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Cooley Country of Origin, Nationality, & Ethnicity
In early Colonial America, two "Cooleys" are found in the records of the time. Benjamin Cooley is first mentioned in the Vital Records of Springfield in Massachusetts Bay Colony upon the birth of his daughter in 1643. He was born in Tring, Hertfordshire, England in 1615/16 to William Cooley.
Samuel Cooley is found in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. He later removed to Milford, Colony of Connecticut as one of the original planters in 1639. His origins are also English.
There were other Cooley-surnamed immigrants, but it is generally agreed that Benjamin and Samuel are the first.
(NOTE: There has been no genealogical connection found between these two men and DNA testing on descendants suggests they share no common ancestor for many generations.)
Cooley Meaning & Etymology
An Internet search will disclose many opinions about the origins of the name "Cooley." We will probably never know for sure which is the truest origin. Perhaps there is truth in all of them. The one that seems most logical is the one where Cooley became a phoenetic contraction of "cow lea." - cow (bovine animal), and lea (field or meadow). In which case the original usage would have applied to the man who tended or raised cows - a farmer.
Cooley Pronunciation & Spelling Variations
If we examine the parish records (St. Albans) in Tring, Hertfordshire, England wherein is recorded the baptism of Benjamin Cooley on 25 Feb 1615/16, we will note that his surname as recorded is Coley. In the Colonial records of New England, Benjamin consistently used Cooley. However, the parish records record the spelling differently for the births of each of Benjamin's siblings with the following variations: Colley (sister Ledia), Coolye (sister Pheobe), Collye (brother Jonathan), Colley (brother Joseph), Coley (twin sisters Anne and Joyce). When Benjamin's mother was buried, it is recorded Coalye.
Clearly consistent spelling of the recorded individual's surname was not a priority with the priests and clerks of the time.
Descendants of Samuel Cooley (and Samuel himself) use mostly the Coley and Cooley variants.