Show ContentsWooley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 added many new elements to an already vibrant culture. Among these were thousands of new names. The Wooley family lived in Cheshire, at Woolley. "This family, anciently De Wolegh, or De Woloey, were settled in Longdendale, co Chester as early as the reign of King John." [1]

It is thought that the name was originally derived from "'wolves' wood', or lost places of the same name," [2] and this may be the reason that wolves appear on the Coat of Arms.

Early Origins of the Wooley family

The surname Wooley was first found in Cheshire where they held a family seat in Longdendale. Woolley is also located in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. These place names are derived from the Old English words wulf + leah and literally means "wood or clearing frequented by wolves." Two of the places are listed in the Domesday Book as Ciluelai in Cambridgeshire and Wiluelai in West Yorkshire. [3]

Hugo de Wuluele was listed in the Assize Rolls for Yorkshire in 1219 and later, Ralph de Wullueleye was found in the Pipe Rolls for Berkshire in 1230. In Oxfordshire, Roger de Wolvele was listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1279 and in Staffordshire, Nicholas de Wolveleye was listed in the Assize Rolls for 1280. In Yorkshire, Bate de Wolflay was listed in 1308 and in Sussex, Robert de Woluelie was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of 1327. [2]

Another branch of the family was found at Thorpe in Surrey in later years. "The manor appears to have been held under the abbots of Chertsey in the 15th century, by a family named Thorpe: after the Dissolution, Queen Elizabeth granted the lands to Sir John Wolley, her Latin secretary." [4]

Early History of the Wooley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wooley research. Another 80 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1596, 1684, 1648, 1651, 1622, 1675, 1667, 1694, 1663, 1695 and 1771 are included under the topic Early Wooley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wooley Spelling Variations

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Woolley, Wooley, Wooly and others.

Early Notables of the Wooley family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Sir John Wolley (d. 1596), Latin Secretary to Elizabeth, "was a native of Shropshire and a man of good family. " [5] Edward Wolley (d. 1684), was an English divine, Bishop of Clonfert, probably second son of Thomas Wolley and his wife Elizabeth. "Wolley was domestic chaplain to Charles I, and on the decline of that monarch's fortunes he took refuge abroad about 1648. He afterwards joined Charles II in his exile and became his chaplain. He was with Charles in Paris in 1651, but returned to England after seven years, spent on the...
Another 112 words (8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Wooley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wooley Ranking

In the United States, the name Wooley is the 4,539th most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Wooley family to Ireland

Some of the Wooley family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Wooley migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Wooley or a variant listed above:

Wooley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Wooley, who landed in Virginia in 1623 [7]
  • Richard Wooley, who settled in Virginia in 1635
  • William Wooley, who landed in Virginia in 1637 [7]
  • Thomas Wooley, who arrived in Maryland in 1668 [7]
  • Siscilla Wooley, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1683 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Wooley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George Wooley, aged 53, who landed in Ohio in 1812 [7]
  • Milling Wooley, aged 32, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1813 [7]
  • James Wooley, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1872 [7]

Canada Wooley migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Wooley Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Elihu Wooley U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [8]

Australia Wooley migration to Australia +

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

Wooley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Edward Wooley, British convict who was convicted in Chester, Cheshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • Mr. William Wooley, British convict who was convicted in Wiltshire, England for 7 years for larceny, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in February 1803, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [9]
  • George Wooley, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Orleana" in 1840 [10]
  • Henry Wooley, aged 25, a gardener, who arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Ostrich" [11]
  • William Wooley, aged 33, a baker, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Oriental,"
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Wooley (post 1700) +

  • Peter Wesley Wooley (b. 1934), American Emmy Award nominated production designer
  • Lieutenant General Michael W. Wooley, American Air Force officer, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida
  • John Steven Wooley (b. 1949), American author from Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Michael-Leon Wooley (b. 1971), American Black Reel Award nominated television, film and theatre actor and singer
  • Shelby F. "Sheb" Wooley (1921-2003), American Western Heritage Award winning character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 novelty song "The Purple People Eater"
  • Mr. Thomas Wooley, British sheriff, held the joint position of Sheriff of Nottingham, England from 1636 to 1637
  • Charles Wooley (b. 1948), Australian journalist, reporter and writer
  • Trevor D. Wooley FRS, British mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bristol

HMS Dorsetshire
  • Edward George Wooley (d. 1945), British Chief Stoker aboard the HMS Dorsetshire when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [12]
HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Bert Wooley, British Boy, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales (1941) and survived the sinking [13]

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  4. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  5. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. 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)
  8. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  9. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from
  10. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ORLEANA 1840. Retrieved from
  11. South Australian Register Saturday 22nd July 1854. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Ostrich 1854. Retrieved
  12. Force Z Survivors HMS Dorsetshire Crew List, (Retrieved 2018, February 13th),
  13. HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook