Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Welcome to my Hiley One-Name Study.
Having spent some years researching my own personal Hiley family history and that of related families, I have embarked on the study of the genealogy and family history of all persons with the Hiley surname (or a variant surname).
Please contact me if you have the Hiley surname, or have an interest in the surname, and would like to support or contribute to this study.
A huge number of different spellings were used for the Hiley surname in the 400 years following the first reference in 1297. It was not until about 1700 that the spellings finally narrowed down to the ones which appear most often today, i.e. Hiley and Highley.
The early entries in the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls all contain a 'de' or 'del' between the first name and the surname. This meant 'of' or 'of the', or 'from' or 'from the' and showed that the person was connected with a particular place. So Hugh del Helilegh was Hugh of the Helilegh. This sort of surname is called a 'locational' surname, meaning that the name is derived from a place name or a topographical feature.
36 different spellings have been recorded in the 1300s, but towards the end of the century the de or del had disappeared in the Hiley name.
The earliest available registers for West Yorkshire are the Parish registers of Halifax, 1538-1593. These contain a number of Hiley baptisms, marriages and burials. 146 occurrences of the surname are recorded with 38 different spellings, the most common being Hililie, Hyleylye and Hyleyly. There is only one name spelt Hiley and no Highleys. More spellings appeared in the 1600s in Parish registers from other churches and various sources taking the total number of different spellings to over 100.
All these spellings have long since disappeared and only Hiley and Highley have survived in any numbers to the present day. These two spellings will form the basis of the One-Name study with all the other recorded spellings treated as deviants.
George Redmonds, in ‘A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames’, says that the Hiley/Highley name is from High Lee in Luddenden near Halifax. High Lee is a small area on the Sowerby hillside above the Calder valley.
The modern Hiley or Highley name has generally been assumed to mean a ‘high clearing’ or a ‘high meadow’. But the early records, like Helileghe or Heylyligh, include an extra syllable. In ‘The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire’ A.H. Smith suggests that the first part of the surname is from the Anglo Saxon word ‘hygel’, a hillock. ‘Leah’ was an Anglo Saxon word for clearing. So the name might have originally meant a 'clearing on a hillock’.
In ‘Yorkshire West Riding’ in the English Surname Series, George Redmonds gives the first appearance of the name in the West Riding as being in 1297. This is an entry in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield for Thomas del Hegeleye, and this name would fit in with Smith’s reasoning, but there appear to be no other spellings similar to this one, i.e. including the letter g.
George Redmonds says: ‘The problem with Highley has always been the interpretation of the earliest spellings. I have to say that I gave that as evidence because it fitted A.H. Smith’s etymology of the Luddenden place-name. Since that time more evidence has become available but no similar spellings that I know of. Mostly the surname examples follow a pattern, e.g.. Heylilygh, Helylye and that persists well into the fifteenth century. I have sometimes wondered if Hegeleye was a mis-transcription for Heyeleye’.
Amongst notable Hileys down the years are:
Hugh de Hileleghe. In 1327 he took 4 acres of unoccupied land in Sourbi (Sowerby) at 6d an acre. Roger de Grenewode complained that Hugh unjustly took and carried off 3 waggon loads of his hay.
Thomas del Helileghe. He was amerced (fined) 3d for grazing a sow without right in 1332.
Highlee of Highlee. 1643. Described as 'the richest man in Sowerby, having sixty houses and farms.'
Peter Hiley (1598-1675). He was twice mayor of Poole and entertained Charles II at his home in 1665.
Henry Hileley. Constable of Sowerby in 1677-8, he 'busied himself with the repair of the roads'.
Mary Hiley (1722-1778). Mary was the mother of Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, the U.K. Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804.
Joseph Hiley (1902-1989). M.P. for Pudsey in Yorkshire and a former Lord Mayor of Leeds.
Captain Frank Hiley. Died 1918. The most highly ranked Hiley killed in the First World War. He 'rose from the ranks and became Captain through his own efforts'.
According to Ancestry figures for the 1851 Census there were 628 Hileys and 287 Highleys in the U.K. at that time, a total of 915. By 1911 the figures had risen to 1234 Hileys and 667 Highleys, a total of 1901. The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, published in 2016, gives the current frequencies as 1048 Hileys and 333 Highleys, a total of 1381.
The Forebears website gives frequencies of surnames around the world, and shows a current figure of approximately 2696 people with the Hiley surname, and approximately 2998 people with the Highley surname.
'Surname Atlas' by Archer Software gives frequencies and distribution maps of U.K. surnames in 1881.
A total of 758 Hileys are recorded, with the highest number, 261, or 34%, living in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Monmouthshire in South Wales has the densest distribution with 35 per 100,000 people. Figures are also given for Districts based on Poor Law Unions. On this basis Bradford has the highest number with 66 and East Retford the densest distribution with 112 per 100,000.
A total of 479 Highleys are recorded, with the highest number, 191, or 40%, again in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Between them Yorkshire and Lancashire comprise 72% of all the records. The densest distribution is again in Monmouthshire. Based on districts, Halifax has the highest number with 152. Todmorden has the densest distribution with 211 per 100,000 people.
A very small number of other Hiley spellings are recorded but I have been unable to find any recent instances of these surnames.
On a global basis using the Forebears website, the top 3 countries for Hiley are UK (1362), United States (862) and Australia (180), and for Highley, United States (2340), UK (387) and Canada (78).
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: