Select Bradley Surname Genealogy

Bradley is a place-name, found in various places in the north of England.  The name is derived from the Old English brad meaning "broad" and leah meaning "meadow."  The surname Bradley (and its variants Bradlee and Broadley) originally meant someone from Bradley. 

In Ireland, Bradley is the anglicization of the Gaelic O'Brolchain or O'Brollachain. They were an Irish clan that started out in county Tyrone and spread across Ireland.  The word comes from the Gaelic brollach, meaning "breast."

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England.  Early Bradley locations have been Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and Staffordshire.

Durham  The earliest mention of Bradley as a surname appears to have been in Durham, from the Bradley lands near Wolsingham on Lanchester Moor.  Roger de Bradley was said to have held land there in 1183 in lieu of forestry work and William de Bradley in 1341.  Bradley descendants were resident at Bradley castle. 

A branch of the family migrated south to Gloucestershire and from them in the 18th century came the Astronomer Royal, James Bradley.

Yorkshire  The Bradleys of Yorkshire were on both sides during the Civil War:
  • those in Ackworth near Pontefract were Royalist.  Thomas Bradley had been chaplain to Charles I and is believed to have attended him to the scaffold in 1649. 
  • on the other hand, Bingley near Bradford was a center for Puritan sympathizers.  One such Puritan was William Bradley who later emigrated to America with his family. 
A century or so later came the Yorkshire Giant, William Bradley, from Market Weighton in the East Ridings.

Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire  One Derbyshire family may have originated in Bradley, Derbyshire as their early records were from Ashbourne nearby.  Another began in the early 1600's in Elkesley in Nottinghamshire.  These Bradleys were farmers who later moved to Derbyshire and coalmining.  Their conclusion on the Bradleys:

"The fact that the 1881 distribution of Bradleys in England also reflected the main English coalfields was no coincidence."

Staffordshire  The Bradley name was also evident in south Staffordshire.  Thomas Bradley lived at Gornal Wood in Sedgley in the early 1600's.  Later Bradleys in this area became prominent as iron-founders - Richard Bradley in Tipton, Staffordshire and, most famously, John Bradley in Stourbridge, Worcestershire.  His plant at Woolaston produced in 1829 the first locomotive to run on rails in America.

  The O'Brolchain sept had reached county Derry from Tyrone by the 12th century.  Flaibhertach O'Brollachain was recorded as rebuilding the Derry cathedral in 1164.  The name in Derry later anglicized to Bradley. There were Bradleys as well in Donegal, in particular on the Inishowen Peninsular from the early 1700's, and further south in county Cork, in addition to English Bradleys. 

America.  The early Bradley arrivals were English.

English Bradleys  William Bradley came in 1638 from Yorkshire with like-minded enthusiasts to found a new colony.  This colony was to be New Haven in Connecticut.  The construction took three years and William spent the first winter with his companions huddled in holes in the ground near the site. 

Another Bradley, Isaac Bradley, moved to New Haven in 1683.  He was the patriarch of a great number of Bradley descendants, as tracked in Leonard Bradley's 1917 book Descendants of Isaac Bradley

Meanwhile, Stephen Bradley was growing up in neaby Guilford.  From him came a succession of Abraham Bradleys, including the Abraham who helped set up the national post office in Washington DC.  And George Bradley of Tolland, Connecticut was the forebear of the Cleveland shipping Bradleys:

"Alva Bradley was one of the foremost figures in the shipping industry of the Great Lakes.  He began as a sailor before the mast, was a vessel master many years, and built and owned vessels until the Bradley fleet was one of the largest under individual management on the lakes."
Then there were the New England Bradlees.   Sam Bradley of Dorchester, Massachusetts changed his name to Bradlee in the 1750's because, he said, "there were too many Bradleys in the  Boston area."  His four sons and daughter Sarah Bradlee were reportedly responsible for carrying out the Boston Tea Party in 1773.  A descendant is Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal.
Irish Bradleys  Later Bradley arrivals were more Irish than English.  Those in the 18th century included:
  • John Bradley and his wife Martha, who arrived in the 1760's and stayed in Raleigh, North Carolina before moving onto Tennessee.  In 1818 their Bradley children would become pioneer settlers in Arkansas.
  • a Bradley family from Antrim, who arrived in South Carolina in the 1770's.  A descendant Patrick Bradley was a planter in the White Hall section of Abbeville.  The town of Bradley in Greenwood county grew up around the railroad depot built near his home. 
  • and Charles Bradley, who arrived in the 1770's, fought in the Revolutionary War, and settled in Cambria county, Pennsylvania.
Larger numbers would come in the 19th century.  In this second wave was a Hugh Bradley from Draperstown in Derry and his son, born in America, the legendary Colonel Edward Riley Bradley.

Canada.  The first Bradleys in Canada were probably Empire Loyalists, William and Lewis Bradley, both from Savannah in Georgia:
  • William Brown Bradley had first moved to New Brunswick and, after fighting in the War of 1812, was granted land in the Ottawa valley where he and his family settled.
  • while Lewis and Elizabeth Bradley moved to a log cabin in Mississauga, Ontario.  They built a small saltbox-style farmhouse there in 1830 to cope with their growing family, a farmhouse which has been restored as a museum to show how the early settlers lived.
George Bradley was an English immigrant to Vaughan township in York county in the 1840's.  There were also a number of Irish Bradleys who had arrived around that time in the Ottawa valley.  These included William Bradley in March township, William and Jane Bradley in Huntley township, and John and Jane Bradley in Marlborough township.  

  There were two Bradleys on the First Fleet to Australia in 1788, Lieutenant William who compiled a journal of the voyage illustrated with water color drawings and convict James from London whose sentence was seven years.  Another Bradley convict, William, was on the Matilda three years later.  Both these convicts married in Australia and have living Bradley descendants.  Another convict James Bradley, who arrived in 1813, had no fewer than five marriages and liaisons during his time in Australia.

However, the Bradley that made the most impression on early Australia was the Jonas Bradley of the NSW Corp who came with the Third Fleet in 1791.  Jonas Bradley was the first successful grower of tobacco in Australia.  His son William Bradley began the Goulburn brewery and became an important political and social figure in the early days of the NSW colony.  Today these Bradleys are recognized as one of the seventy pioneer Australian families.

New Zealand.  William Bradly of a naval family in Kent came to Auckland in 1842 and settled down in the Helensville area.  Franklin Bradley, a Presbyterian minister from Down in northern Ireland, arrived there in 1863.  He was one of the pioneer farmers in Arapohue. 

Meanwhile another minister, the Rev. Robert Bradley, arrived in Christchurch, South Island in the 1850's and bought land for farming in Charteris Bay.  Much of this land is now the Orton Bradley Park, having been donated by his son Orton after his death in 1943.     

Select Bradley Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Bradley Names

James Bradley was the astronomer who discovered the aberration of light mutation of the earth's axis.  He was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1742.
William Bradley, born in 1787, was said to have been the tallest man in England.  He was measured at seven feet nine inches.
William Bradley was a pioneer sheep farmer in Australia and one of the leading social and politicial figures in Sydney during the 1840's and 1850's.
Omar Bradley was one of Eisenhower's leading generals during World War Two.
Bill Bradley was a Rhodes scholar, professional basketball player, and Democrat Senator for New Jersey.

Select Bradleys Today
  • 53,000 in the UK (most numerous in Teesside)
  • 48,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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