Recorded in many spellings as shown below, this is an English locational surname. It originates from any of the places called Brierly or Brierley in the West Midlands or Yorkshire, or perhaps in some cases from a now "lost" medieval village called Breg-leah. All derive their names from the pre 7th Century word "brer" meaning a briar hedge, and "leah," an area of land cleared for agriculture. In effect the name means a farm surrounded by a defensive band of thorn and briar both to keep the cattle in at night and brigands out! The surname is very early with recordings that include Roger de Brerley in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1325, and Johannes de Brerelay given as being a Freeman of the city of York in 1377. Modern spellings of the surname according to the International Genalolocal Index include Brierly, Brearley, Briarly, Briarley, Brealey, Brayley, Braley, Brailey, and probably others. Examples in surviving church registers include Margery Brealey christened on December 7th 1583, at St. Dunstans in the East, Stepney, and Anne Brayley who married Robert Fates on on 21st September 1693 at St James church, Dukes Place, Westminster. John Brearley, aged 40, was an Irish famine emigrant who sailed on the ship "Rochester of Liverpool" bound for New York on September 11th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ivetta de Brerelay, and dated 1248, in the Assize Court Rolls of the county of Staffordshire, during the reign of King Henry 111rd, 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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