This English surname of ONLEY was a locational name meaning 'one who came from ONLEY' a hamlet in the parish of Barby, County Northants, seven miles from Daventry. The name is also spelt ONLY, ONELEY and ONELY. Early records of the name include Edward ONLEY (or ONELIE) who registered at Oxford University in the year 1583, and Elizabeth, daughter of George ONLY was baptised at St. Peter, Cornhill, London in the year 1655. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village in early times, has served to name many families. Later instances of the name include George ONELY (a wine-maker) who was buried in London in 1655, and John ONELEY (a poor child) was buried at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1633. Thomas ONELY and Catharine Broderick, were married in Canterbury, Kent in the year 1686, and Edward ONLY and Isabella Davies were wed at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1771. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
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