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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Welsh

The Motley surname comes from when the Motley family lived in the settlement of Medlicott in the English border county of Shropshire. The surname Motley belongs to the category of habitation names, which are derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads.


The surname Motley was first found in Shropshire, at Medlicott, a parish in Wentnor. It is generally believed that the oldest record of the family was Llewelyn de Modlicott who resided here c. 1180. He was son of Sir Roger de Meldron (died c.1200.) By the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273, some of the family were found in Devonshire where Richard de Middlecote was listed as holding lands at that time. [1] "The ancient Shropshire family of Medlicott, which took its name from a manor, flourished in the 13th century. The Medlycott family of Ven House, Milborne Port, Somerset, originally came from Shropshire." [2]

Although there are not an extremely large number Welsh surnames, there are an inordinately large number of spelling variations of those surnames. This variety of spellings began almost immediately after the acceptance of surnames within Welsh society. As time progressed, these old Brythonic names were eventually were recorded in English. This process was problematic in that many of the highly inflected sounds of the native language of Wales could not be properly captured in English. Some families, however, did decide to modify their own names to indicate a branch loyalty within the family, a religious adherence, or even a patriotic affiliation. The name Motley has seen various spelling variations: Medlicot, Medlicott, Medlycot, Medlycott, Medlicote, Medleycot, Medleycott, Medleycote, Modlicot, Modlicote and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Motley research. Another 303 words (22 lines of text) covering the years 1593, 1586 and 1625 are included under the topic Early Motley History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Motley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Motley family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 45 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many people from Wales joined the general migration to North America in search of land, work, and freedom. These immigrants greatly contributed to the rapid development of the new nations of Canada and the United States. They also added a rich and lasting cultural heritage to their newly adopted societies. Investigation of immigration and passenger lists has revealed a number of people bearing the name Motley:

Motley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Thomas Motley, who landed in Virginia in 1665
  • Jno Motley, who arrived in Virginia in 1666
  • Robert Motley came to Maryland in 1674
  • Robert Motley, who arrived in Maryland in 1674
  • Mary Motley, who arrived in Maryland in 1678

Motley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Tho Motley, who arrived in Virginia in 1703
  • John Motley, who landed in New England in 1738

Motley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Peter Motley, 21, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Peter Motley, aged 21, landed in New York in 1812
  • W.G. Motley, aged 40, who settled in America, in 1893
  • Louisa Motley, aged 27, who landed in America, in 1894
  • William G. Motley, aged 40, who landed in America, in 1895

Motley Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • John Motley, aged 29, who landed in America from Liverpool, in 1904
  • James Motley, aged 39, who emigrated to America, in 1905
  • Thornton N. Motley, aged 47, who emigrated to the United States, in 1907
  • John Lathrop Motley, aged 31, who emigrated to the United States, in 1910
  • Warren Motley, aged 27, who emigrated to the United States, in 1910

Motley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Walter Motley, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1749-1752
  • Walter Motley, Margaret Motley, and Susan Motley all came to Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Margt Motley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Susan Motley, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1750

Motley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Joseph Motley, aged 20, a shoemaker, arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Countess of Kintore" in 1875
  • Mary A. Motley arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ashmore" in 1882


  • Ronald L. Motley (1944-2013), American trial attorney, and a principal of Motley Rice LLC
  • Langhorne Anthony Motley (b. 1938), American diplomat, former United States Ambassador to Brazil (19811983)
  • Dr Eric Lamar Motley (b. 1972), American Vice President of the Aspen Institute
  • Darryl DeWayne Motley (b. 1960), American former Major League Baseball outfielder
  • Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005), African-American civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, state senator, President of Manhattan, New York City
  • Willard Motley (1909-1965), African-American writer
  • Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891-1981), African-American Harlem Renaissance painter
  • Marion Motley (1920-1999), American Football fullback and linebacker, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968
  • John Lothrop Motley (1814-1877), American historian and diplomat
  • Clifford T. Motley, American politician, Mayor of De Soto, Missouri, 1973



  • A Bicentennial History of Eleven Pioneer Families by Mary M. Beadles.
  • The Families of Williams, Kenoyer, New, Motley by Lola Bernice Frakes.

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: Dat cura quietem
Motto Translation: Vigilance ensures tranquility.


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  1. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.

Other References

  1. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  3. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  4. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  5. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  6. Thirsk, Joan ed. Et. Al. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  7. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds. . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-005-8).
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Evans, Gwynfor. Wales: A History: 2000 Years of Welsh History. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996. Print. (ISBN 0-76070-120-2).
  11. ...

The Motley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Motley Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 18 April 2016 at 15:42.

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