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

Tolley is a name that was brought to England by the ancestors of the Tolley family when they emigrated following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name Tolley comes from the Norman given name Tollet.


The surname Tolley was first found in Staffordshire where they held a family seat, some say from about the 12th century. The name was derived from Tollet, a Norman noble who entered England after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The earliest recorded instance of the name appears to be of Walter Tulet in the 1219 in the Pipe Rolls for Northumberland. Other early references show Robert Tuylet in 1295 in Cornwall, and Robert Tuliet in 1361 in the Feet of Fines for Essex.

Before the last few hundred years the English language had no fixed system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations occurred commonly in Anglo Norman surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Tolley were recorded, including Tollet, Tolle, Tolley, Tolly, Tollie, Tollye, Tulet, Tullet and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Tolley research. Another 211 words (15 lines of text) covering the years 1771, 1771, 1674, 1741, 1701, 1719 and 1718 are included under the topic Early Tolley History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 139 words (10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Tolley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


The unstable environment in England at this time caused numerous families to board ships and leave in search of opportunity and freedom from persecution abroad in places like Ireland, Australia, and particularly the New World. The voyage was extremely difficult, however, and only taken at great expense. The cramped conditions and unsanitary nature of the vessels caused many to arrive diseased and starving, not to mention destitute from the enormous cost. Still opportunity in the emerging nations of Canada and the United States was far greater than at home and many went on to make important contributions to the cultures of their adopted countries. An examination of many early immigration records reveals that people bearing the name Tolley arrived in North America very early:

Tolley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Charles Tolley, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1830
  • Edith Tolley, aged 19, who landed in America from Wales, in 1893

Tolley Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • George Hy Tolley, aged 42, who emigrated to the United States from Keywood England, in 1908
  • Miss Tolley, who emigrated to the United States from Heywood England, in 1908
  • Sarah Tolley, aged 32, who landed in America from Birmingham, England, in 1910
  • Veronica Tolley, aged 11, who emigrated to the United States from Kitterminster, England, in 1911
  • Cyril W. Tolley, aged 10, who settled in America from Kitterminster, England, in 1911

Tolley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Matthew Tolley, aged 21, a labourer, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Sea Queen" in 1850

Tolley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • William Tolley, aged 27, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand aboard the ship "Apelles" in 1874


  • Rear Admiral Kemp Tolley (1908-2000), American officer in the U.S. Navy and is the author of three books
  • Jerry Russell Tolley (b. 1942), American football coach, educator and politician
  • Robert Lee Tolley (1892-1972), American football quarterback for the Sewanee Tigers
  • Harold Sumner Tolley (1894-1956), American Republican politician, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York (1925-1927)
  • Rick Tolley (1940-1970), American football team head coach for Marshall University (1969-1970)
  • Jamie Christopher Tolley (b. 1983), English footballer
  • Chris Tolley, English retired professional cricketer who played for Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire
  • Anne Merrilyn Tolley (b. 1953), New Zealand politician, Minister of Social Development (2014), 44th Minister of Education (2008-2011), Minister for Tertiary Education (2008-2010)
  • Louis Tolley (1889-1959), British politician, Member of Parliament for Kidderminster (1945-1950)
  • Dave Tolley (b. 1978), Canadian percussionist and drummer, best known for his involvement with Canadian band Nine Mile



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: Prudentia in adversis
Motto Translation: Prudence in adversity.


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  1. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  3. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  4. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  7. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  8. Innes, Thomas and Learney. The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland 1st Edition. Edinburgh: W & A. K. Johnston Limited, 1938. Print.
  9. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  10. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  11. ...

The Tolley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Tolley 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 23 October 2015 at 15:23.

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