Show ContentsCilley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Cilley is one of the thousands of new names that the Norman Conquest brought to England in 1066. The Cilley family lived in Devon. Ancient records reveal the name Cilley is derived from the Old English word saelig, meaning one who is happy and blessed.

Early Origins of the Cilley family

The surname Cilley was first found in Devon where they were granted lands by William the Conqueror for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. They were Lords of the manor of Rackenford, and were conjecturally descended from Jocelyn who held the lands at the time of the taking of the Domesday Book in 1086 A.D. from Baldwin, the Sheriff. The family may have originated in Cornwall as in "John Silly, gentleman of St. Wenn, altered his name from Ceely to Silly." [1] No dates were given with the previous quote. However, we did find another note about the family in the parish of Helland, Cornwall. "Another barton called Kernick, which was for some time the residence of a family called Silly, became the property of Sir John Morshead." [2]

One of the earliest records of the name was Henry de Sully (or Soilli) (died 1195), was a medieval monk, prior of Bermondsey Abbey in 1186, Bishop of Worcester (1193-1195) and Abbot of Glastonbury.

William, Count of Sully, also known as William the Simple (c. 1085-c. 1150) was Count of Blois and Count of Chartres from 1102 to 1107, and jure uxoris Count of Sully. William was the eldest son of Stephen-Henry, Count of Blois and Adela of Normandy, daughter of William the Conqueror. In 1104, William married Agnes of Sully, the heiress to the lordship of Sully-sur-Loire. Together they had six children including Henry de Sully (died 1189), the medieval Abbot of Fécamp and Bishop-designate of Salisbury and Archbishop-elect of York in 1140.

Over in France, Maurice de Sully (died 1196) was Bishop of Paris from 1160 until his death. He is best known for overseeing the building of Notre Dame Catherdaral.

Early History of the Cilley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cilley research. Another 67 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1361, 1283, 1388, 1680, 1729 and 1718 are included under the topic Early Cilley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cilley Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Cilley are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Cilley include Silley, Silly, Cele, Sully, Silliman and others.

Early Notables of the Cilley family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir John Sully (born c.1283-c.1388), of Ruxford and Iddesleigh in Devonshire, an English knight. The family were traditional lords of the manor of Iddesleigh in Devonshire. He was noted for giving evidence in Scrope v Grosvenor, one of the earliest heraldic law cases brought in England. At the time, it is claimed that his age was 105. Henry...
Another 65 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cilley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cilley Ranking

In the United States, the name Cilley is the 17,407th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [3]

United States Cilley migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Cilley, or a variant listed above:

Cilley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Robert Cilley, who landed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 [4]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cilley (post 1700) +

  • Clinton Albert Cilley (1837-1900), American lawyer and judge, and a recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Joseph Cilley (1734-1799), New Hampshire state senator and general
  • Bradbury Cilley (1760-1831), United States Representative
  • Joseph Cilley (1791-1887), United States Senator
  • Jonathan Cilley (1802-1838), American member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine
  • Jonathan Cilley (1802-1838), American politician, Representative from Maine 3rd District, 1837-38 [5]
  • John Cilley, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from North Carolina, 2004 [5]
  • Gordon H. Cilley, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania 8th District, 1924 [5]
  • G. Carroll Cilley, American Republican politician, Elected New Hampshire State House of Representatives from Concord 7th Ward 1956 [5]
  • Bradbury P. Cilley, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Manchester, New Hampshire, 1867-70 [5]
  • ... (Another 5 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  3. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  4. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 17) . Retrieved from on Facebook