Shelley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Shelley came to England with the ancestors of the Shelley family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Shelley family lived in Sussex having derived from the Old English word shelf, meaning a wooded clearing on a ledge or plateau, and indicates that the original bearer lived near such a landmark. [1]

Following the Norman line "genealogists assert that the Sheeleys 'came out of France with William the Conqueror.' Seulle, Shevels, or Sheuile, is found in the lists called the Roll of Battel Abbey." [2]

Early Origins of the Shelley family

The surname Shelley was first found in Sussex where "there is no doubt of the antiquity of the house of Shelley, the accounts of the earlier descents of the family are very scanty. Originally of the county of Huntingdon, [now Cambridgeshire] the Shelleys are said to have removed into this county at a very early period." [3]

The earliest record of the name was John and Thomas Shelley who followed the fortunes of Richard II and were subsequently beheaded in the first year of Henry IV's rule. The remaining brother who was not connected, retained his possessions. [3]

The Pipe Rolls for Suffolk included two entries for the family with very early spellings: Matilda de Selleg, Richard de Selueleg, there in 1201. Years later, Henry de Schellay was listed in the Subsidy Rolls for Yorkshire in 1297 and later Roger de Shelley was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379. The Feet of Fines for Surrey for 1473 included and entry for John Shelley. [4]

Early History of the Shelley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shelley research. Another 154 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1297, 1480, 1549, 1526, 1513, 1589, 1567, 1644, 1666 and 1736 are included under the topic Early Shelley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Shelley Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Shelley are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Shelley include Shelly, Shelley and others.

Early Notables of the Shelley family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir William Shelley (1480-1549), and English judge, the eldest son of Sir John Shelley (died 1526): Sir Richard Shelley (1513?-1589?), last grand prior of the knights of St. John in England, second...
Another 40 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Shelley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Shelley Ranking

In the United States, the name Shelley is the 2,532nd most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name. [5]


United States Shelley migration to the United States +

Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Shelley, or a variant listed above:

Shelley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Shelley who settled in Virginia in 1623
  • John Shelley, who landed in Jamestown, Va in 1624 [6]
  • Robert Shelley, who arrived in America in 1632 [6]
  • Robert Shelley, who settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1632
  • Anne Shelley, who settled in Boston in 1632
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Shelley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Philip Shelley, who landed in America in 1760-1763 [6]
Shelley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Samuel Shelley, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1810 [6]
  • Caleb Shelley, who arrived in Vermont sometime between 1819 and 1904
  • Samuel Thomas Shelley, who landed in New York, NY in 1834 [6]
  • Patrick Shelley, who arrived in Louisiana in 1844 [6]
  • J Q Shelley, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Shelley migration to Australia +

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

Shelley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Charles Shelley, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Orleana" in 1840 [7]
  • Harriet Shelley, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Orleana" in 1840 [7]

West Indies Shelley migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [8]
Shelley Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Joseph Shelley was banished to Barbados in 1685

Contemporary Notables of the name Shelley (post 1700) +

  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, English gothic novelist, best known as the author of "Frankenstein"
  • W. D. Shelley, American politician, Mayor of Austin, Texas, 1905-07 [9]
  • Thomas C. Shelley, American politician, Member of Nebraska State House of Representatives, 1903 [9]
  • O. H. P. Shelley, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Montana, 1932 [9]
  • R. E. Shelley, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Alabama, 1972 [9]
  • Mark O. Shelley, American politician, Workers World Candidate for Presidential Elector for Michigan, 1984 [9]
  • Kevin Francis Shelley (b. 1955), American Democratic Party politician, Member of California State Assembly, 1997-2002; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from California, 2000, 2004; Secretary of State of California, 2003-05 [9]
  • Karen Anne Shelley, American politician, Candidate for Michigan State Board of Education, 2002 [9]
  • John Francis Shelley (1905-1974), American Democratic Party politician, Member of California State Senate, 1939-47; U.S. Representative from California 5th District, 1949-64; Mayor of San Francisco, California, 1964-68 [9]
  • Joan-Marie Shelley, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from California, 1988 [9]
  • ... (Another 24 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

RMS Titanic
  • Mrs. Imanita Shelley, (née Parrish Hall), aged 25, American Second Class passenger from Deer Lodge, Montana who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping on life boat 12 [10]


The Shelley 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: Fey e fidalgia
Motto Translation: Faith and fidelity


  1. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  2. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  4. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ORLEANA 1840. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1840Orleana.htm
  8. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  9. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 2) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  10. ^ Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from http://www.titanicfacts.net/titanic-passenger-list.html


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