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


Woolley is a name whose history on English soil dates back to the wave of migration that followed the Norman Conquest of England of 1066. The Woolley 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]

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The surname Woolley 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. [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." [3]

A multitude of spelling variations characterize Norman surnames. Many variations occurred because Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England also had a pronounced effect, as did the court languages of Latin and French. Therefore, one person was often referred to by several different spellings in a single lifetime. The various spellings include Woolley, Wooley, Wooly and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Woolley research. Another 159 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1622, 1675, 1695 and 1771 are included under the topic Early Woolley History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 103 words (7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Woolley Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Woolley family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 33 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Many English families left England, to avoid the chaos of their homeland and migrated to the many British colonies abroad. Although the conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and some travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute, once in the colonies, many of the families prospered and made valuable contributions to the cultures of what would become the United States and Canada. Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Woolley or a variant listed above:

Woolley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • William Woolley settled in Virginia in 1636
  • Wm Woolley, who landed in Virginia in 1636
  • John Woolley arrived in Jamaica in 1663
  • Christopher Woolley, who landed in New England in 1666

Woolley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Anne Woolley, who arrived in Virginia in 1703

Woolley Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • J Woolley, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850

Woolley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Sarah Woolley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Rajasthan" in 1838
  • Mary Ann Woolley arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Rajasthan" in 1838
  • William Woolley, aged 24, a labourer, arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Sea Queen" in 1850
  • William Woolley, aged 24, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "Sea Queen"
  • Emmaline Woolley, aged 20, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Caroline"


Woolley Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • James Woolley arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Jane" in 1841
  • Mary Ann Woolley arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Jane" in 1841
  • Ann Woolley arrived in Port Nicholson aboard the ship "Jane" in 1841
  • William Woolley, aged 29, a farmer, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842
  • Caroline Woolley, aged 32, arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Thomas Harrison" in 1842


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  • Bennie L. "Chip" Woolley Jr. (b. 1963), American Thoroughbred horse racing trainer, best known for his conditioning the 2009 winner of the Kentucky Derby "Mine That Bird"
  • Alma S. Woolley (1931-2005), American nurse, nurse educator, nursing historian, and author
  • Mary Emma Woolley (1863-1947), American educator, peace activist and women's suffrage supporter, 11th President of Mount Holyoke College from 1900-1937
  • Beverly Woolley (b. 1939), American politician, Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives
  • Jordan Woolley (b. 1981), American actor
  • Monty Woolley (1888-1963), American stage, film, radio, and television actor
  • John Wickersham Woolley (1831-1928), American Latter Day Saint and one of the founders of the Mormon fundamentalism movement
  • Claud Neville Woolley (1886-1962), English cricketer
  • Stephen Woolley (b. 1956), English film producer and director
  • Bruce Woolley (b. 1953), English writer, performer, record producer and composer

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  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  2. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  3. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  4. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  5. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. 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).
  7. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  8. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  9. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  10. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Woolley Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Woolley 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 25 February 2016 at 11:46.

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