My interest started with my own direct line but grew as I became curious about connections with others of the same surname. My main interest is the Ashley surname but I have also looked at my mothers ancestry and that of my paternal grandmother. I am investigating the Ashley surname initially in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire but find this leads me further afield
My study includes the variants Ashlea, Ashleigh and Astley but I am open to other variants as I come across them and obviously the deviants due to poor transcription. I have also found that as many in the past were illiterate then their reliance on the educated people left much interpretation to the spellings. In one set of parish records and enthusiastic priest versed in Latin insisted on adding an ‘e’ to th end of nearly every word thus making another variant.
Origin of the surname
Guppy’s book of 1890 ‘HOMES of FAMILY NAMES’ lists Ashley under Shropshire and simply states ‘ASHLEYS possess the name of a Staffordhire parish’.
Other research suggests that the name is of Anglo Saxon origin and is a locational place name in Cheshire, Kent, Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Northamptonshire.
It implies a rural nature as in ‘ash’ and ‘leah’ meaning a wood or clearing. Hence the ‘ash wood’ or ‘area cleared of ash trees’.
A Samuel Ashley departed London in the early 1600’s bound for Virginia and was one of the first recorded namebearers to enter America.
Prominent or Famous Ashley’s
- Anthony Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (1836–1907), English writer and politician
- Sir Bernard Ashley (1926–2009), Welsh businessman/engineer and former widower of Laura Ashley
- Elizabeth Ashley (born 1939), American actress
- Helmut Ashley (b. 1919), Austrian film director
- Henry Ashley (1778–1829), US congressman from New York
- Ian Ashley (born 1947), former British Formula 1 race car driver
- Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke (1922-2012), British Life Peer and former Labour MP
- Jackie Ashley (born 1954), British journalist
- John Ashley (actor) (1934 – 1997), American actor
- John Ashley (ice hockey) (1930 – 2008), Canadian ice hockey referee
- Karan Ashley (born 1975), American actress
- Laura Ashley (1925–1985), British designer
- Liam Ashley (died 2006), New Zealand teenager murdered in a prison van
- Maurice Ashley (historian) (1907–1994), editor
- Maurice Ashley (born 1966), American chess grandmaster
- Merrill Ashley (living), former New York City Ballet principal dancer
- Robert Ashley (born 1930), American composer
- Syd Ashley (1880–1959), South African rugby union player
- Thomas W. L. Ashley (born 1923), American politician
- Sir William Ashley (1860–1927), Economic historian
- William Henry Ashley (1785–1839), American fur trader, entrepreneur and politician
- Mike Ashley, Business Man
- Chloe Ashley, Midlands based Fine Art Practitioner
- Steve Ashley, Singer/Songwriter
Distribution of the Name
My own research shows my direct line migrating from Shropshire into Staffordshire to find work but I have also established that others with the Ashley surnames migrated to other neighbouring counties such as Cheshire and Warwickshire for similar reasons. With the advent of the railways the surname appears on the south coast and some of my ancestors moved to Brighton as earthenware dealers. There were Ashley’s also widespread in london and as with Samuel Ashley above, many migrated to America and this may be the reason the surname is so popular there
A map generated from the 1881 census shows the largest concentration to be in Lancashire and Middlesex. Cheshire Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Lincs, and Surrey follow closely behind. Notts, Derbys, Norfolk, Warwickshire, Glucs, Wilts Somerset and Kent then have less than 200 and then a spread of low numbers including some parts of Wales and Scotland. To put this in perspective with other surnames the biggest concentration numbers between 501 to 800 in actual numbers.
I have my tree on Ancestry along with associated trees and use this as one source of research along with BMD certficates and research at several archives. I am willing to adapt my methods to use best practice and welcome new ideas.
This is a recent departure for me and I am eagerly awaiting the results of a Y DNA 37 test.