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Deeley/Daley - a family riddle


master brummie
Part of my reason for tracing my family tree is that for years there was a story in my family that our surname should actually be Daley and not Deeley. My research has shown that indeed, my great grandad's surname did change back and forth between the two across censuses. The diver Tom Daley is my second cousin once removed - his great grandad Jim Daley and my grandad Henry Deeley were brothers. I've even seen electoral registers where brothers in the same household were using both surnames.
I recently acquired my grandad's WW2 army service record, and even on there he's listed as both, and even more intriguing, "Daley alias Deeley". So although the story is confirmed that, yes, we possibly should be called Daley, I still have never found out why.
The most believable explanation I've heard is that when my ancestors the Daleys came over from Ireland in the 1830s, because of the accent, their name was transcribed as Deeley. As they were illiterate, there was no way they would no it had been mis-written. Another relative told me that when my grandad and some of his brothers joined the army, they were told that they were Daley. Told by whom, I have no idea. I also wonder how whoever told them would know anyway.

I'm also perplexed as to why, after they left the army, did my grandad and some of his brothers revert to Deeley but other kept Daley.

I'd be very grateful for any suggestions as to why and how this may have happened. Particularly the army part. Maybe you're a relative of mine, or have had a similar thing.

Many thanks,
Craig Deeley/Daley (I don't know what I am any more!)


master brummie
My grandma was a Daley, and in tracing the family back I have found it spelt various ways but never Deeley, some are Daily, Daly, Duly - best of luck in trying to resolve this riddle.


master brummie
Same here, our family name is Payne and it is spelt in various ways but there were two brothers, Jonathan and William, one took the name Payne, the other Pain, doesn't seem to be a reason for this. In the same tree my paternal great grandmother came from Ireland and is identified as Reddy, Readie, and Retty on the different census entries, again we assumed it was the accent that made the name sound different and the two sisters spelt thier name differently until they got married.
Good luck with your research into it!


master brummie
My maiden name was Hemms. Over the years it has been written as Emms, Hems and Hemms and on the 1881 was transcribed in such a way I could not have even begun to pronounce it. Some of the reasons for the difference is quite easy to understand when it's pointed out.

Firstly, there is the fact that when registering a birth, the name was just spoken by the person registering and written down by the clerk/registrar. What if the clerk was a little hard of hearing? What if the person registering the event had a thick accent, a stutter or any other kind of impediment, and then there is the dropping of the 'H' and possibly other 'lazy' speech. All these should be considered, as people only wrote down what they heard. Then there was for the most part, a lack of literacy, so they would not have known what was being written down, or in some instances they would not have a clue how it looked when written. Of course I am speaking of the early to mid 1800s here.

In 1870 (?) there was the Education Act, before which there was no regular spelling for any word at all. Subsequent to that, the name at school would have been written down by the headmaster/teacher or whoever, and then the child would have continued with that spelling. Several children from the same family with different teachers may have spelt their names differently. These are just a few of the reasons why it could have happened. It's not easy to say exactly how, but easy to see how it could have happened.

With the Irish however, coming over here, where the Irish were not particularly well liked (that's documented in many places) a lot of them took on the English version of their name in order to be more accepted, which is quite understandable.

On a Parish Entry marriage in my family in April 1800, the name of the groom was written twice, once as Quinney, once as Quiney. That says it all!