The Earle & Welford Families of Yorkshire, England 1268 - 1911
The Earle & Welford Families       of Yorkshire, England               1268 - 1911

Origin of the Earle Surname

There is a commonly held belief that all Earle's stem from the Norman/French Family who followed William the Conqueror to England in 1066 AD. They assumed the name de Erleigh in about 1160 AD when they were awarded the manors of Erlegh St Bartholomew and Erlegh St Nicholas in Berkshire. These manors existed before the conquest and were in the area known as Herlei as recorded in the domesday book of 1086AD. The name "de Erlegh" meant "of Erleigh" a name which variously appears in historical records as de Erlegh, de Erleigh, de Erleia, de Earley, de Erley, d'Erley, de Herlegh, de Arle, Early, Earley, Earle, Earl, Earls, Earles, Hurles, Hurley, etc.


The de Erleigh family were hereditary Chamberlains to the King and Knights in England and held manors and lands some 15 miles from Windsor Castle. They also possessed substantial lands in Somerset, which the records show were handed down over successive generations. The family later possessed lands in Ireland and many Irish Earle descendants can claim their ancestry to this line. For a more detailed analysis of the various branches of the de Erleigh family I recommend the 'Earls Family Chronicle' by Christopher Earls Brennan.


However from the genealogies and other historical records connected to the de Erleigh family and their descendants in the southern counties of England, I have been unable to find a definitive link to the Earle's found living in Yorkshire. Interestingly my research finds the first Earle's in Yorkshire were invariably named as 'le' Erle rather than 'de' Erle suggesting the name is not referring to the individuals by location, or estate, but rather describing them in some other manner.

It is likely the Earle surname, certainly in Yorkshire, owes its origins to a period earlier than the conquest and is perhaps linked to the old Anglo-Saxon word 'eari' meaning 'a man' or 'a noble' as well as the Norse language where variants of the same word 'eorl', 'erle' and 'jarl' are found. It is my belief that the earliest Earle individuals inhabiting Yorkshire were so named due to their standing amongst their peers, as noble men of a community rather than being named for the land and estates they occupied. To try and link the various branches of the family to one common stem would therefore be unsafe. Instead with the passing of time the various surname spellings, both with their different origins, simply merged into the common modern-day name we know as Earle or Earl.



Please feel free to contact me with your requests or questions, or if anything you find conflicts with your own research. I would also welcome your help if you think you can add to my collection with any of your own findings.


Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact me in the two years since this website was created and for all the interesting and wonderful information you have provided. I regulary receive messages from all corners of the world showing just how far the family have spread over the years and I really look forward being able to assist with your queries where I can.


Do you have any old photographs of Earle and Welford ancestors tucked away in your albums? If so I would really love to hear from you. Perhaps you would allow them to be added to this website as its so much better when you have a face to go with a name.


Remember new material is constantly being added to the website so do come back soon and see what's new!