This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon locational origin, from any of the various places called Rowley. in Devonshire, Durham, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. The placenames are recorded as "Rodeleia" in the Domesday book on 1086, Ruley in the Feodarium Prioratus Dunelmensis (1229), "Roelea" in the Pipe Rolls (1173), and "Ruley" in the Episcopal Registers (1227), respectively. They all derive from the Old English pre 7th Century "ruh" meaning rough, overgrown plus "leah" a wood, clearing; hence "an overgrown clearing". The surname is first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below). One Adam de Roulay, is noted in the Hundred Rolls of Yorkshire (1273), and Geoffrey de Rowleye, appears in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcester (1280). In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings including Rowley, Rowly, Roly, Roley, Rooly and Rooley. On December 1st 1678, Richard Rolley married Sarah Randall at All Saints, Wandsworth. The marriage of Mary Rolley to Joseph Aynsley took place on March 3rd 1705, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. On November 5th 1720, Elizabeth Rolley married Thomas Evans at St. Mary Magdalene, Old Fish Street, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Ruelay (witness), which was dated 1219, in the "Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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