Recorded in several forms including Airlie, Airly, Earley, Hearley and Harley, this is an English surname. It is locational from either of the two places now called Harley in the counties of Shropshire and Yorkshire. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th century words "hoer", meaning rocks, or "hara", the hare, but probably in this context a personal name, and "leah", a fenced enclosure or farm, to give the translations of either "Hare's farm", or "the farm by the rocks". The place in Shropshire was first recorded as "Harlege" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and that in Yorkshire as "Harlay" in the Subsidy Rolls of 1297. Locational surnames were usually developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, often to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. Spelling being at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, soon gave rise to "sounds like" spellings. Amongst the recordings from surviving church registers of the post medieval period are the marriage of Thomas Harley and Joan Clark on November 17th 1590, at Doncaster, in Yorkshire, whilst in the citry of London, Mercy Aireley married Robert Dodd at St Mary Aldermary, on November 28th 1695. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Juhel de Harelea. This was dated 1166, in the "Pipe Rolls" of Yorkshire. 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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