Dear reader I began with fragmented information which had been given to me seemingly having no connections to anything or anyone but was enough to whet my appetite to try to find the answers; so I embarked on a voyage of discovery and a search for family was initiated. This search has taken me through the mists of time to another time and place and because of what I discovered, I came to the conclusion that *’Life is not measured by the breath we take, but by the moments that take our breath away’; it was so for me with the many wonderful places I visited and people I met as I continued my journey in search of family; hopefully it will be the same for you as you read my story.This journey into the life and times of the Bleakley has been a project I have enjoyed; the research and the discovery of facts as they come to light has been very rewarding, but everything worthwhile comes at a cost too, both emotionally and financially. The information prior to 1860 has been has been very costly but that was my decision to follow through as I wasn’t satisfied with 1860 being our starting point. I needed to know so I am not complaining just informing the reader that it wasn’t given to me. All in all though, it has been a labour of love.One bonus I have found is that I have made many new and interesting friends along the way; perhaps they only will be with me for a short time but still, while they are with me, they are making the journey bright with their laughter and fulfilling with their input.
The Bleakley name dates back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It is derived from their residence near the black wood or clearing, in the parish of Manchester, Lancaster. Bleakley is an Anglo- Saxon surname which has survived the rigorous course of history to the present day. Emerging from the shadows of time, the records reveal the earliest origins of this distinguished family.
Historians have researched such ancient manuscripts as the Doomsday Book compiled in 1086 A.D., by Duke William of Normandy, the Ragman Rolls (1291-1296) collected by King Edward 1st of England, the Curia Regis Rolls, the Pipe Rolls, the Hearth Rolls, parish registers, baptismal, tax records and other ancient documents. Researchers found the first record of the name Bleakley in Lancashire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say before the Norman Conquest in 1066.
The name Bleakley, occurredin many manuscripts and from to time the surname was spelt Blackly, Blakely, Blakley, Blacklee, Blackly, Blackledge, Blacklege, Blatchly, Blatchley with these changes occurring, even between father and son. In the 16th century even literate people such as William Shakespeare varied the spelling of their own names. There are many reasons for these spelling variations, for instance, official court languages such as Latin and French had their influence on how a name was recorded. In general, church officials and scribes recorded a name as it was told to them, rather than follow any spelling rules or conventions.
The ancestors of the Bleakley surname are thought to have been of the Angle-Saxon tribes of ancient Britain. These founding cultures settled in England in about the 5th century A.D., displacing the ancient Britons who populated the area in Roman times. The Angles and the Saxons established several independent kingdoms, Northumbria, Marcia, Wessex, Kent, Essex, Sussex and East Anglia, collectively known as the Heptarchy. All these rival kingdoms were unified in the 9th century by Egbert, King of Wessex.
In 1066, the relative peace which the country had existed under was shattered. The Norman invasion from France and their victory at the Battle of Hastings meant that many Anglo-Saxon landholders lost their property to Duke William and his invading nobles. Under oppressive Norman rule many families decided to move north to Yorkshire and beyond the border to Scotland.
The Bleakley family emerged as notable Englishmen in Lancaster in the parish of Manchester where even now the name remains with considerable popularity. Early registrations of the name, shows branches of the family to be located in Lancashire between Bury and Manchester, and the family is recorded as one of great antiquity. But by 1321 A.D., a branch had moved northward to Dumfriesshire in lowland Scotland.
Radalphus Blackely was recorded as a juror on an inquest in the town of Berwick on the English/Scottish border. The family name held lands in this area for several centuries. Meanwhile, in England, the family
branched into several locations in Lancashire also in London, England. Distinguished members of the family at this time include Blackley of Lancashire.
Throughout the middle ages, the Bleakley family flourished and contributed to English society. Later, during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries England was devastated by religious and political conflict. Conflicts between religious sects and between parliamentary and royalist forces created an unstable society. Many families were banished by the prevailing powers for dissention; other families chose to leave the turmoil behind.
In Ireland, Protestant settlers and soldier’s in Cromwell’s army were granted lands which had been confiscated from the native Catholic owners. In Ireland this distinguished family settled in the counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Antrim.
Upheaval at home forced some families to risk the perilous journey to the New World in order that they might build a better future for themselves. Members of the Bleakley family were among the settlers who boarded ships bound for Canada, the United States, Australia and other colonies held by the British crown.
Some of the newly settled Americans left for Canada after the British conquered the territory in 1763, and, around the time of the American War of Independence, many who chose to remain loyal to the crown fled to Canada.
Many of the earliest settlers to Australia were convicts, transported from Britain to live and work in the penal colonies; others were offered incentives and financial assistance.
From recent history, distinguished bearers of the Bleakley family name include Travers Robert Blackley (1899-1982) English army officer, Brigadier General, British Military Governors of Libya (1943) Jim Blackley ( b 1927) Canadian ( Scottish born) drummer and percussion educator; and Albert Francis Blakeslee ( 1874-1954) American botanist
The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:
A red shield with a vair chevron between three gold crosses crosslet.
The Crest was: A dragon’s head collared with a crown.
The coat of arms found for a bearer of the Bleakley surname did not include a motto. Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Here, among our early ancestors, begins the journey into the history and adventures of our fore-fathers and our ongoing quest to find and follow their footprint and so finally, to unlock the secrets of our past.