Haley Surname Genealogy

Haley, Hayley and Hailey all seem to have derived from the Old English heg meaning “hay” and leah meaning
“clearing” – hence “hay
clearing.” These were initially
place-names before they became surnames.

The place-names of note here were probably Hayley, a minor and now lost
location in Yorkshire, and the Hailey name found in both Hertfordshire
Oxfordshire. The former gave rise to the
more common Haley spelling found in west Yorkshire; the latter to the
and Haileys in London and the home counties.
Complicating the issue is the
Halley name – generally of Scottish or Irish origin and with different
– but which may in England have derived from a lost village in
Derbyshire. And Haley can also be Irish,
being an anglicization
of the Irish name Healy.  Haley has been the main spelling in England and America..

Haley Resources on

Haley Ancestry

England. The
numbers in
England, by the time of the 1891 census, were:

  • 3,550
    Haleys, with 52% in
  • 550
    Halleys, with 31% in London
  • 290
    Hayleys, with 27% in London
  • and
    Haileys, with 18% in London and 13% in Hertfordshire.

has been by
far the largest spelling of these names in England, but generally
localized to
Yorkshire. It was recorded as Haylay in
the 1379 Yorkshire poll tax records. Haley and Healey emerged as early Yorkshire surnames, Haley
Bradford and Healey in the Birstall and Batley area.

were two notable later Haley families of west Yorkshire:

  • Haleys in Cleckheaton
    date from 1765. Squire Haley fought and
    was decorated in the Peninsula Wars with France in the early 1800’s. Samuel Haley, a cardmaker and steel wire
    manufacturer, established his works in the town in the mid-1800’s. Although he was killed in 1870 in a train
    crash when on a pleasure outing, the business was continued by his
    family until
  • while Haleys were iron founders in Bradford from the
    early 19th
    century. The first of this family was
    William Haley who had been born in Batley in 1734.
    Elisha and Enoch Haley formed a family
    partnership in Bradford in the early 1850’s. Elisha’s
    son Alfred became a prosperous mill owner in
    manufacturing worsteds. He was a Justice
    of the Peace in the 1880’s and a well-known art collector.

William Haley was born in 1901 in St. Helier on
Jersey, the son of a Yorkshire clerk and a French grocer’s daughter. He was Director General of the BBC from 1944
to 1952 and editor of The Times from
1952 to 1966.

A Haly family at Bradock in
Cornwall dated back to the late 1500’s.
They became Haley when William Haley and his family emigrated to
in 1850 and later to Kansas.

Halley – a name sometimes pronounced as Hawley – was to be
found in the village of Beeley in Derbyshire in the mid-1500’s. Edmond Halley from Derbyshire came to London
in the 1600’s and prospered there as a soap-maker.
His son Edmond was the famous English
astronomer – the second Astronomer Royal in Britain – who gave his name
Halley’s Comet.

Hayley. William
Hayley, a Shropshire butcher in the town of Cleobury Mortimer during
mid-1600’s, was father to the more celebrated William Hayley who was
Dean of Chichester Cathedral in 1699.
His son Thomas followed him as Dean after his own death in 1715. And Thomas’s son William was friend to the
poet William Cowper and a poet in his own right.

Another line from Shropshire led to George Hayley,
a merchant and shipowner based in London.
After his death in 1781, his wife Mary
successfully took over the shipping operations and ran them for another

Kathleen Casey in her 1982
book Four Centuries of Haileys found
the name in a cluster of southeast counties, notably in Buckinghamshire
Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. Her Four Centuries of Haileys
were from Amersham in Buckinghamshire.
Haileys at Hitchin in Hertfordshire dated from about 1740.

Scotland. The Halley numbers in Scotland were around
690 at the time of the 1891 census.

has been a name found in Angus, Fife and Perthshire on Scotland’s east
coast. One family line began with the
birth of Charles Halley of Clackmannon in 1753.
William Halley, a flax manufacturer in Dundee, invested in a
mill at the Wallace Craigie works there in 1836 and this business
under his descendants. Halleys were also
to be seen in the Fife towns of Markinch and Auchtermuchty.

Ireland. Halley can also be an Irish
name. The root here is the Gaelic name O’hAilche,
possibly from the byname ailchu meaning
“gentle hound.”

The Irish census of
1911 showed around 530 people by the name of Halley or Hally, with more
80% of these being in the counties of Tipperary and Waterford, mostly
along the
Suir river. There were Hallys
in the Tipperary townlands of
Aughavanlomaun and Boolahallagh in the
Knockmealdown mountain foothills during the 19th century.

More common has been the Haley name found both in Ireland
and on its
travels. This has generally been an
alternative spelling of the Irish Healy name and the earlier O’Healy

  • one
    of these septs was in Sligo in the northwest. They
    were originally called O’hÉlidhe,
    the name derived from the Gaelic word eilidh meaning
  • while another sept, numerically larger, was in Cork. There the name was originally O’hÉilaigh,
    probably from the Gaelic ealadhach meaning

Haleys also came from
Sligo and Cork, Thomas Haley for instance being born at Larn in county
Cork in
1735. Meanwhile Roscommon had the largest Haley count in Ireland in Griffith’s Valuation of the mid-19th

America. Haley
arrivals in America could be of English, Scottish or Irish origin. The largest number have been Irish.

New England. No one really
knows where Andrew Haley came
from or when he arrived in Maine. But by
1653 Andrew Haley was a fisherman at the Isles of Shoals off the Maine
coastline and was known as the “King of the Shoals.”
He had settled on Smuttynose Island, later
called Haleys Island, and
were to live there for the next two hundred and fifty years. However, Haleys Island is uninhabited today.

Another early arrival was William Healy from
Lincolnshire who came to Massachusetts sometime in the 1640’s. His descendants were sea captains who later
settled in Nova Scotia and then, as Haleys, migrated to California at
the time
of the Gold Rush.

Virginia. Two early arrivals here were
the Halleys from
England and the Haleys or Haileys (both spellings recurred) from

Thomas Halley, pronounced
Hawley, had come to Virginia around 1670 and made his home in a log
cabin along
the Potomac river, then in Westmoreland county.
His son James became a prosperous planter who, on his death
in 1792, owned several plantations and quite a number of slaves.

According to family lore there were two brothers from county Antrim in
Ireland, James and John Haley, who came to Delaware in the early 1700’s
later moved onto Virginia and North Carolina.
Their family spelling fluctuated between Haley and Hailey during

James Haley had married Anna Cloud back in Ireland and the Haley and
families stayed together through the Revolutionary War and then on into
Tennessee and Georgia. One son William,
who had fought in the War, moved to Elbert county, Georgia in 1792. Haley descendants subsequently spread across
the South over the course of the 19th century.

Later Arrivals. Among later Haley arrivals were:

  • John Cloud Haley a physician from county Cork
    who came to Roane county, Tennessee in 1798 and married Elizabeth
  • Henry Haley from county Down who arrived in Virginia
    around the year
    1810. His descendants migrated to
    Kentucky and to Highland Park in Michigan, which was where the rock and
    Bill Haley was born in 1925.
  • William Haley who departed Ireland for California,
    traveling overland to St. Francisco in 1850. He
    started a dairy company that proved very successful,
    delivering some
    10,000 gallons of milk daily to
    customers in the area. His son Daniel
    settled in Yuba county and was elected mayor of Gustine in 1915.
  • Ebenezer Haley from Nova Scotia who joined the
    California gold rush, also arriving there in 1850.
    Both he and his son Caleb were sea captains,
    but had some success in the gold fields. Caleb’s
    son Charles chose a mining career and was the author
    of the
    authoritative 1923 book Gold Placers of
    . The family story was
    recounted in James Haley’s 1964 book The
    Haley and Healy Family
  • and John Haley, born also in Nova Scotia but of Irish
    parents, who had
    moved to Boston in the 1890’s in his capacity as a ship steward. However, he died in February 1898 when his
    the Charles A. Briggs sank in a storm
    off the Massachusetts coastline. His son
    Jack, just six months old at the time, became an actor and comedian,
    best known
    for his role as the Tin Man in The Wizard
    of Oz
    . Jack’s son Jack was a
    successful Hollywood film director and producer, married at one time to

Appalachian. The
Haley fiddle players were of Irish origin.
The first that registered was Ben Haley who fought in West
Virginia on
the Union side in the Civil War and later settled in Lincoln county. His illegitimate son Milt continued the
family fiddle playing until he was murdered during the feuding there in
as did Milt’s son Ed, who had been born blind in 1885.
Ed was inducted into the West Virginia Music
Hall of Fame in 2015.

African American. Alex Haley created a sensation in
1976 when
he produced his book Roots, later
made into a TV mini-series, which managed to trace his ancestry all the
way back
to a slave-ancestor captured in Africa.

While the early history depicted in the
book has been considered fanciful, the post-Civil War account, when the
name first appeared, seems accurate.
Later DNA testing has shown this Haley line to have had Scottish ancestry.

Canada. Many Halleys departed the
Tipperary area of
Ireland for Newfoundland between 1830 and 1850, some remaining there
and some
departing later for America:

  • a number in Newfoundland were to be found at St.
    John’s, the subject of Irene Collins’ 1999 book A Long Way
    from Tipperary: A Halley Family History
  • while others were at
    Topsail on Conception Bay and had descendants who had moved south to
    Massachusetts by 1900.

Nova Scotia also had some Haleys who did not
stay. Ebenezer Haley, a sea captain,
arrived there in the 1770’s from Massachusetts and settled in Yarmouth
county. One son Selah moved to Ontario
and his son William to Michigan; another son Ebenezer left Nova Scotia
California. Meanwhile John Haley, born of
an Irish family in Antigonish, departed for Boston in the 1890’s.

New Zealand. Cyrus Haley from
Leeds who arrived in Auckland with his family in 1870 soon developed a
reputation for starting fires.

“When his wife
Emily’s singing performance at the Music Hall was savaged, the hall was
mysteriously gutted by fire. More arsons
took place and while all these could not be linked to Haley, there was
involving the property of BNZ founder Thomas Russell who was the
director of a
company in which Hailey claimed to have lost ₤3,000.”

was subsequently convicted of the attempted murder of Thomas Russell. His sentence was life imprisonment in Dunedin
jail. In trying to escape in 1875 he
shot dead by a warder

Haley Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Haley Names

Edmond Halley was the famous English
astronomer of the early 18th century who gave his name to Halley’s

Sir William Haley
was Director General of the BBC from 1944 to 1952 and
editor of The Times from 1952 to 1966.

Bill Haley
popularized rock and roll in America in the
1950’s with hits such as Rock Around the
. His group the Comets took
their name from Edmond Halley’s Comet.
was the author of the 1976 book Roots,
later made into a TV mini-series,
which traced his
ancestry all the way back to a slave-ancestor captured in Africa.

Haley, a woman of Indian
background, has been the Governor of South Carolina
and the US Ambassador to the United Nations

Select Haleys Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Yorkshire)
  • 17,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)





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