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About the study

Welcome to Bentley One Name Study!  The objective of this study is to collect together in one place everything about the surname Bentley and its variants.  The current focus of the study is the reconstruction of the family lines for the first Bentley immigrant(s) in colonial America.  However, the study's objectives is to expand the study to provide useful data about the all occurrences of the Bentley name worldwide.  Anyone, interested in assisting with the Study or learning more about the Bentley name, please contact me.

Variant names

The most common variant is Bently.  The name first appeared in the pipe rolls as Benetlega which is included as a variant as well.

Name origin

The root of the surname Bentley is the Old English beonet, meaning "bent grass," and leah, a "woodland clearing," hence a clearing overgrown with bent-grass. There were a number of Bentley place-names in England - in Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire for example - which could have given rise to the Bentley surname. Bentley showed as Benedledge, Benetlea and Benedlage in the Domesday Book of 1086. The first recorded spelling of the family name was William de Benetlega in the pipe rolls of Derbyshire in 1176. (obtained from website Select ) 

According to one source, "The Bentleys are an old English family. In Burke's Armory, there are fourteen families, the arms varied. The family is also, sometimes Benly, Bentt, or Binley".  A very frequently quoted Bentley legend is that the first Bentley, Drew received land from William the Conqueror. The legend seems to come from a lawyer, George Bentley.

According to a manuscript written by Lawyer, George F. Bentley called "Genealogy of the Bentley Family", the Bentley name can be traced back to one "Drew of Bentley". Refering to 'Bentleys of Bentley-Haye", Staffordshire, England. "Bentley" is an ancient Manor and Hamlet belonging to the Parish of Wolverhampton, in the Hundred of Seisdon. It was granted by William the Conqueror to "Drew" by the services of keeping the hay for the King. Hence it is called, "Bentley-Haye". (see: Bentleys in England/ by Eleanor L. Trisman (Mrs. Ralph D.)-Salt Lake City: Filmed by Genealogical Society of Utah, 1980. Microfilm of the Manuscript Collection (ca, 500 leaves) donated by Eleanor L. Trisman, Riveredge, New Jersey.)

The story of William the Conqueror granting land to one "Drew" for the services of keeping the hay for the King is repeated often as the origin of the Bentley name. However, further evidence is necessary to separate fact from legend.  The next section will exam the Bentley family who served as custodians of the land know as the Bentley Haye. 


Historical occurrences of the name

One of the first recorded occurrences of the Bentley name is with the family who served as the custodians of the Bentley Haye.   This family is discussed in much detail in an article entitled, Forest Tenures of Staffordshire, (published in the Collections For A History Of Staffordshire, Vol. 10, Part 1, Edited by The William Salt Arthrological Society,1907 pages 230-237 available here ).

The Bentley Haye, one of the "Forest Tenure of Staffordshire, was given to a Drunad de Benetlea as one of the many Sergeanties issued by kings throughout England's history and remained within the family from 1135 to 1390. The Pipe Roll of 1164 lists "the earliest custodian of the Bentley Haye who is mentioned in the Records is one Gervase de Benetlea who was dead in II H. II. (1164).

The Hundred Roll of 1255 states that William de Benetlega held a virgate of land by Sergeanty of the King for the custody of the Haye of Bentley, for which he renders one mark. His predecessor had been enfeoffed by King Henry I". A footnote also notes that:

Shaw in his history of Staffordshire-under-Bentley states that one Dru nad held Bentley and had been enfeoffed at Bentley by the Conqueror, but the probability is that Dru was the father of Gervase and had been enfeoffed by Henry I (reign from 1100 to 1135)"

Again here we see a reference to Dru and William the Conqueror but again without any evidence to factually show this story is more than legend. The Forest Tenures article outlines the genealogy of the de Benetlea/Benetlega/Benteleye family from Gervase in year 1164 to William de Benetlega, "born at Little Sardon, and baptized in the church of Shareshull on the 21st November, 22 E. III. 1348 and died about 1390 without leaving issue."

One member of this family, John de Benetlega, died during the Black Death.  John was the third of his name, died before he came of age during the great Pestilence of 1349. On the Fine Roll of 23 E. III. (1349) there is a writ dated 8th of May ordering an Inquisition to be taken on the death of John son of John de Benteleye a minor, and in ward to the King. The Inquisition held in pursuance of this writ gives a vivid account of the ravages of the Black Death.  

As other place name histories become know to the study, they will be added here.


Name frequency


The frequency of the Bentley name in different countries will be examined together with the name's distribution throughout the world.  However, it is worth noting the Study intends to look more deeply into the frequency of the Bentley name in Fiji.  If the numbers below are to be believed, the Bentley name appears most frequently in Fiji with a ratio of 1:1,766.  When looking at countries with the most Bentley names, Fiji ranks 9th with 486 Bentley names in 2014.  See the distribution section below for more information. 

Distribution of the name

Distribution and Frequency of Bentley Name in 1880/1881 (Numbers from Forebears)

Nation Incidence Frequency Rank in Nation
United States 6,768 1: 7,420 939
England 12,612 1: 1,933 260
Wales 49 1: 32,008 1,749
Scotland    26 1: 143,970 6,132
Jersey    5 1: 10,376 1,795


Below is a table of the countries with over 100 Bentley names throughout the world in 2014.  The change in the number of Bentley names in the United State and England between 1880/1 and 2014 is noteworthy.  The number of Bentley names in the United States increased from dramatically from 6,768 in 1880 to 46,049 in 2014.  While there was a dramatic increase in the Bentley numbers in the United State, the frequency of the name remains very stable going from 1 in 7,420 in 1880 to 1 in 6,955 in 2014.  Where as in England the Bentley numbers increased more modestly, going from 12,612 in 1881 to 17,316 in 2014.  Yet the frequency dropped from 1 in 1,933 in 1881 to 1 in 3,119 in 2014.  When looking at the distribution of the Bentley name in the chart below, take notice of the variety of the frequency of the Bentley name in relation to the other names appearing in each country. Fiji appears to be the country in which the Bentley name is most frequent (1 in 1,766) and ranked 9th of countries with a Bentley, with 486 Bentley names appearing in 2014. 

Distribution and Frequency of Bentley Name in 2014 in countries with more than 100 incidences (Numbers from Forebears)

United States 46,049 1: 6,955 810
England 17,316 1: 3,119 368
Australia 5,424 1: 4,345 549
South Africa 5,406 1: 9,989 1,232
Canada 3,841 1: 9,224 1,337
New Zealand 963 1: 4,721 693
Wales 632 1: 4,905 582
Scotland 597 1: 8,878 1,281
Fiji 486 1: 1,766 192
France 478 1: 137,990 20,365
Brazil 397 1: 511,350 30,072
Ghana 320 1: 84,510 7,729
Ireland 240 1: 19,138 1,985
Spain 212 1: 219,376 15,503
Bolivia 195 1: 51,422 3,434
Malaysia 177 1: 170,808 10,151
Italy 168 1: 361,680 46,207
Jamaica 161 1: 16,882 1,644
Mexico 157 1: 762,504 21,011
Northern Ireland 143 1: 12,587 1,763
Hong Kong 130 1: 55,536 1,845
Israel 118 1: 69,546 9,170
Belgium 111 1: 100,920 15,958



The collection of data for this Study is in its very beginning.  As stated above, the Study began more as a reconstruction of the early Bentley families of seventeenth century colonial America than a true One Name Study.  As such, the Study has relied more upon the family genealogies available on WikiTree and similar sites.  WikiTree lists over 3,000 Bentley profiles which has been used as a starting point to begin the Study. 

The Study is now beginning to learn how to utilize indices and other "record collections".  Since the initial focus of the Study has been in colonial America, the Study is attempting to locate the best record collections for this era.  

Estimating the overall size of the Study

The 1880 US census lists 6,768 Bentley names and the 1881 England census lists 12,612 Bentley names.  This represents 19,380 Bentley Names in the 1880 era.  This would classify the Study as a large one based upon the Study Size page on the Guild Wiki. An open search of Family Search returns 1,935,263 records, the top collections are:

110,868 records in England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975  

93,987 records in United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014 

70,982 listings for Find A Grave.

Since gathering all known Bentley names will be a very large task.  The Study will begin its data collection with indices or records sets of seventeenth and eighteenth century Colonial America and England.   

Another, and possibly better, measure of the size of the study is user submitted genealogy located on Family Search. This genealogy contains 30,064 records, mainly in the United States from colonial era to late twenty century. 




The Study has yet to undertake any DNA related research.  The Study intends to coordinate all DNA research with Bentley DNA Project.  Please contact John Bentley if you are interested in seeing or assisting the Study expand its DNA research.