Show ContentsSully History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Sully arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Sully family lived in Devon. Ancient records reveal the name Sully is derived from the Old English word saelig, meaning one who is happy and blessed.

Early Origins of the Sully family

The surname Sully was first found in Devon where they were granted lands by William the Conqueror for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. They were Lords of the manor of Rackenford, and were conjecturally descended from Jocelyn who held the lands at the time of the taking of the Domesday Book in 1086 A.D. from Baldwin, the Sheriff. The family may have originated in Cornwall as in "John Silly, gentleman of St. Wenn, altered his name from Ceely to Silly." 1 No dates were given with the previous quote. However, we did find another note about the family in the parish of Helland, Cornwall. "Another barton called Kernick, which was for some time the residence of a family called Silly, became the property of Sir John Morshead." 2

One of the earliest records of the name was Henry de Sully (or Soilli) (died 1195), was a medieval monk, prior of Bermondsey Abbey in 1186, Bishop of Worcester (1193-1195) and Abbot of Glastonbury.

William, Count of Sully, also known as William the Simple (c. 1085-c. 1150) was Count of Blois and Count of Chartres from 1102 to 1107, and jure uxoris Count of Sully. William was the eldest son of Stephen-Henry, Count of Blois and Adela of Normandy, daughter of William the Conqueror. In 1104, William married Agnes of Sully, the heiress to the lordship of Sully-sur-Loire. Together they had six children including Henry de Sully (died 1189), the medieval Abbot of Fécamp and Bishop-designate of Salisbury and Archbishop-elect of York in 1140.

Over in France, Maurice de Sully (died 1196) was Bishop of Paris from 1160 until his death. He is best known for overseeing the building of Notre Dame Catherdaral.

Early History of the Sully family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Sully research. Another 67 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1283, 1361, 1388, 1680, 1718 and 1729 are included under the topic Early Sully History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Sully Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled Silley, Silly, Cele, Sully, Silliman and others.

Early Notables of the Sully family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • Sir John Sully (born c.1283-c...
  • Henry Sully (1680-1729), was an English clockmaker who lived for many years in France...

United States Sully migration to the United States +

For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name Sully or a variant listed above were:

Sully Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Sully, aged 36, who arrived in Virginia in 1611 aboard the ship "Sara" 3
  • Maudlyn Sully, aged 30, who arrived in Virginia in 1620 aboard the ship "London Merchant" 3
Sully Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Sully, who settled in Maryland in 1774
Sully Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Charles Sully, who settled in Charles Town [Charleston], South Carolina in 1820
  • Ann Sully, aged 10, who landed in New York in 1854 3
  • Catherine Sully, aged 3, who arrived in New York in 1854 3
  • Jane Sully, aged 30, who landed in New York in 1854 3
  • John Sully, aged 13, who arrived in New York in 1854 3
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Sully migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Sully Settlers in Canada in the 17th Century
  • Marin Sully, who landed in Montreal in 1659

Australia Sully migration to Australia +

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

Sully Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Edward Sully, Irish convict who was convicted in Meath, Ireland for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 29th November 1801, arriving in New South Wales, Australia 4
  • Mr. George Sully, British Convict who was convicted in Bristol, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 4th December 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia 5
  • Benjamin Sully, English convict from Somerset, who was transported aboard the "Argyle" on March 5th, 1831, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia 6
  • John Sully, aged 40, who arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Marion" 7

New Zealand Sully 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:

Sully Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Sully, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Wellington, North Island, New Zealand on 24th September 1842 8

Contemporary Notables of the name Sully (post 1700) +

  • Frank Sully (1908-1975), born Francis Thomas Sullivan, American film actor who appeared in over 240 films between 1934 and 1968, best known for his role as the dumb detective in the Boston Blackie features, and as the foil in many Three Stooges comedies.
  • Thomas Sully (1855-1939), American self-trained architect, grand-nephew and namesake of the painter Thomas Sully
  • Thomas Sully (1783-1872), English-born, American portrait painter; his subjects included Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Marquis de Lafayette and many more
  • Jack Sully (1850-1904), American cattle rustler and outlaw who later was elected Sheriff of Charles Mix County, South Dakota
  • Ivory Sully (b. 1957), retired American NFL football player who played from 1979 to 1987
  • Alfred Sully (1820-1879), American military officer during the American Civil War and during the Indian Wars on the frontier
  • Haydn Sully (1939-2006), English first-class cricketer who played for Somerset and Northamptonshire (1959-1969)
  • James Sully (1842-1923), English psychologist
  • Walter Sully (1895-1970), Australian cinematographer and newsreel cameraman active in the 1930s
  • Sandra Sully (b. 1965), Australian journalist, news presenter and editor for Sydney's Ten Eyewitness News since 2011
  • ... (Another 3 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Samuel Thomas Watkins  Sully (1921-1942), British Marine, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking, died due to wounds in 1942 9

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  3. 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)
  4. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  5. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 22nd March 2021). Retrieved from
  6. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Argyle voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1831 with 251 passengers. Retrieved from
  7. South Australian Register Tuesday 12th December 1854. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Marion 1854. Retrieved
  8. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  9. HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook