This interesting name is of medieval English origin and is a locational name from any of the places so called in Essex, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Oxon, and Yorkshire. The derivation is the same for all counties and is from the Old English pre 7th Century ‘hwoete’, wheat, and ‘leah’, a clearing, thus a clearing where wheat was grown.

The placename development includes ‘Wateleia’ (Domesday Book of Essex 1086), ‘Watelage’ (Domesday Book, Yorkshire 1086), ‘Hwatele’ (Assize Rolls of Yorkshire 1280), ‘Whetelegh’ (Feet of Fines, Lancashire 1227), ‘Weteley’ (Introduction to the Survey of English placenames, 1314). During the Middle Ages people migrating from their birth place would often adopt the placename as a means of identification.

One Christopher Wheatley aged twenty eight, sailed from the Port of London aboard the ‘Thomas and John’ bound for Virginia in June 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lambert de Watileia, which was dated ‘The Geld Roll of 1084 (Domesday Book)’, Somerset, during the reign of King William I, ‘The Conqueror’, 1066 – 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

© The Surnames Database

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