This ancient name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from any of the various places called Whitley in Berkshire, Cheshire, Northumberland, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire, or from Whitleigh in Devonshire. Most of these places are recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Witelie, Witelai" or "Witelaia", and all share the same meaning and derivation, which is "the white wood or glade", from the Olde English pre 7th Century "hwit", white, pale (referring perhaps to the colour of the tree bark), and "leah", thin wood, glade, clearing in a wood. Locational surnames, such as this one, were acquired by the lord of the manor, and local landowners, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who had moved to another area, usually in search of work, and who were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace. Early examples of the surname include: Richard de Witelay (1190, Yorkshire); Hilda de Whitelai (1200, Notinghamshire); and Henry de Hwittele (1221, Warwickshire). In London, the christening of Richard, son of John Whitley, was recorded at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, on February 2nd 1587, and one Michell Whitley was an early emigrant to the American Colonies, leaving London on the "Globe" in August 1635, bound for Virginia. An early Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name shows a gold chevron on a red shield; the Crest is a red cross crosslet fitchee between two swords in saltire, proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Witteleia, which was dated 1125, in the "Chartulary of Staffordshire", during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. 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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