Show ContentsEley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Eley was brought to England in the wave of migration that followed the Norman Conquest of 1066. Eley is based on Fitz Elie, the name of a distinguished Norman family who came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror's invasion.

Early Origins of the Eley family

The surname Eley was first found in Cambridgeshire at Ely, a city, and the head of a union, in the Isle of Ely. [1] [2]

"This place, which is the capital of an extensive district in the Fens, comprising the greater part of the northern division of Cambridgeshire, is supposed to have derived its Saxon name Elig either from the British Helyg, a willow, with which tree, from the marshy nature of the soil, it especially abounded, or, according to Bede, from Elge, an eel, for which fish it was equally remarkable. Ethelreda, daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles, founded a monastery here, in 673, for monks and nuns." [3]

The earliest records of the family were not from here, but in elsewhere at the time of the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273: Reginald filius Elye, Lincolnshire; and Gilbert Elye, Kent. [4]The Placita de Quo Warranto, temp. Edward I-III also listed John filius Elie, Lincolnshire, 20 Edward I (during the twentieth year of King Edward I's reign.) In Norfolk, Nicholas de Ely was bailiff of Norwich, 1227. [5]

Nicholas of Ely (d. 1280), was Chancellor and successively Bishop of Worcester and Winchester, and "may have derived his name from the fact that about 1249 he was appointed Archdeacon of Ely. He was also a few years later Prebendary of St. Paul's. There is, however, a Nicholas of Ely mentioned as prior of the Cluniac monastery of Daventry in Northamptonshire between 1231 and 1264. " [6]

Early History of the Eley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Eley research. Another 81 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1604, 1605, 1609, 1634, 1656 and 1675 are included under the topic Early Eley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Eley Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years the English language had no fixed system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations occurred commonly in Anglo Norman surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Eley were recorded, including Ely, Elie, Ealy and others.

Early Notables of the Eley family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was William Ely (d. 1609), was an English Catholic divine, brother of Dr. Humphrey Ely, born in Herefordshire, and educated at Brasenose College, Oxford. His brother, Humphrey Ely (d. 1604), was also an English Catholic divine and a native of...
Another 47 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Eley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Eley Ranking

In the United States, the name Eley is the 6,443rd most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [7]

Ireland Migration of the Eley family to Ireland

Some of the Eley family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 31 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Eley migration to the United States +

The unstable environment in England at this time caused numerous families to board ships and leave in search of opportunity and freedom from persecution abroad in places like Ireland, Australia, and particularly the New World. The voyage was extremely difficult, however, and only taken at great expense. The cramped conditions and unsanitary nature of the vessels caused many to arrive diseased and starving, not to mention destitute from the enormous cost. Still opportunity in the emerging nations of Canada and the United States was far greater than at home and many went on to make important contributions to the cultures of their adopted countries. An examination of many early immigration records reveals that people bearing the name Eley arrived in North America very early:

Eley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Robert Eley, who arrived in Virginia in 1639 [8]
  • John Eley, who landed in Virginia in 1649 [8]
  • Christopr Eley, who arrived in Virginia in 1651 [8]
  • William Eley, who arrived in Maryland in 1668 [8]
Eley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Ulderick Eley, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1729 [8]
  • Abraham Eley, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1765 [8]

Australia Eley migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Eley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Abraham Eley, English convict from Nottingham, who was transported aboard the "Adamant" on March 16, 1821, settling in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. Thomas Eley, English convict who was convicted in Essex, England for life, transported aboard the "Champion" on 24th May 1827, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [10]
  • Mr. Clapton Eley, English convict who was convicted in Chelmsford, Essex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Equestrian" on 25th January 1844, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Island) [11]
  • John Eley, aged 31, a baker, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Indian" [12]
  • John Eley, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Indian" in 1849 [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Eley migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Eley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Elizabeth Eley, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Jane" in 1841 [13]
  • Alfred Eley, who arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Jane" in 1841 [13]

Contemporary Notables of the name Eley (post 1700) +

  • Steve Eley, American speculative fiction author and former podcaster
  • Charles and William Eley, English founders of Eley Brothers, gun cartridge makers in Edmonton, London in the 1820s
  • Frederick Eley (1866-1951), 1st Baronet, an English banker, Chairman of John Waddington Ltd, Cope & Timmins, Crosse & Blackwell Ltd (1932–1946), the Waldorf Hotel Company, and the Bank of British West Africa (1942–1948)
  • Sir Geoffrey Cecil Ryves Eley CBE JP FLS (1904-1990), British businessman and author from East Bergholt, Suffolk, a director of the Bank of England, High Sheriff of both the County of London (1954-1955) and the City of London (1966-1967), older brother of Maxwell Eley
  • Geoffrey Howard "Geoff" Eley (b. 1949), British-born historian, known for his studies of Germany
  • Bridget Katharine Cracroft- Eley CVO JP (b. 1933), British secretary, farmer and magistrate, Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire (1995-2008)
  • Charles Ryves Maxwell Eley OBE (1902-1983), British gold medalist rower at the 1924 Summer Olympics from Samford, Suffolk, younger brother of Geoffrey Eley
  • Brian Ratcliffe Eley (b. 1946), former British Chess Champion, now a fugitive from the British police since 1991
  • Geoff Eley (b. 1949), British-born historian and Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Brigadier-General Eley Parker Denson (1884-1970), American Commanding Officer Seattle Port of Embarkation (1941-1946) [14]

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Barber, Henry, British Family Names London: Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, 1894. Print.
  3. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. Rye, Walter, A History of Norfolk. London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, 1885. Print
  6. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  7. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  8. 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)
  9. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Adamant voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1821 with 144 passengers. Retrieved from
  10. Convict Records of Australia. Retreived 18th January 2021 from
  11. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 4th May 2022).
  12. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The INDIAN 1849. Retrieved from
  13. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  14. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2012, January 10) Eley Denson. Retrieved from on Facebook