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About the study
BILLINGSLEY is the maiden name of my maternal great-great-grandmother. It is also the reason why my research jumped in a single step from industrialised Middlesbrough (North Yorkshire) to a scenic village in rural Worcestershire.
Discovering that ancestors moved around the country in response to economic and occupational factors fuelled a wider interest in the BILLINGSLEY name and social history. The result was a one-name study that has continued to develop over the last twelve years and now includes comprehensive coverage of people who have used the surname BINNERSLEY.
The largest volume of information in my database relates to the United Kingdom. However, enquiries and research partners are welcome from any geographical location because a single name or date is often enough to spark a new and mutually satisfying line of research.
Please contact me using the e-mail address below and I will be happy to share any information from my records that are relevant to your family tree. This can be particularly helpful if you need to disentangle a selection of William BILLINGSLEYs or if you are wondering whether a record relating to Lucy BINNERSLEY is the same person as the Lucy BILLINGSLEY documented elsewhere. I can often assist with this type of problem because my database takes into account surname variations/deviations and cross-references baptism, marriage, burial, census and other important records. In return, I learn from people who have detailed knowledge of particular families and am able to reference your assistance so you can be put in contact with other researchers.
The modern name BILLINGSLEY is found in historical records as a mind boggling array of variations and mis-spellings - if it sounds like BILLINGSLEY, it probably is BILLINGSLEY. Or perhaps BINNERSLEY!
Some of the variations I have documented are shown below and I will be delighted to hear from anyone who can add to this collection:
BILLINGSLAY, BILINGLEY, BILINGLY, BILLESLEY, BILLINGELY, BILLINGESLEY, BILLINGESLEYE, BILLINGLEY, BILLINGLY, BILLINGSLEA, BILLINGSLEY, BILLINGSLEYE, BILLINGSLY, BILLSLEY, BYLINGSLY, BYLLESEY, BYLLESLEY, BYLLINGESLEYE, BYLLINGLEY, BYLLINGLY, BYLLINGSLAY, BYLLINGSLEA, BYLLINGSLEYE, BYLLYNGESLEYE, BYLLYNGLEY.
Added entertainment is introduced by regional dialect and collection of census information from helpful neighbours. This means I have located known BILLINGSLEYs under names such as BILLING, BILLINGHAM, BILLINS, BILLS, BILLSLYE. The interaction with BINNERSLEY and BINNERSLY is also more widespread than I first imagined.
Most sources that mention the surname BILLINGSLEY assume that it arose as as a locational name - probably given to individuals as a means of identification after they moved away from the village of the same name near Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
The place of birth argument is attractive but remains to be proved because the confounding factors are many and early instances of the name are found a long way south of Shropshire. This means that a definitive conclusions on surname origin is unlikely in my lifetime.
Historical occurrences of the name
My interest in the BILLINGSLEY surname is firmly rooted in the diversity of the families who have used it over the centuries. This means that, without actively looking for famous people, interesting circumstances frequently come to light:
1587: Parish records for Wolverley, Worcestershire, remember that a poore boy was buryed the 17 day of December and dyed in John BYLLINGES barn.
1650: Five brothers whose father came from a small Shropshire village are known to have been the first of the BILLINGSLEY line in America. However, English parish records throw interesitng new light on this.
1666: BILLINGSLEYs are recorded as paying hearth tax in London immediately before the great fire.
1749: A censorious record was made of William BILLINGSLEY's absence from church in Wolverley, Worcestershire.
1808: The baptism of a child led to research on the interesting occupations of London watermen and lightermen.
1849: Pollution is nothing new and the 'putrid state of the Thames' was responsible for the death of at least one BILLINGSLEY.
1886: Local newspaper reports explain the sad circumstances behind a General Register Office death registration in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.