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This surname can be either English or Irish. When English it is of locational origin from any of the various places so called, for example Shelley in Essex, Suffolk, and West Riding of Yorkshire. These are recorded respectively as Senleia, Sceueleia and Sciuelei in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name, in all cases, derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "scylf" meaning literally a shelf cut out of the hillside, plus "leah", an enclosure or wood, hence. The Irish surname is recorded in the spellings of O' Shelley and Shelley in Munster and as Shally in Connacht, with the much rarer forms of Shaloe, Shalloe, Shallow, and Shalloo, being recorded in Counties Clare and Tipperary, although these counties are far apart. The name derives from the Ancient Gaelic O' Sealbhaigh, meaning "the descendant of the land owner" or similar, one who held possessions. Early examples of the surname recordings include Rodger de Shelly in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire in 1379, and John Shelley in the 1473 rolls of the county of Surrey. The famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822), was born at Warnham, Sussex. His 'Ode to the West Wind' was written in 1819 and 'Adonais' in 1821. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Matilda de Selleg. This was dated 1201, in the rolls known as "Pleas before the Kings Justices", in the county of Suffolk, and during the reign of King John of England, nicknamed "Lackland" 1199 - 1216. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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