Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Acherley, Atcherly
Category: 3 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way on a global basis.
DNA website: www.familytreedna.com/public/AtcherleySurname/default.aspx
Contact: Mr Steven Jackson
My Atcherley one-name study grew from my attempts to track down my maternal ancestors and cousins, a task which I began in the latter part of 2008. On tracing the ancestry of those bearing the surname Atcherley during the census and civil registration era, it became clear that all of them very likely shared a common ancestor.
My hope is that it will be possible to assemble a complete family tree for the Atcherley family, based on solid evidence, and also to gain as full an understanding as is possible of how all these Atcherleys lived their lives. This work is progressing well, aided by the increasing number of historic records, books and newspapers that have been (and are being) transcribed, indexed and made available online.
There are other Atcherley researchers who have been piecing together this family's tree for a lot longer than I have, and I am extremely grateful to them for their pioneering - and ongoing - work. It would be great to have more people on board - particularly people who were born an Atcherley or who have Atcherley ancestors or cousins.
Acherley was a common variant in the past (particularly in the 1600s), another frequent variant right up to modern times is Atcherly. A combination of the rareness (and therefore unfamiliarity) of the name and variations in old handwriting means that Atcherley is often transcribed incorrectly from parish registers, census schedules, passenger lists and birth/marriage/death records. As a result, Atcherley records can sometimes be difficult to find as they are often 'lost in transcription.'
The surname of one of the earlier and more prominent members of the family, Sir Roger Atcherley (Lord Mayor of London from 1511) was typically written as Achelley. This variant (with many similar ones including Achley, Atchly, Atchley, Atcheley, and Achelley) can be found in some of the parish registers of south Shropshire (Ludlow and some nearby townships) and also London in the 1500s and 1600s. These surname variants are not yet part of this study, though I have little doubt that those who bore them were part of the family.
Atcherley has been described as a "good old Shropshire name" and certainly has strong roots in that county. It has been suggested that it is a locative surname, derived from a lost village or settlement. My research suggests that the place from which the Atcherleys took their name was in fact a farmstead near Bletchley in north Shropshire, the site of which is now occupied by Aychley Cottages.
Another suggestion that has been made is that the original 'Atcherley' was in fact a Norman invader or settler. One William Achilles, apparently the grandfather of a Richard Acheley, appears in the Testa de Nevill, during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), holding "a tenth part of a Knight's fee in Dodelebur" (Diddlesbury, in south Shropshire). I have found no records to link William Achilles with people from later years names Atcherley or variants of that surname.
The Atcherley family, although a small in size, has included a good number of notable members. The above-mentioned Sir Roger Atcherley (or Achelley) was elected sheriff of Middlesex and London in 1504 and chosen to be Lord Mayor of London in 1511, during the reign of Henry VIII. He "filled several civic offices of high trust with distinction" before his death in 1521.
Another Roger (Roger Acherley, baptised 23 Dec 1662 at Baschurch in Shropshire) was a noted lawyer of the Inner Temple and author of The Britannic Constitution, published in 1727. He presented a copy of his book to the King, who (according to reports in the Daily Journal) received it 'very graciously.'
The Rev. James Atcherley was headmaster of Shrewsbury School from 1770 to 1798, although a number of authors have described this period as one of decline during which the school's fortunes (and the number of its pupils) reached their lowest levels! James' youngest son, also named James, was notable for being a Captain in the Royal Marines who, during the Battle of Trafalgar, took the surrender of the French Admiral Villeneuve.
Perhaps the most famous Atcherleys were the 'flying twins' of the RAF, Air Marshall Sir Richard Llewellyn Roger Atcherley and Air Vice Marshall David Francis William Atcherley. Richard, popularly known as Batchy, was the most prominent of the two, known for setting air speed records while competing in the Schneider Trophy Air Races in 1929, for winning the King's Cup Air Race during the same year, and for his displays of 'crazy flying' at the Cleveland Air Races in the USA in 1930, '31, '32 and '34. Less well known are his contributions to the development of night landing and air refuelling systems.
The surname Atcherley is uncommon, with only around a hundred bearers alive at any one time in the last couple of centuries. Data from the Office for National Statistics, dating from 2002, show that Atcherley was then ranked 33,994 most frequently occurring out of a million-plus surnames on record for England, Wales and the Isle of Man. The Forebears website meanwhile states that worldwide, Atcherley is the 1,847,619th most common surname.
An Atcherley DNA project is in progress at Family Tree DNA, using Y-DNA testing. This has confirmed that present-day Atcherleys from both sides of the Atcherley family tree (which has two main 'trunks') share a common ancestor. Another fascinating finding is that American bearers of the surname Atchley are descended from the same ancestors as the Atcherleys! I think it likely that the American Atchleys descend from people named Atchley (and variants; see above) who lived in south Shropshire. If so, this would indicate that the Atcherleys in the north of the county and the Atchleys from the south were one family. In addition, a line of Ashleys in America also has Y-DNA matches with the Atcherleys and Atchleys.
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