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Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

I maintain the BRADLEY UK DATABASE & RESEARCH EXCHANGE which is a non-commercial initiative referencing many thousands of BRADLEY entries accumulated over many years of research. I will happily undertake searches on behalf of enquirers by a number of parameters eg year, event, name, spouse or location and will freely provide a printout in text form by location or locations. You may request an individual location (eg parish, town or city) or a general printout for any county or counties. Some will be more voluminous than others. In the event of data being found that appears to assist your research you will be given details of any other registered researcher for that particular family. All I ask in return is full details of your BRADLEY data to include in the system for the benefit of future enquirers and to increase the prospects of a match. Your interests will be logged so that I can revert to you when relevant material comes in. Please note that the database is principally referable to the UK although we do have a few overseas entries. This service in non-profit-making.

I am a lawyer by profession and have published a first book 'LIFTING THE LID ON THE LAW' which chronicles my experiences over forty years as a criminal defence solicitor in Lincolnshire, at the sharp end. Readers' comments include 'hysterical,' 'hilarious' and 'my sides hurt.' Although the BRADLEY UK DATABASE is an entirely voluntary project that started in 1986, I would welcome support for the book! It is available on Amazon by just typing in the title. Alternatively send an e-mail to Thank you.

Variant names

Bradeley, Bradely, Bradly, Bradlee & Braidlee

Name origin

The surname of Bradley was a locational name from one of many places so called in England and Scotland, from the Old English 'brad' (broad) plus 'leah' (wood). Local surnames, by far the largest group, derived from a place name where the man held land or from the place from which he had come, or where he actually lived. These local surnames were originally preceded by a preposition such as 'de,' 'atte,' 'by' or 'in.' The names may derive from a manor held, from working in a religious dwelling or from literally living by a wood or marsh or by a stream. Early records of the name mention Robert de Bradeleye, 1273 County Cambridge. Henry de Broadleye was documented in County Somerset, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Agnes de Bradelay of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. In the year 1170 the ancient Pipe Rolls bear the name William de Bradelai indicating that he possessed a piece of land. In the records of Yorkshire, for the year 1379, a William Brodeleigh appears. This shows that it was adopted as a surname at a time when the majority of people were still using personal names like 'John the tailor' or 'Henry the baker' etc.

Bradley, Bradly and Broadley are just three of the mutations in general use throughout the British Isles. We can trace the origin of the Bradlee name back to towns and villages called 'Bradley' in Lincolnshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire (to mention only three) in England. Bradley evolved from the Old English 'brode' and 'leah' which together mean 'broad meadow.'

Like our language, names change and develop throughout the centuries. We have Old English and Middle English and at times it is almost impossible to equate the two. When the Bradlee name first appeared on record it was spelled de Bradelai. Later it appeared as Brodeleigh and today we have even more spellings of the same name. For instance the Bradlees were early arrivals in America as one of the records shows a Francis Bradlee as having sailed from England (born in Yorkshire) and arriving in Connecticut in the year 1650. p>

Historical occurrences of the name

One of the important bearers of the name was James Bradley who was born in England in 1693. He was the astronomer who discovered the aberration of light mutation (nodding) of the earth's axis. He was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1742 by King George II.

Over 18,000 individuals fought in the Battle of the Trafalgar on the side of the Royal Navy. The victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain, as a result of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, is considered one of Britain's greatest and most significant military victories. It thwarted Napoleon's plans to invade Britain at the time, and it laid the foundation of Britain's undisputed mastery of the sea into the twentieth century. Several Bradleys fought in this conflict - Charles Bradley born 1874 Limehouse, London; David Bradley born 1785 Manchester; John Bradley born Bolton; John Bradley born 1784 Portsmouth; Nicholas Bradley born 1789 County Cavan, Ireland; William Bradley born 1770 Warwick and William Bradley born 1775 Crowland, Lincolnshire. Records may be searched at

John Bradley Cumings died in the sinking of the Titanic on 15th April 1912. His body, if recovered, was never identified. His wife was rescued in lifeboat 4. They embarked on the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers and occupied cabin C-85. Following collision with the iceberg, the couple went to the boat deck. Mrs Cumings stayed with the other women around lifeboat 4 and waited until it was finally lowered. She refused to leave her husband but he assured her that he would follow in a later boat. Bridget Delia Bradley boarded the Titanic at Queenstown bound for the home of her sister Mary Bradley, at Glen Falls, New York. She was a third class passenger and survived the sinking in lifeboat 13. After her arrival in America on the Carpathia, she received financial aid from the American Red Cross. One of her daughters wrote her mother's biography called 'Unsinkable Bridget.'

Name frequency

Over time the frequency of the Bradley surname has been recorded as follows: 1841 census 12,748, 1851 census 14,412, 1861 census 16,213, 1871 census 19,150 and 1891 census 23,800. For 1881 data, with recent comparison, see below.

Distribution of the name

At the British census taken on 3rd April 1881 there was an incidence of 24,028 Bradley surnames (888 per million head of population) compared with 35,757 (960 per million) shown by the electoral registration of 1998. In terms of geographical spread, on both occasions the top area in Great Britain was Dudley. There were 4598 occurrences of Bradley as a forename in 1881.

Further particulars, including distribution maps, can be obtained from


Census, parish records & civil registrations