This ancient surname can be of either Olde English or medieval origins. It has three possible sources, the first a diminutive nickname from the personal name 'Elizabeth'. This name derives from the hebrew 'Elishera', which translates as 'god is my guardian' or similar, and was introduced by the Crusaders in the 12th century. As Elizabeth it became the most popular English female name, and a source of many pet or nicknames. The second origin is from the nickname 'Lilie', originally used as a baptismal name for a baby with a particularly fair complexion.Here the derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century 'lilie', meaning the lily flower, itself from the Roman-Latin word 'lilium'. Lastly the surname can be locational, from either of two villages called 'Lilley' in Hertfordshire and Berkshire. The village names were recorded in Domesday Book (1086) and they translate as 'the clearing where flax was grown', from the Old English 'lin', meaning flax, and 'leah', - a clearing. The 'modern' surname spelling is found as Lilly, Lil(l)ey, Lil(l)ie and Lely, whilst early recordings include such examples as Thomas Lylie of Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1296, Hugh Lily in the Hundred Rolls of Lincoln for 1275, and William Lely of Norfolk in the same year. The christening of John Lilley was recorded at St. Botolph without Aldgate, London, on November 23rd 1578, whilst Henry Lilly, who died in 1638, was the Rouge Dragon pursuivant of the College of Heralds in the time of King Charles 1st (1625 - 1649). The coat of arms has the blazon of a red field, with three white lilies slipped. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Alan Lilie, which was dated 1247, a witness at the 'Bedfordshire Assizes', during the reign of King Henry 111, known as 'The Frenchman', 1216 - 1272. 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.
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