Stanley Surname Genealogy

Stanley is locational, derived from the Old English stan
meaning “stone” and leah
meaning “clearing”– i.e. a stony meadow.
It occurred in many places in England, in Staffordshire,
Derbyshire, Durham
and Yorkshire for instance.  It was the
manor of Stoneley in Staffordshire which gave rise to the famous
Stanley family.  The name first appeared as
Robert de Stanleya in the 1130 pipe rolls of Staffordshire.

Stanley Resources on

Stanley Ancestry

Stanleys traced their descent from a companion of William the
Conqueror, Adam
de Aldithley, who held lands in Staffordshire.  One
line of this family became Audleys.  But a grandson Adam was
to the heiress of the manor of

in Staffordshire and around 1130 took the name of Stanley.
This family’s rise to power in England:

  • began
    with Sir
    Stanley who married well and then backed the right monarch (Henry IV),
    gave him many rewards including, in 1405, tenure of the Isle of Man
  • and
    strengthened by Thomas Baron Stanley, kingmaker
    during the Wars of the
    Roses, who
    again backed the right monarch (Henry VII) and in 1485 was rewarded by
    ennobled as the Earl of Derby and appointed High Constable of England.  He had three sons – George (the heir
    Edward, and James (the Bishop of Ely).

The senior line via George Stanley continued
to hold the Earldom of Derby until the death of the 10th Earl in 1736
James, the 7th Earl, was executed in 1651 for his role in the Civil
War).  It
only at that time, in 1736, that the Stanleys finally relinquished
their grip of the Isle of Man where they had been lords since
The title of Earl of Derby passed to a junior
branch of
the family, the Baronets of Bickerstaffe, which still holds it
  This history was narrated in Brian S.
Roberts’ 1998 book The House of

spread to Cheshire (Stourton and Alderley) and Lancashire (Ashton in
Makerfield, Bickerstaffe, Lathon and Knowsley) and also elsewhere in
England.  These Stanleys included:

  • the
    Stanley line at Chipping
    Campden in Gloucestershire which apparently died out in the early
    1500’s, although
    there were Stanleys there later and at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire.  
  • Thomas
    Stanley who became a scrivener in London in early Tudor times.
    His family acquired the Cumberlow estate in Hertfordshire, the home of
    poet and translator Sir Thomas Stanley.
  • Venetia
    Stanley, born in Shropsihire, who was a noted beauty of the early
    Stuart period.  She died in mysterious circumstances at the age of
    thirty three.
  • the
    in Kent who had come in the early 1600’s from
    a Stanley family in Lancashire.
  • while
    the Victorians Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich, and Dean Stanley of
    Westminster came from a Cheshire Stanley family.

Ireland.  There was a record
of a Nicholas be Staneley as presbyter in the diocese of Armagh in the
year 1310.   Charles Stanley bought land at Derryhale in
county Armagh in 1713.  Born in 1690, he lived to be 104 years old.

Other Stanley outposts in Ireland were in Westmeath and Louth:

  • Michael
    Stanley was the first of the Stanleys in Westmeath in 1666.  His
    family as it grew lived in a number of locations around Athlone, their
    prime residence being Low Park.
  • another
    Stanley family was to be found at Ardbolies near Clogher in
    Louth.  Joe Stanley, born around there, acted as printer to the
    republicans during the 1916 uprising.  Fintan Stanley of a later
    generation made his name as a musician, playing the accordion.

America.  Stanleys came to
America; but none, it would appear, from the main Earl of Derby line.

New England.
Stanley from Tenterden in Kent had three sons – John, Thomas, and
Timothy – who departed
for Boston on the Elizabeth &
in 1634.  John died on the
voyage; but his ten year old
son, also named John, reached Boston.  Thomas,
Timothy and their nephew John were among the founders of
Hartford, Connecticut, John living there until his death in
The family history was covered in Israel Warren’s 1887 book The Stanley Families of America.

From this line is thought to have come the Stanleys of New Britain,
Connecticut.  Gad Stanley, born there in 1735,
himself in the Revolutionary War.  His son Gad died at sea in
1820.  But in 1843 his grandson Frederick founded in New Britain a
small tool company which, developed by his cousin Henry in the years
after the Civil War, later became the Stanley Works – now one of the
most recognized brand of tools.

Virginia.  Early
arrivals to Virginia were:

  • Hugh Stanley, transported to Virginia in 1635 at the age of
    17.  He later made his way to Maryland and died there in 1671
  • and Thomas Stanley the Quaker who arrived in Virginia sometime in
    the 1680’s and made his home in New Kent county.  His descendants
    today hold reunions annually.

Samuel Stanley, also in New Kent county, fought in the Revolutionary
War.  His descendants moved to Columbia, South Carolina where
William Byrd Stanley was its mayor for three terms.  He opened Stanley’s China
in the town in 1849.

Family legend has George Stanley, one of three hat-making brothers,
coming to Virginia in the 1740’s.
There were firmer sightings of this family in Spartenburg, South
Carolina by the 1790’s and in Cobb county, Georgia by 1814.

Other Stanleys.
in America can be the anglicized version of
some like-sounding immigrant names, such as the Polish
Stanislawski came to Chicago in 1916 and his descendants were Stanleys.

Stanley of Preston, later to be the 16th Earl of
Derby, was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1888.  
was only in Canada for five years.  But his name lives on in the Stanley Cup
for which ice hockey teams in North America compete.

New Zealand.  John and Mary Stanley left
their home in
Worcestershire in 1850 on the Randolph for
New Zealand.  John became a fruit farmer
at Papanui in Christchurch, introducing the cox apple and
establishing the
country’s first commercial orchard.
A photograph has been preserved of John and his family on their
cart in Cathedral Square, Christchurch in 1866.

Tom Stanley from Kent was drawn
to the gold mining town of Macraes Flat in Otago in the 1870’s.  He took over a ramshackle hotel there and
decided to rebuild.  Stanley’s Hotel is now a landmark building in the

Stanley Miscellany

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

Stanley Names

John Stanley
the 14th century
founder of the Stanley fortunes, being made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
granted sovereignty over the Isle of Man.
Baron Stanley
placed the English crown on the head of Henry Tudor
at the
Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and was created the Earl of Derby.
Henry Stanley, born John Rowlands, was the
explorer in
Africa famous for his search and discovery of the Scottish explorer
The Stanley Cup, first
contested in 1894, is the cup for which North American ice hockey teams
Harold Stanley, an
American businessman, was one of the founders of the investment
bank Morgan
Stanley in 1935.

Select Stanleys Today

  • 26,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 33,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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