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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

The Hurley One-Name study started in 1969. I wanted to discover the origins of my grandfather's family and began to record an ever increasing number of namesakes. I eventually found that he was born in 1835 [sic].

Variant names

The spelling of the name HURLEY has certainly varied over the last few centuries. Often sixteenth century records have the surname as HURLIE. During the seventeenth century it is mainly recorded as HURLY with some references to HURLEY and HURLYE. Throughout Somerset the name was frequently written as HURDLE during the eighteenth century. Generally, to the north and east of the county including the Bath area and into Wiltshire, the surname is often referred to as HURLE or EARL. Other surname variations which should be noted are; ERLEIGH, EARLDEY, EARDLE, ERLE, EARLY, URLEY, HARLE, HEARL, HERRALL, HERLY, HEURLEY, HOURELL, HORDLE, HORLE, HORRELL (this variation particularly common in Devon), HURLL, HURDELL, HURDOLY. However this list is not definitive and one should be prepared for even other variations for example YEARDLEY which is found at Fitzhead, Somerset in 1783.

Name origin

According to Collinson's History of Somerset it is likely that the Hurley name originated from the village of Earley or Early, near Reading, Berkshire. In the Domesday Book, 1086 the village is referred to as Herlei, assessed at four hides. Hereditary surnames were first introduced into England by some of the leading followers of the Conqueror, and most were derived from the place-names of their estates, either in France or England. They were usually inherited by the eldest son. The custom of applying a man's surname to all his children began in the late twelfth century and spread slowly, with the manorial classes and the south of England leading the way.

For those of Irish origins the surname is an anglicised form of two Gaelic patronymics, O' hUirthile descendant of Uirthile and O' Muirthile, anglicised to Murhilla through Murley to Hurley. The first family are mainly found in County Limerick while the other belong to Cork. The Erleigh family below held land in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Historical occurrences of the name

The de Erleigh family, were chamberlains, sheriffs, judges and generals to the Norman monarchy. They are recorded in the pipe rolls as holding King's lands, the hundred of North Petherton, Somerset, in Grand Lease by virtue of their hereditary right to be chamberlains to the King. This fact, along with evidence from heraldry indicates that the first John de Erlegh (1100-1165) was the son of William de Tancraville (aka William Cameraeous), the chamberlain to Henry I, the grandson of the Chamberlain of Tancraville, who was listed in the roll of Falaise as being with the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066 and the great grandson of Ralph Fitzgerald de Tancarville (1005 to 1065), Chamberlain of Normandy and a Guardian of the young Duke William.
The de Tancarvilles were hereditary chamberlains to the Dukes (and earlier Jarls) of Normandy, and some members of the family took the name Chamberlain. The first lord of Tancraville (Tancred's town), was reputed to have arrived with Hrolf Gangler in 911AD. We can reasonably assume he was called Tancred. The likely third lord of Tancraville was known as Ralph FitzHerlwin, (son of Herlwin). Interestingly, Tancred and Herlwin are not Norse, English or Frankish names. These names are Germanic and of similar import; meaning Wise-thoughts and Earl's Friend, respectively suitable names for chamberlains.

Name frequency

The Hurley surname and variant can be found mainly in Somerset, Devon and Ireland. Several Welsh families have their origins in Somerset.

Distribution of the name

After nearly fifty years of research, I have over thirty substantial Hurley pedigrees for Somerset, eleven for Devon, a dozen for Ireland and several of unknown origin. The descendants are spread through out the globe. Many of these pedigrees contain photographs of churches and Hurley families.


I have collected all the Hurley Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1837-2004 from the GRO indexes. Also I have gathered all Hurley baptisms, marriages and burials entries from every Somerset parish register. I possess many other records from other countries and UK counties, as well as Census Returns, Wills, Apprenticeships, Prison Records, Settlement documents etc which must total to around 80,000 references.


The Hurley DNA project is helping to identify relationships. Most Hurley families belong to haplogroup T which arose 20,000 years ago most likely in the Arabian Penisular or in nearby Africa. One family have haplogroup R1a indicating possible Viking connection while another family possess haplogroup R1b which shows they were original British settlers.