Recorded as Kightly and Kightley, this is an English surname. It is of locational origin from a place called Keighley in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The placename is recorded as "Chichelai" in the Domesday Book of 1086 and as "Kikeleia" in the Early Yorkshire Charters (1170). The first element of the name is either the old English pre 7th Century byname "cicca" from "cicen" a chicken, or the old Norse "kika" or "keik(r)" meaning a bend or creek, plus the old English "leah" a wood or clearing; hence "Cicca's clearing" or "the clearing by the creek". During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job seeking became more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. In the modern idiom, the surname has many variant spellings including Keighley, Keighly, Keightley, Keitley, Keatley, Kitley, etc.. On September 16th 1599, Catherine, daughter of Francis Kightly was christened at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney and on July 28th 1678, Beniamen, son of Robert and Margaret Kightley was christened at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Kighele, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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