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2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

I have been researching the Starley family genealogy for over 20 years and probably hold the most data anywhere.

Variant names


Name origin

The surname Starley is relatively rare. Its UK origin is probably from the land or of agricultural usage as the family were primarily farmers and market gardeners.

Historical occurrences of the name

James Starley was born in Albourne, Sussex, England on 21st April 1830, the youngest son of Daniel Starley a farmer. He had a very inventive mind and was practical, pragmatic and extremely good with his hands, designing and making small devices for use on the farm or in the home. At the age of 16 he decided to leave home and walked to London. A journey that eventually took him to Coventry, where he established several manufacturing businesses. Initially for sewing machines, but ultimately for the tricycle and bicycle, for which he is recognised as the '€˜Inventor of the Modern Bicycle'€™. James'€™s most important invention was the brilliant concept of the '€˜Differential Gear'€™ which is now incorporated in the back axle of every motor vehicle in the world.

After the death of James in 1881 his nephew John Kemp Starley continued the business, moving into motor cycle and car manufacturing which resulted in the founding of the Rover Car Company.

Name frequency

The name originates in England, initially almost exclusively in the county of Sussex. In 1855 James Starley (b.1817) migrated from Bolney, Sussex to Utah USA, following the arduous Mormon Trail. Several other family members joined him later. During the 19th Century there was some migration to Coventry, Warwickshire but the name remains rare and there are probably less than 500 English Starleys today. The last official count was in the English 1911 Census which had 160 (


1841 Census 131
1851 Census 164
1861 Census 206
1871 Census 170
1881 Census 117
1891 Census 301
1901 Census 140
1911 Census 160

Distribution of the name

Outside of England and USA there are few occurrences of the Starley name. There is a Starley family in Australia which is related to the Sussex Starleys. Ireland does have several Starley families but there is no proven connection to the English Starleys.


I hold a database of Starley genealogy which includes most available data worldwide. Also much research and documentation on the Life and Inventions of James Starley (1830-1881).