Show ContentsSeelye History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancient Anglo-Saxon surname Seelye came from happy person who had good fortune. It is derive from the Old English word saelig, meaning happy and blessed. [1]

Early listings of the name was typically seen a "sely" and "seli" and was referenced at least twice in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:

"For sely is that deth, soth for to seyne, That, ofte y- cleped, com'th and endeth peyne"; and

"That Nicholas shal shapen hym a wyle This sely, jalous housbonde to bigyle."

Early Origins of the Seelye family

The surname Seelye was first found in Somerset where the first listings of name were found as a personal name: Sely atte Bergh; Sely Percy; and Sely Scury. All were found in Kirby's Quest temp. 1 Edward III (during the first year's reign of King Edward III. [2] The one exception of the aforementioned was William Sely.

Early feudal rolls provided the king of the time a method of cataloguing holdings for taxation, but today they provide a glimpse into the wide surname spellings in use through the ages. Richard Seli was listed in Lincolnshire c. 1200; Roger le Seli was found in the Pipe Rolls of 1205 in Herefordshire; Roger Cely in Shropshire in 1255; Richard Sely and John Celi in the Subsidy Rolls for Worcestershire in 1275; and Thomas Zely was listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Worcestershire in 1327. Entries were also found as a woman’s name: Sela was listed in the Assize Rolls for Lincolnshire in 1219; Sely filia Nicholai in the Assize Rols for Worcestershire in 1221; and Sely Percy in the Subsidy Rolls for Somerset in 1327. [3]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 has some interesting entries too: William Sely in Oxfordshire; Egidius Sely in Norfolk; and John Sely in Gloucestershire. [4]

Early History of the Seelye family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Seelye research. Another 131 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1618, 1621, 1760, 1602, 1668, 1630, 1623 and 1626 are included under the topic Early Seelye History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Seelye Spelling Variations

The English language only became standardized in the last few centuries; therefore,spelling variations are common among early Anglo-Saxon names. As the form of the English language changed, even the spelling of literate people's names evolved. Seelye has been recorded under many different variations, including Cely, Ceeley, Celey, Ceely, Ceiley, Seely, Seeley and others.

Early Notables of the Seelye family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was Sir Benet Celey of Plymouth; and Robert Seeley, also Seely, Seelye, or Ciely, (1602-1668) born in Bluntisham-cum-Earith, Huntingdonshire, he was an early Puritan settler who sailed with John Winthrop to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 helping establish Watertown, Wethersfield, and New Haven. He was born in Bluntisham-cum-Earith...
Another 55 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Seelye Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Seelye Ranking

In the United States, the name Seelye is the 18,449th most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [5]

Migration of the Seelye family

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that shrouded England made the far away New World an attractive prospect. On cramped disease-ridden ships, thousands migrated to those British colonies that would eventually become Canada and the United States. Those hardy settlers that survived the journey often went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Seelye or a variant listed above: Robert Seely, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet; William Seely, who came to Barbados in 1635; John Seely, who came to Virginia in 1654.


Contemporary Notables of the name Seelye (post 1700) +

  • Talcott Williams Seelye (1922-2006), United States Foreign Service Officer, United States Ambassador, author, and commentator
  • Julius Hawley Seelye (1824-1895), American politician, Prohibition Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, 1884 [6]
  • Gilbert T. Seelye (b. 1877), American Republican politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Saratoga County, 1913-18; Member of New York State Senate, 1939-60 [6]
  • E. A. Seelye, American politician, Member of Michigan Prohibition Party State Central Committee, 1899 [6]
  • Julius Seelye Bixler (1894-1942), President of Colby College, Maine (1942 to 1960)
  • Brigadier-General Thomas Seelye Arms (1893-1970), American Commanding General Replacement & Training Command (1945) [7]
  • William Seelye Linton (1856-1927), American Republican politician, L Member of Michigan State House of Representatives from Saginaw County 2nd District, 1887-88; Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, 1890; Mayor of Saginaw, Michigan, 1892-94 [8]


  1. ^ Harrison, Henry, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company, 2013. Print
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  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. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 9) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  7. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, October 6) Thomas Arms. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Arms/Thomas_Seelye/USA.html
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 4) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html


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