Presley Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Presley Surname Meaning

Presley or Pressley in England is allied to the surname Priestley and may come from an ancient place-name (found in Yorkshire and elsewhere) or a term for a dweller by a priest’s wood or clearing.

Presley in America could have derived from the German Bresslar which became Presslar there and later Presley.

Presley Surname Resources on The Internet

Presley and Pressley Surname Ancestry

  • from England, Scotland and Germany
  • to America

England and Scotland.  As Priestley, one origin of the surname was a place-name near Bradford in Yorkshire (the playwright J.B. Priestley hailed from those parts).  Presley in the abbreviated form cropped up there and in the southwest.

As Pressley the name is thought to have originated in NE Scotland and crossed with the Scots Irish to Ireland.

America.  In Virginia and the Carolinas there were records of English Presleys and Irish Pressleys.  Two early Presley families were the Presleys of Northumberland county, Virginia, recorded there from 1647 to 1749, and the Presley family that then followed in Fairfax county.  Irish Pressley families were to be found in South Carolina from the 1730’s.

Some German Preslars changed their names to one of these forms.  Johann Valentin Presler was a German immigrant from the Palatinate to America in 1710.

His son Andreas settled in the then frontier area of the central Carolina border and is thought to have been the male ancestor of the “King,” Elvis Presley.  However, others have suggested that it was the Andrew Presley who had arrived in North Carolina from Scotland in 1745.

The 1920 census showed the Presley name mainly confined to the South, bordered to the north by Tennessee, the east by the Carolinas, and the west by Texas.

Presley Surname Miscellany

Lineage of Elvis Presley.  The following was Elvis Presley’s lineage as it was reported in the National Enquirer of September 27, 1977 and other sources at that time:

  • Andrew Presley from Anson county, North Carolina
  • Andrew or John Presley
  • Dunnan Presley Sr (1780-1850)
  • Dunnan Presley (1827-1900) from Buncombe, North Carolina
  • Rosella Presley (1861-1924) from Fulton, Mississippi
  • Jesse (Dee) Presley (1896-1973) from Fulton, Mississippi
  • Vernon Presley (1916-1979) from Fulton, Mississippi
  • Elvis Presley (1935-1977) from Tupelo, Mississippi.

Rosella Presley was the first of this line to be born in Fulton, Mississippi. It appears that her father Dunnan had disappeared from her life when she was very young.

She never married according to the public records.  She lived alone and was a hard-working sharecropper, She raised eight or more children, most of whom could not read or write.  Jesse Presley was in some reports the son of Rosella Presley and John Wallace.

Reader Feedback – Preslar to Presley?  Looking for more info on Presley from SW Virginia.  I believe we are Preslar of German origin.  One of my one set of grandparents was James Allen Presley and Biddie Hatfield.

Kathy Presley Jaskiewicz (

Presley Names

  • Elvis Presley, the “King,” was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and was discovered as a singer in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953.
  • Priscilla Presley, the ex-wife of Elvis Presley, was the founder of Elvis Presley Enterprises who helped to turn Graceland into a multi-million dollar tourist attraction.

Presley Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Devon)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Tennessee)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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