Show ContentsEmsley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Emsley is a name of ancient Anglo-Saxon origin and comes from the family once having lived in Yorkshire, where they derived the family name from Helmsley. It was in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but has been lost to modern maps. The place-name was probably derived from the Old English personal name Helm, and ley or leah, which were Old English words for "a clearing in the woods." The translation of the place-name was "clearing belonging to Helm." [1]

Early Origins of the Emsley family

The surname Emsley was first found in Yorkshire at Helmsley, a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the wapentake of Ryedale. The town dates back to the time of Richard I. [2] The Domesday Book of 1086 lists the town as Elmeslac. [3] Helmsley Castle (also known anciently as Hamlake) is a medieval castle originally constructed in wood around 1120 by Walter l'Espec (died 1153.)

Early History of the Emsley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Emsley research. Another 138 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Emsley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Emsley Spelling Variations

Sound was what guided spelling in the essentially pre-literate Middle Ages, so one person's name was often recorded under several variations during a single lifetime. Also, before the advent of the printing press and the first dictionaries, the English language was not standardized. Therefore, spelling variations were common, even among the names of the most literate people. Known variations of the Emsley family name include Elmslie, Elmsley, Emsley, Elmesley, Helmsley, Emesley, Emesly, Ernele and many more.

Early Notables of the Emsley family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Emsley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Emsley migration to the United States +

For political, religious, and economic reasons, thousands of English families boarded ships for Ireland, Canada, the America colonies, and many of smaller tropical colonies in the hope of finding better lives abroad. Although the passage on the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving, those families that survived the trip often went on to make valuable contributions to those new societies to which they arrived. Early immigrants bearing the Emsley surname or a spelling variation of the name include:

Emsley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Emsley, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1830 [4]
  • John Emsley, who settled in Delaware in 1850
  • Joseph Emsley, who settled in Philadelphia in 1864

Contemporary Notables of the name Emsley (post 1700) +

  • Rodney Emsley, American politician, Representative from Pennsylvania 3rd District, 1926 [5]
  • J. E. Emsley, American politician, Member of West Virginia State House of Delegates from Ohio County, 1917-18 [5]
  • Paul Emsley (b. 1947), Scottish-born, South African painter
  • Dr John Emsley, British writer, broadcaster and academic specialising in chemistry, former lecturer at King's College London
  • Clive Emsley (b. 1944), British historian and criminologist, research director and lecturer at the Open University
  • Richard Emsley (b. 1951), British composer
  • Sir John Emsley Fretwell GCMG (1930-2017), British diplomat, Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1987-1990), British Ambassador to France (1982-1987)

The Emsley Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Prenez garde
Motto Translation: Take care.

  1. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  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, December 10) . Retrieved from on Facebook