Priestly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Priestly has a long Anglo-Saxon heritage. The name comes from when a family lived in or near a clearing in a wood owned by priests. Further research showed the name was derived from the Old English elements preost, which means priest, and leah, which means forest clearing. The name as a whole therefore means "dweller in or near the forest clearing owned by priests." [1] There are several places that have this name; they are found in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Early Origins of the Priestly family

The surname Priestly was first found in the West Riding of Yorkshire where the "surname is derived from a geographical locality. 'of Priestley' (i.e the priest's meadow), some small estate in the near neighbourhood of Bradford." [2]

However, we must look to the Pipe Rolls of Bedfordshire to find the first record of the family. For it is there that Samson de Presteleia was listed in 1198. From this Latin version, the name had evolved to Richard de Presteley who was listed in Yorkshire in 1297. [1]

Kirby's Quest lists Walter Prestlegh in Somerset, 1 Edward III (during the first year of Edward III's reign.) [3] Later, the following two entries were found at Hipperholme, near Bradford, Yorkshire during the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379: Elena de Presteley; and Johannes de Presteley. [2]

Another source agrees with the Yorkshire origin, but notes "the ancient seat and inheritance of the family was in Soyland and Sowerby, in the parish of Halifax." [4]

Early History of the Priestly family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Priestly research. Another 69 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 125 and 1250 are included under the topic Early Priestly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Priestly Spelling Variations

Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Priestly have been found, including Priestley, Priestly, Preistley,Pressley and others.

Early Notables of the Priestly family (pre 1700)

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


United States Priestly migration to the United States +

Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Priestly, or a variant listed above:

Priestly Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Priestly, who settled in Virginia in 1663
Priestly Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Edward Priestly, who landed in New York in 1798 [5]
Priestly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Samuel Priestly, aged 26, who arrived in New York in 1812 [5]
  • William Priestly, aged 38, who arrived in New York in 1812 [5]
  • Richard Priestly, who landed in New York in 1824 [5]
  • John Priestly, aged 21, who arrived in New York in 1862 [5]
  • Conrad, Jacob and Robert Priestly, who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Priestly Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • James A. Priestly, aged 31, who landed in America from Halifax, in 1905
  • Walter Priestly, aged 36, who immigrated to the United States from Salford, England, in 1907
  • Margart Jane Priestly, aged 67, who landed in America from Blackpool, England, in 1912
  • John Priestly, aged 22, who immigrated to the United States from Belfast, Ireland, in 1912
  • Margaret Priestly, aged 16, who settled in America from Burslem, England, in 1915
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Priestly migration to Australia +

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

Priestly Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Adam Priestly, aged 35, a mason, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Flora" [6]

Contemporary Notables of the name Priestly (post 1700) +

  • Craig Priestly, Australian-born, American rugby league player, member of the 2013 United States National Team
  • Shipley Priestly, American Democrat politician, Postmaster at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1818-40
  • Priestly Haggin McBride (1796-1869), American politician, Secretary of State of Missouri, 1829-30 [7]


The Priestly 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: Respice finem
Motto Translation: Regard the end.


  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  4. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ South Australian Register Monday 9th April 1855. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Flora 1855. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/flora1855.shtml
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 9) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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