Show ContentsWorley History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The vast movement of people that followed the Norman Conquest of England of 1066 brought the Worley family name to the British Isles. They lived in Lancashire, in the township of Whalley while Whaley is a small village in Derbyshire.

"The name of this great parochial division is Saxon, signifying the "Field of Wells," expressed by the word Walalæh. The village is chiefly celebrated for the venerable ruins of its abbey. In 1296 Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, having given the advowson of Whalley to the White monks of Stanlow, in Cheshire, they removed hither, and founded an abbey of the Cistercian order, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin it was consecrated in 1306, and additions were made to the buildings for more than 140 years after that time. The remains are still considerable, and possess much interest, exhibiting portions in the early, decorated, and later English styles." [1]

Early Origins of the Worley family

The surname Worley was first found in Lancashire where they were descended from Wyamarus Whalley, who accompanied William the Conqueror, from Normandy, and was the Standard Bearer at the Battle of Hastings. The Conqueror gave him the lordship of Whalley in the county of Lancaster. In 1296 an Abbot and about 20 monks arrived in Whalley to create a church that would become Whalley Abbey. One of the census records of the name was Robert de Whalley who died before 1193 and was listed as the rector of Rochdale. [2]

The church of St. Michael in Aughton, Lancashire would be an important ecclesiastical stronghold for the family. For it was there that a long tradition of rectors in the family was established. The first was Henry le Waleys who was rector in 1292, followed by Thomas le Waleys in 1303, Gilbert le Waleys in 1317, John le Waleys in 1318 and Henry (son of Richard) le Waleys in 1337. [3]

The first of the tenants of Litherland, Augton "was Richard le Waleys, who also held a third of the manor of Aughton. In 1212 it was found that he was holding a ploughland in Litherland for 10s. He died in 1221, and his son and heir Richard agreed to pay 40s. -four times the annual rent-as his relief, and was placed in possession. After the death of Richard, a Robert le Waleys appears to have been the principal member of the family; (fn. 10) possibly he was a brother and held some part of the manor, acting as guardian to John le Waleys of Litherland, the son and heir of Richard, who lived on till the beginning of the next century, and was after his death said to have been a 'centenarian.' " [3]

Early History of the Worley family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Worley research. Another 120 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1499, 1583, 1607, 1660, 1675, 1686, 1718 and 1719 are included under the topic Early Worley History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Worley Spelling Variations

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 Whalley, Whaley, Walley, Whally and others.

Early Notables of the Worley family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • Richard Worley (ca. 1686-1719) was an English pirate who was active in the Caribbean Sea and the east coast of the American colonies during the early 18th century, one of the first pirates to use the...

Worley Ranking

In the United States, the name Worley is the 1,174th most popular surname with an estimated 24,870 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Worley family to Ireland

Some of the Worley 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 Worley migration to the United States +

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 Worley or a variant listed above:

Worley Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Worley, who arrived in Jamestown, Va in 1607 [5]
  • Elizabeth Worley, who arrived in Virginia in 1652 [5]
  • William Worley, who landed in Virginia in 1695 [5]
  • Moses Worley, who landed in Virginia in 1699 [5]
Worley Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • George Worley, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [5]
  • John Daniel Worley, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1729 [5]

Australia Worley migration to Australia +

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

Worley Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Richard Worley, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "John Munn" in 1849 [6]
  • Mrs. Caroline Ann Worley, aged 41, a seamstress, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Marion" [7]
  • Francis Worley, aged 21, a butcher, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Marion" [7]
  • Walter Worley, aged 19, a cook, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Marion" [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Worley (post 1700) +

  • Nancy Worley (1951-2021), American Democratic politician, 50th Secretary of State of Alabama from 2003 to 2007 and Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party from 2013 to 2019
  • Timothy Ashley Worley (b. 1966), former American NFL football running back
  • Jo Anne Worley (b. 1937), American actress, best known for her work on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
  • Kate Worley (1958-2004), American comic book writer
  • Darryl Worley (b. 1964), American country music singer-songwriter
  • Richard Worley (1686-1719), English pirate who was active in the Caribbean Sea, one of the earliest pirates to fly the skull and crossbones
  • Tessa Worley (b. 1989), French alpine ski racer

The Worley 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: Mirabile in profundis
Motto Translation: Wonderful in the Depths.

Suggested Readings for the name Worley +

  • 300th Anniversary of Worleys in America, 1682-1915 by Carolyn Worley.

  1. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  3. 'Townships: Scarisbrick', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 265-276. British History Online [accessed 21 January 2017].
  4. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  5. 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)
  6. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) JOHN MUNN 1849. Retrieved from
  7. South Australian Register 1857. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Marion 1857. Retrieved on Facebook