Researching the Midgley surname World-wide

Midgley ......a Yorkshire one-name study....  
           Midgley Arms
               and Crest

       Motto:  Resurgam
           "I shall Rise Again"
 Midgley Arms and Crest-click for larger version.

 Midgley D.N.A. 
Midgleyana the book 
The Arms of Midgley
  Midgley near Halifax

Pennine Packhorse Trails
West Yorks. Midgley link
Midgley of Bradford
East Yorks Midgley link
Midgley clocks and guns
Midgley of Thornton          
Midgley of Todmorden
The Halifax Gibbet
Midgley of Haworth 
Midgley near Wakefield 
Midgley of Felkirk
Midgley of Almondbury
The manor of Wakefield
Sir Wm. Midgley  Kt.
           Honour of Pontefract
           Sandal Castle
           Conisbrough Castle
           The Elland Feud
           Edward I
           Edward II
           Edward III
           Halidon Hill
           Battle of Crecy.
           Nottingham Coup

Midgley of Selby

Midgley of Normanton

Midgley of Cawthorne

Rowland Hill-Social

"By various ingenious signs  and  marks drawn on the covering of the letter the young man was able to let her know that  he was keeping well  and that he still loved her. "

Abel Hold-Painter
Midgley who Emigrated
Midgley of Rochdale 
Midgley of Stanley
Midgley of Wharfedale
Samuel Midgley-First

Thomas Midgley-Chemist    
  Robyn Hode in Yorkshire 

Images of Robyn Hode
Waltheof - last English Eorl
Robin Hood of  Wakefield
Anglian culture of

Ley Lines in Yorkshire
Edwin's Yeavering
Arthur & the Invading

Camlann - Arthur's last

The Danes
Origins of the Yorkshire 

Midgley in Elmete 
Wars of the Roses
Midgley Statistics
West Yorkshire
Landed Gentry

Arms of some West
Yorkshire  Families 
How to make a crest and 
Midgley Gedcom Page

       Yorkshire Genealogy sites
    All links updated 2023

"The Ancient family of Midgley of Midgley Township in the parish of Halifax have been  traced back seven centuries. ...the family produced noted clerics, lawyers, physicians and authors and once owned vast estates from Erring- den, Thornton to Bingley"13.

"The Midgleys are probably one of Yorkshires oldest families"14.
i.e. there are records going back to the  1100's &1200's.

Midgley used as a First Name.

  "Lawyer Midgley "
of Halifax appears in the1500's to have transferred many Latin deeds  in a beautiful hand. The Midgley's were the greatest conveyancers of these parts of Airdale and Calderdale for many years2

Midgley of Cullingworth
-tracing names can be difficult.
A property near the church entered into the Midgley family of Cullingworth in the 1400's who were amongst the oldest landowners there.
At the start of the 1800's there were thirty-eight buildings in the village. The main street consisted of eight farmhouses, four on each side of the road and a few cottages. All the farmers were christened John!
In 1816 prior to the Enclosure Act, a survey was carried out where it was found that James Fox was Lord of Cullingworth Manor and John Midgley was amongst the principal farmers. This John was also a road manager, he would  survey and contract for the highway for 20-30 miles around Cullingworth15

Midgley of Breary
Following the "Dissolution of the Monasteries", Edward Midgley settled at West Breary,  parish of Adel, where he purchased an estate. His brother, Richard  also purchased an estate . These estates were part of what had been the Cistercian Kirkstall Abbey. The Norman church at Adel  had a large graveyard built from 1160 to 1170. Several members of the Breary Midgley family are buried near the entrance to the church and elsewhere in the graveyard.
The first page of the Parish Register has an entry" Suzan, daughter of Samuell Midgley was baptysed the 25th Maye, Anno Domini 16062.



Yorkshire name   from the 11th century.
There are many English names with the suffix  -ley (leah), from Anglo-Saxon (now referred to as Old English) meaning wood or clearing in the forest and later as a field or meadow. The prefix represents: 
i) The Old English name  Mycge  as the head of a group which settled here  i.e. Myg a danish name perhaps relating to the conditions of the low country from the Old High German
ii) the condition of the field/clearing i.e. infested with midges 
iii)  The middle field 
referring to the position of the lands held
iv)  A fourth derivation has been suggested by Milnethorpe Midgley of Tasmania as being "Migge " or large 
(O. Scandinavian)11

These people probably migrated from what is now the low country of Northern Germany and Denmark from 500 A.D.

Why are two places in West Yorkshire  called Midgley?

jewel in the crown

A jewel in the English crown

How the Midgley genetics entered the present day English royal family


In the 1300's the name came to indicate anyone who originated from the villages of Midgley e.g.William de Midgley. Any male with the surname Midgley has a direct genetic link through the male line going back to the inhabitants of one of the villages#.
The Y chromosome 

is inherited along the male line.
perhaps the human genome PROJECT, will delineate which genes are carried on this chromosome

#note: There is also a hamlet of Mickley in Northumberland 'Michelleie' in  1086 and  'Michellie'  in c. 1190. O.E. large wood or clearing.17

The Midgley name is found from the Middle Ages throughout the  Western district, many of the districts manor houses were owned by Midgley families. These landowners made their wealth from the wool produced on the Pennine moors which would have been traded along the packhorse routes  and south along the "Via Magna" joining with the "Great North Road" at Doncaster.

   .Midgley Arms 1780's
 An achievement granted to  Sir 
   Thomas Midgley in the 1780's 
    Motto: Porrigo Cedi Captum
   "Reach out to give and take"1

An individual's name revealed his social standing. Whilst surnames were developing in the 1100's-1400's, the new middle class artisans, traders and merchants  distinguished themselves by drawing attention to their professions - Aristocracy drew attention to their place of birth, ancestry or estate. Many still used the French "de" rather than the English "of".12

Sir Thomas Midgley
was granted a
coat of arms in the 1780's. This consisted of a:
Shield with the upper half gold with three caltrops abreast. Lower half black dissected by a wide and narrow gold bar horizontally.
Crest: Tiger sitting facing left with a caltrop in right paw extended tongue protruding mantle black and gold.
Motto: Porrigo cedi captum
(Reach out to give and Take)11.
Note:  a  "coat of arms"  is presented to a particular person. It can only be inherited like any other property from the direct predecessor.

A word about Mottoes:
Unlike inherited coats of arms the motto for a particular branch of an armigerous family is not static. Mottoes were often changed to meet the times or adopted by another branch Thus we have :

           "I shall Rise Again.
Porrigo cedi captum
"Reach out to give and Take"
3. In De Fides
"My trust is in God"

A Caltrop is a  device, laid upon the ground & designed to lame cavalry horses; they are  composed of metal with protruding spikes.

 Enhancing the Caltrap

A small cup decorated by Arthur Midgley

Links to Midgley sites

 "He only deserves to be remembered by posterity who treasures
     up and preserves the history of his ancestors."



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A chair embroidered with the Midgley Arms
An embroidered chair

Midgley Memorabilia

When tha's eat a plum duff tha's 'ave tu eat a lot o' duff before thes get a plumb.

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This section is being regularly updated, click on Recent Events

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a toponymic  taken from  two villages of the same name, West Yorkshire, England. First appearing in  the Domesday Book1 in 1086 but probably 600 years older.
Recorded in 1319 as one of 17 most prominent names in Yorkshire.

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Letter An analysis of a  place map  of England (shaded an orange colour) shows a high concentration of occupation sites with names ending in "ley" in West and South Yorkshire. to the East the names are evidence of later Scandinavian (viking) occupation with place names ending in -by , -carr and -Thorpe

During the 11th Century the name "england" came to be used, this name originated from the  folk  of Angeln10 in Southern Denmark and Northern Germany   who called themselves "Engle"8   later, Angle.

Anglian Northumbria

There are two English Place names of Midgley both in West Yorkshire; Midgley near Wakefield, referred to as  Migelaia  in the12th century1.
Midgley near Halifax  was referred to as Miclei  in The Domesday Book 10861
The spellings are an attempt by the scribes, probably French speaking Normans, to literate the pronunciation
of the place names.

How many ways can the name be spelled?

The   north east coast of  Britain  witnessed  Germanic Anglian raiding parties in the late 300's  and following the collapse of Roman rule about 420A.D. For example Ida is recorded  at Bamburgh in 547). Elmete was probably settled by Anglians  after 617 when Edwin of Northumbria annexed this  British region. 

In Norman times  Midgley manor  was controlled from Wakefield manor5
Wakefield controlled almost the whole Calder Valley beyond Halifax

The Midgleys & Wakefield Manor

During the Middle Ages a road called the "Magna Via" connected the Halifax region to Wakefield  through "Battyeford" this would have allowed easy movement of peoples from the western village of Midgley3.

Research indicates that the Township of Midgley was an important western control point for the Manor of Wakefield A study of family groups from the IGI shows  migration from the area to Halifax occurred as early as  the 1400's as the woollen industry was encouraged to develop. Village life was yet to see changes resulting from  The enclosure and  urban industrialisation in the 1700's.
This  village of Midgley sits on the east side of the Pennines, nestled below Midgley Moor

Wuthering Heights
Haworth the village made famous by the Brontes (Prunty) gives testimony to the land ownership which would have been inherited by various branches of the family.
Within Haworth high up on one wall it is recorded that the Lord of  Oldfield manor  in the 1800's was Joseph Midgley with children Nathan and Ellen.
Did Emily Bronte base parts of her Wuthering Heights on this family? I think so. 
Both characters Joseph and Ellen appear in the book although old Joseph is given the part of Heathcliffe's servant! 
Top Withens  is reputed to be the inspiration  for the residence of Wuthering Heights near Haworth which in the 1800's was owned by David Midgley.

Other seats were Kershaw House at Luddenden, Brearley  Hall near Mytholmroyd, Thornton2 , Cullingworth, & Clayton near Bradford and Midgley near Wakefield.

Earliest Names

Historical references often  state that the  surname  was first recorded in 1207. A recent study of the Thornhill predecessors, sons and grandsons of Essulf  from the 1100's indicates that  at least one source for the Midgley Surname surfaced even earlier  with the sons  and grandsons of Essulf taking their second names  from  their principal estates. See: Thornhill    the  Pontefract Chartulary provides us with  'Petri de Migelaya', a.k.a Peter de Flockton, Peter de Birkin, Peter Fitz-Assulf [ eldest son of Assulf the great land holder of the West Riding and brother to Jordan de Thornhill, constable of Pontefract. See Early Names

Raoul Warren in a French novel, "The Assassin" sets a story in Miggeley in the Cevennes in southern France.
See Le Grande Francais Connection

                       Kershaw House
Kershaw House Mytholmroyd, 1913.

If you require a "look-up" for genealogical purposes I have

*Domesday Book for the County of Yorkshire, 1086.

*Joseph Hunter's Hallamshire, 1819.

*Joseph Hunter's History of the Deanery of Doncaster.  

*The 1881 British Census and National index.


* John Watson's History of Halifax.


* Ralph Thoresby's History of Leeds. 


* J. Horsfall Turner's Halifax Families. 

*1851 Census Indexes for Midgley, Middlestown, Netherton, Overton, Altofts,

 Normanton , Snydale, Pontefract (G to O),Carleton, East Hardwick, Aketon,

  Whitwood, Featherstone, and Purston Jaglin.

*Marriage Indexes 1813-1837 for:

 Felkirk, Ackworth, Warmfield, Normanton and Featherstone.

*Cawthorne Index for  1851 Census.

*Transcriptions of Cawthorne Parish Registers 1654-1799.

*Midgley Hearth Tax records for West Riding 1672.

Silkstone Hearth Tax Return 1672.

Wakefield Court Rolls 1315-1317, 1322-1331, 1331-1333. 1338-1340

Midgley Burial Index for England

           .Start your Search
If you would like a  zipped Word  file of about 8000 Midgley names from the I.G.I. going back to the 1100's for England let me know.  [ 5.2MB] These are useful for searching villages and towns which cannot be done with the search engine online.

Reciprocal Links
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Yorkshire Dales

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In 1708 Samuel Midgley a physician of Halifax who was by then deceased, had his work, 'Halifax its Gibbet-Law placed in a true Light' published by another person claiming the work as his own.
This work describes the town of
Halifax during the late 1600's, persons of social standing in the community, the character of the people, its soil fertility and its ancient laws. In addition the 'Elland Feud' titled 'Revenge upon Revenge' is described.
The frontispiece is remarkable by its depiction of the Halifax Gibbet, a device for beheading  malefactors and operated by a donkey or horse. This machine preceeeded the French guillotine by some 400 years,  first being used in 1286. We know that Adam de Swillington held the nearby manor of Shelf until 1322 when he forfeited his lands following his insurrection with Thomas earl of Lancaster. Thereafter William de Miggeley held Shelf manor and Halifax land until his death about 1338. Thus the law may have appeared during the time of Adam de Swillington by Edward I's royal grant. The Halifax Gibbet-law was an early form of trial by jury but was applied to those who stole property of more than thirteen pence in value. Execution using the Halifax Gibbet could be ordered by the burgesses of Halifax within the liberty of Halifax and this right may have evolved from the early right of infangtheft.
One avenue is of  reprieve might appear if the prisoner could escape his captors and cross the parish boundary along Hebble Brook before he was caught. In such a case the tradition says that he was a freeman.
The gibbet was last used in 1650 and was described by Daniel Defoe* as a very reliable and efficient method of execution: 'The force of this engine is so strong, the head of the axe being loaded with a weight of lead to make it fall heavy, and the execution so secure, that it takes away all possibility of its failing to cut off the head.'

*A Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain [~1724]

Samuel Midgley died in Halifax jail in 1695 where he had written his book, but because he was in jail for debt he was unable to have the book printed. William Bentley came into possession of Samuel's manuscripts and published them falsely under his own name. This plagiarist added his own additional notes and even dedicated it to the Duke of Leeds before publishing the work in 1708 and again in  1761

                  .p. 277 in Crabshaw
Imitation is flattery but plagiarism is theft, for which Bentley could well have been gibbeted himself if the Halifax gibbet-law had still been in existence.

  Google Books has now placed  online Samuel Midgley's History of Halifax 1789, which can also be downloaded as a PDF See: Samuel Midgley's magnum opus here


Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place Names. O.U.P.1997.
2. Midgleyana, John Franklin Midgley, Cape Town 1968.
3. History of Cawthorne.C.T. Pratt 1880. 
4. Collins English Dictionary 1979.
5. History of the Principal Cities and Towns of Yorkshire.
6. Parish Register of Halifax Vol. 37
Reany, P.H. & Wilson, P.M. A Dictionary of English Surnames. O.U.P. 1995
Odijk, Pamela.  Angles, Saxons and Jutes. 
9. International Genealogical Index.
10. Brown, David. Anglo-Saxon England, The Bodley Head, 1978.
11.Information & coat of arms kindly provided by
Milnethorpe and David Midgley of Tasmania.

Phillips G. & Keatman, M. Robin Hood: The Man Behind The Myth, M.   O'Mara, p.65, 1995.
13. Longbottom, J. A local antiquarian in a West Riding newspaper article, 1890.
14. Harwood, H.W. Survey of Midgley History, unpublished, January 1957.
15. Cudworth, William. Round about Bradford, 1876.
16. Email communication with Tom Mitchell of Tasmania.
17. Mills, A.D. A Dictionary of English Place-names, 1991, p. 229.

18. History of the family of Stansfeld of Stansfield in the parish of Halifax and its numerous branches, p. 111; Burke's Commoners, Vol. III, p. 60.

                                                                                     ©  Copyright 1998. All rights reserved Tim Midgley, links revised 1st February 2024.


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