Recorded in many forms including Arnely, Arnley, Earny, Ernly, Erneley, Yernley and Yarnley, this is a locational surname. It is of Olde English pre 7th century origins and derives from Earnley, a village in the county of Sussex. The origination is from the words "earn" meaning the eagle, plus the "leah," a wood, or perhaps a fenced clearing in a wood. The developed surname is typical of its type with several similar spellings. This suggests that in the 17th century the village was probably 'cleared' to allow for different forms of agriculture, the tenants losing their grazing rights, and being forced to move to other areas to seek work. When this happened they took or were given, as their surname the name of their former village, or usually since few could spelling, a 'sounds like' spelling of it! Examples of the surname recordings include Mary Earny who married Richard Dixon at St. Dunstan in the East, Stepney, on July 3rd 1605, Jonathon Arnley, the son of John and Sarah Arnley, christened at St Botolphs, Bishopgate, London, on August 4th 1737, Mary Yarnely, who married James Chipps, at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on September 22nd 1782, and Mary Ann Earnley, who was christened at St. Mary's church, Battersea on April 28th 1802. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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