Birkelay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
Birkelay is a name that was carried to England in the great wave of migration from Normandy following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Birkelay family lived in the county of Gloucestershire, where the family held the distinguished title of the Lords of Berkeley Castle. 
Early Origins of the Birkelay family
The surname Birkelay was first found in Gloucestershire where the family name is descended from Thomas de Berkeley, Lord of Berkeley Castle, who was descended from Robert FitzHarding, a Viking of royal blood, and one of the companions at Arms of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
"The first tenant of Berkeley after the conquest was Roger, who in 1086 held lands in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. He bequeathed his lands to his nephew William (Pipe Roll 31 Hen. I, p. 133), founder of the Abbey of Kingswood. By this time probably a Norman castle had been built at Berkeley; for Henry spent Easter there in 1121 ( Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) and Roger, the son and successor of William, having fallen into the hands of Walter, the brother of Miles, earl of Hereford, in the time of the anarchy, was cruelly tortured to make him give up his castle." 
Other early records of the name include: Robert de Berkeley, 3rd feudal Baron Berkeley (c.1165-1220); Thomas I de Berkeley, 4th feudal Baron Berkeley (c.1170-1243); and Maurice II de Berkeley, 5th feudal Baron Berkeley (1218-1281.) This line continued with: Thomas II de Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley (1245-1321); Maurice III de Berkeley, 2nd Baron Berkeley (1271-1326); Thomas III de Berkeley, 3rd Baron Berkeley (1293-1361); Maurice IV de Berkeley, 4th Baron Berkeley (1330-1368); and Thomas IV de Berkeley, 5th Baron Berkeley (1352/53-1417.)
"From the fertility of the soil, and its contiguity to the river Severn, it was always a place of considerable importance; and at a very early period it gave name to the great manor of Berkeley, which during the heptarchy was held of the crown, at £500. 17. 2. per annum, by Roger de Berkeley, a near relative of Edward the Confessor, and lord of Dursley, from whom the earliest authentic pedigree of the Berkeley family is deduced. Berkeley, notwithstanding the residence of the oldest branches of the family in their castle at Dursley, was a market-town; and had a nunnery endowed with the large manor. A few years afterwards, William the Conqueror, professing high regard for all the relatives of Edward the Confessor, granted the manor of Berkeley to Roger Berkeley, of Dursley, by whose descendants it was held till the reign of Henry II." 
The parish of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire was also an early home to the family. "The parish is bounded on the north by the Severn, and comprises by measurement 3392 acres, of which the greater part is the property of the Berkeley family. The Gloucester and Berkeley canal and the Gloucester and Bristol railroad intersect it." 
Wooton Under Edge, again in Somerset was another ancient family seat. "On the erection of the new town, a market and fair, with various municipal privileges, were granted by Henry III. to Maurice, Lord Berkeley, in 1254, which laid the foundation of its subsequent importance. During the civil war of the 17th century, a garrison was maintained here in the interest of the king." 
Early History of the Birkelay family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Birkelay research. Another 127 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1554, 1944, 1530, 1534, 1613, 1579, 1661, 1614, 1579, 1667, 1626, 1640, 1575, 1611, 1604, 1611, 1599, 1668, 1621, 1668, 1601, 1658, 1654, 1630, 1665, 1602, 1678, 1605, 1677, 1610, 1685, 1753 and are included under the topic Early Birkelay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Birkelay Spelling Variations
Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, Norman French and other languages became incorporated into English throughout the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Birkelay include Berkley, Berkeley, Berkely and others.
Early Notables of the Birkelay family (pre 1700)
Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton in 1530; Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley (1534-1613), an English peer and politician, Lord Lieutenant and Vice-Admiral of Gloucestershire, the grandfather of George Berkeley, 8th Baron Berkeley; Richard Berkeley (1579-1661) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1614; Sir Henry Berkeley (1579-1667), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1626 and 1640, supporter of the Royalist side in the English Civil War; Sir Thomas Berkeley (1575-1611), the son and heir apparent of Henry Berkeley, 7th Baron Berkeley, and a...
Another 119 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Birkelay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Birkelay family to Ireland
Some of the Birkelay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 89 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Birkelay family
In England at this time, the uncertainty of the political and religious environment of the time caused many families to board ships for distant British colonies in the hopes of finding land and opportunity, and escaping persecution. The voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, though, and many arrived in North America sick, starved, and destitute. Those who did make it, however, were greeted with greater opportunities and freedoms that they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Early immigration records have shown some of the first Birkelays to arrive on North American shores: John Berkley who settled in Virginia in 1622; Elizabeth Berkley and her husband settled in Virginia in 1736; Anna Berkley, her husband, and two children settled in Philadelphia in 1733..
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- ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
- ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
- ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.