Manley Family Origins

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The two "burning" questions for those of us of Manley/Manly descent are:

1) MANLEY ? or MANLY? WHICH is correct?

2) English? or Irish? where did we come from?

English or Irish?

I grew up hearing this family lore:

MANLYS were Irish, Catholics

MANLEYS were English, Protestants

I've heard from other Manley/Manly researchers who heard it just he other way around.

Let me ask you this, how do you look in a Viking helmet?

The origin of the Manly "clan" is in fact VIKING!

Proof of the Manleys being with William I at the Battle of Hastings is found in the Falise Rolls, 2 of the 3 versions of the Roll of Battle Abbey and in the Domesday Book. The Manleys were of Norman, hence "Norsmen" stock.

For a better understanding I have provided a page on the history (VERY brief) of the Viking Conquests.

It was from Normandy, then England that the Manley family migrated into Ireland, Scotland and Wales then later to the Colonies.

One other bit of family history I found interesting is in the family Coat of Arms. The CREST, the section above the shield is a Saracen's Head. The Saracen's head indicates the ancestor to whom this Coat of Arms belonged was a knight who belonged to the Crusades.

Manley/Manly Origins

Background image: Governor (NC) Charles Manly 1795-1871

Foreground image: Manley Family Ancestor. Sculpture from remains found in burial ground in Poulton, England.


Through more than ten years of on-line research on my Manley line, I have found one thing to be an absolute truth, expect the unexpected!

When I was a teenager, I received a photocopy of the book "The Manly Family", by Louise Manly. Each branch of our line received several of these copies. I must admit, as a teenager, I had better things to do! I "tucked it away" for safe keeping, where it remained for about 5 years.

In 1973 I was bitten by the genealogy bug. Actually, it was more akin to an attack by a swarm of them!

In the days before the Internet, research was much more difficult. You had to visit an area, or be absolutely positive of the location of source documents in order to obtain copies.

Beginning in 1998, I did something I swore I'd NEVER do, I began using the computer at home (I work on one 5 days a week) to do genealogical research.

The discoveries I have made and those made by others working on this research have proven to be endlessly educating, often frustrating, but NEVER dull!

Having a website does sometime pay off! I found LaMarr Q. Brooks, who kindly shared her enormous gedcom with me. I was contacted by Charles G. Manly, Dixie Davidson and David Crueton all of whom provided many of the documents you'll see here and put me in touch with Marguerite Moyer who sent me a copy of HER family history, which ALSO began in MD in the 1600s.

I discovered Helen M. Manley on the Cheshire message boards. I had been working closely with Helen (who is not ONLY a Manley, but a genealogist as well) for a couple of years, when I came across a message posted by Christopher R. Manley, of England. Since Helen is the "historian" of our pair, I had her contact him. Chris has proven to be most generous with the documents and photos handed down through his line. Within a couple of months of "finding" Chris, I was contacted by Alan Manley, also of England. Alan had been working with Keith Manley, our resident Moonraker, of Wiltshire, England for 2 years (once again, the net!). He invited Keith to join our little group. We have many ups and downs, but still pursue our main goal, trying to trace our ancestors and tying the lines back together.

Recent results from our family's DNA project shows that our branch may very well have followed the Normans to England and England to Ireland route to the colonies, with one deviation, the appears to have had a major "stop over in Scotland" before arriving on US shores!


Begin at the Beginning!

On the question of the correct spelling of the surname; we have an abundance of variations to choose from! The best explanation is that surnames didn't always "exist". They became "common" when William I, "the Conqueror" ordered a "census" of all people, properties and chattel in his domain. This was the Domesday book. Surnames were, in essence, a "descriptor" of the person. Something that pertained to where he lived, a physical trait or a skill or trade.

This from the BBC's "Meet the Ancestors"

"The Manley family crest was a black hand and it had been suggested by Joyce that the name Manley could have come from the French word "main" meaning hand. Michael and Mark Manley both have very large hands and so did our man in the grave."

It could also pertain to the fighting skill of our ancestor, a knight who fought alongside William at the Battle of Hasting in 1066.

The first recorded "versions" of the name were DeManleigh, DeMandly, DeManley, Manlegh with the later variations of Manley and Manly. These are by no means the only variations found, just some of the most often repeated.

For my direct line, that of Captain John Basil Manly of the American Revolution, it was MANLEY. I can hear all of the descendants of this line yelling, but it's true! Basil's (he dropped the John) father, Thomas has many records, both in census and court proceedings in St. Mary's County Archives. He is found as MANLEY. Basil's Revolutionary War records are also found as MANLEY (although I did find 1 listing him as MANLY). The 1790 & 1820 census of Chatham County, North Carolina list them as MANLEY. Somewhere between that 1820 census and the 1830 census for Chatham County, we lost the "E"! I have no way of knowing if it was by choice or by careless record-keeping of the census taker. The "e" shows back up with Malcolm G. Manley, my g-grandfather, then vanishes again forever after his death.


Music on this page: "Castles" from Les Miserables

Last update 11/19/2006