1549, Francis Wensley married Joan Phillips at Wensley, Yorkshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is an ermine shield, on a red bend three escallops, the Crest being a man's head in profile couped at the shoulders proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jordan de Wandesleye, which was dated 1204, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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