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About the study
The Staley database is being compiled from:
Transcripts of parish registers
and many other sources
My original hope was to find 'my' Staleys and the origins of the name. That hope has become a central finding aid for everyone interested in the name of Staley or any of the variant names which appear to have been derived from Staley, just as Staley appears to have been derived from the name of Staveley.
The database is a worldwide two-name study - Staley and Staveley - containing around 10,000 names and still growing. My research covers more than 20,000 names which are gradually being added to http://staleydatabase.tribalpages.com.
The database is a finding tool only. If the information I send you seems to be what you are looking for, check it out against primary sources. I cannot emphasize this too strongly.
The origin of the surname Staley is generally believed to be derived from Stalybridge and the surname Staveley to be derived from the place-name of Staveley, 'wood where staves are got'.
I believe the answer to be more complex. The possibilities which need to be explored are:
- The surnames Staley and Staveley derived from the place-names of Staley later Stalybridge and Staveley.
- The interchangeability of the surnames Staley and Staveley in the north-west corner of Derbyshire.
- The anglicisation of the German surname of Staehli and variant spellings.
The surname of Staley started to spread at an early period. An article on leadminers in the Family Tree Magazine in November 1992 suggests a possible reason - '... the annoying practice of 'impressing' miners, despite their ancient liberties and moving them around the country, a practice which continued until the 17th century.' Most early-ish Staleys were miners or husbandmen.
1. Place-name origins
This does not need much discussion. A person moves from one place to another, and acquires the former place as a surname. A former resident of Staveley, Dby, told me that, when he was younger, Staley was accepted as an abbreviation of Staveley. while Derbyshire is accepted as the 'home' of the surname Staley, there are also Staveley place-names in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmorland.
2. Interchangeability in north-west Derbyshire
When I set out to trace my family tree, I dutifully did as the books told me and consulted all the county histories I could lay my hands on. I soon found two stories concerning a crusader of Stalybridge. The main difference was in the surnames - Staley and Staveley. David iredale had already told me that the earliest mention of Staley as a surname was in Stalybridge. Having already decided to collect all Staleys irrespective of whether or not they were 'mine', it seemed like a good idea to collect Staveleys as well if I was to trace the origins of the name of Staley. So, over the years, I built up two indexes, which have since been combined.
Some years ago, just as I was beginning to feel that I was wasting time and energy in collecting Staveleys, I was working my way through a Derbyshire parish register, when I realised that some families named Staley and Staveley were bearing a certain resemblance to each other. Then my husband, who was helping me at the time, came over and said the same thing.
Returning home, I re-examined the indexes and found a pattern emerged. If anyone had handed me a chart showing such a change in name, I would have been distinctly sceptical. But the indexes showed not just one family but several. The most immediate common denominator was geographical location. This apparent interchangeability occurred in the Tideswell-Hope-Castleton area of Derbyshire. More recent research shows possible traces in the Winster-Elton-Youlgreave area.
In 1990, as a result of a visit to Exeter Records Office, I found that the Devon Staleys almost certainly originated from one particular Staveley of Yorkshire who married a Devon heiress. this may have been connected with the 'Southern Plantation' of Richard III. there is a strong possibility that there is a connection between the Staveleys of Staveley in Yorkshire, through Stalybridge to Hope in Derbyshire. Can it be a coincidence that the only areas where I've found this interchangeability appears to be have family connections?
I read somewhere that Staley as a surname is peculiar to Derbyshire. Most early Staleys which I've found so far occur in the Hope-Tideswell-Castleton area, And many of them, on closer inspection, turn out to be Staveleys. By early, I mean those occurring in the pre-parish register period, though the interchangeability continues in some cases well into the 18th century.
I can only speculate on the reasons for the interchangeability. Stalybridge was once known as Staley. Did the Staveleys of Stalybridge take some of their followers to Hope and did the followers thus acquire Staley as a surname?
But then there is the case of the will of Christopher Staley. He clearly signs it as 'Staley'. Yet the details in it match only those of Christopher Staveley, a member of the gentry.
Did the variant spelling 'Staueley' or 'Stauley' come to be pronounced and spelled as 'Staley'?
Or is the answer simpler still? I found a 17th century entry in a London parish register which read 'Staâley'. It could only relate to one particular and undeniable Staveley.
3. The German possibility
While exploring the spread of the surname Staley in America through the medium of the IGI, I became aware of the probability of the anglicisation of Staehli and its variants to Staley or one of its variants.
Robert Layton, in his Ancestry of Elizabeth Nancy Staley, confirmed this theory when he said that the name Staley has at least two primary origins - English and Swiss-German. He gives the English origins as meaning 'the place where the staves are made' and the German roots as '... strong character, a hero name and, during the Middle Ages, a steel smith.'
The Family Tree Magazine article, mentioned above, also made the point that 'German miners came to Wales as early as 1302...' The article continues 'others came in the 16th century...'
The Staley variant spelling in Wales seems to be 'Staely', which suggests to me that there is a possibility of anglicisation in Wales as well as America.
Miss Sandra Staley
34 Cloutsham Street