Show ContentsKearsley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The lineage of the name Kearsley begins with the Anglo-Saxon tribes in Britain. It is a result of when they lived in the settlement of Kearsley in Lancashire. The surname Kearsley belongs to the large category of Anglo-Saxon habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.

Early Origins of the Kearsley family

The surname Kearsley was first found in Lancashire at Kearsley, now part of Greater Manchester. The first records of the place were found in 1187 when it was spelt Cherselawe and a few years later as Kereleie (c. 1220. ) The name literally means "clearing where cress grows" having derived from the Old English words caerse + leah. [1] There is another Kearsley, a township in the parish of Stamfordham, in Northumberland, but this township has remained rather small in comparison as a census in the late 1800s listed only 11 inhabitants, while the former township in Lancashire had 3,436 inhabitants in the same census.

Early History of the Kearsley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kearsley research. Another 87 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 121 and 1210 are included under the topic Early Kearsley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Kearsley Spelling Variations

Only recently has spelling become standardized in the English language. As the English language evolved in the Middle Ages, the spelling of names changed also. The name Kearsley has undergone many spelling variations, including Kearsley, Kearsey, Keasley, Kersley and others.

Early Notables of the Kearsley family (pre 1700)

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

United States Kearsley migration to the United States +

To escape the unstable social climate in England of this time, many families boarded ships for the New World with the hope of finding land, opportunity, and greater religious and political freedom. Although the voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, those families that arrived often found greater opportunities and freedoms than they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make significant contributions to the rapidly developing colonies in which they settled. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Kearsley were among those contributors:

Kearsley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Kearsley, who settled in Philadelphia in 1859
Kearsley Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • John Henry Kearsley, aged 55, originally from London England, who arrived in New York in 1919 aboard the ship "Adriatic" from Liverpool, England [2]

New Zealand Kearsley 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:

Kearsley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr Kearsley, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1842 aboard the ship Geo Fife
  • James Kearsley, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "George Fyfe" in 1842
  • Mr. Kearsley, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "George Fyffe" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 7th November 1842 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name Kearsley (post 1700) +

  • Seth Kearsley (b. 1971), American film director, known for his work in animation [4]
  • Major Jonathan Kearsley (1786-1859), American military officer who fought in the War of 1812 and politician, 3rd (1826) and 5th Mayor of Detroit (1829)
  • Jonathan Kearsley, American politician, Mayor of Detroit, Michigan, 1826, 1829 [5]
  • William Kearsley (1863-1921), English-born, Australian politician, Member for Northumberland (1910-1913), Member for Cessnock (1913-1920) [6]
  • Bryan Kearsley, British philatelist who was awarded the Crawford Medal in 2006

  1. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch ( : 6 December 2014), John Henry Kearsley, 11 Mar 1919; citing departure port Liverpool, arrival port New York, ship name Adriatic, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  3. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  4. Seth Kearsley. (Retrieved 2013, May 10) Seth Kearsley. Retrieved from
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from
  6. William Kearsley. (Retrieved 2013, May 10) William Kearsley. Retrieved from on Facebook