This interesting and unusual name is of Norman (French) origin, introduced into Britain after the Conquest of 1066, and is a good example of that large group of European surnames that were gradually created by the habitual use of a nickname. In this case the nickname was originally given to someone with a pitted or pock-marked face, possibly to some of those few survivors of the frequent epidemics of the plague in the Middle Ages in Europe. The name derives from the Old Norman French "gresle, greslet", pitted, scarred, itself derived from the Germanic word "gresle", hailstone. The development of the surname includes: Robert Greilli (1133, Bedfordshire), Alexander Grisle (1148, Hampshire), Albert Gresley (1153, Norfolk) and Robert Grelay (1230, Lancashire). The modern surname has at least eighteen variant forms, including Grealey, Grayley, Greasley, Grisley, Grellis and Grealish. John Grealish married Margaret Ann Brown on October 8th 1876 in Bury, Lancashire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Albert Greslet, which was dated 1086, in the "Domesday Book" (Cheshire), during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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