When researching family history it would always be nice to find someone rich and famous. Sadly the odds against it are pretty high - even though some genealogists seem to do better than average! In the case of the Townsley families the highest point on the social ladder normally seems to have been a farmer - with many Townsleys being recorded as hawkers, tinkers or travellers as well as the ever-present labourer.
None of these social levels could be expected to be property-owners with assets to dispose of in wills or with titles to pass on to their descendants. Without the extra documentation that wills and pedigrees provide then the trail back through generations of ancestors soon runs out of written evidence. The situation only improves during the late 19th century.
However continued digging has recently found some links from Townsley families to the British Peerage with some well documented families. This is good and bad news. It is good in that there are, therefore, published pedigrees to support the basic BMD and census entries. But it is bad in that there are, potentially, large quantities of additional information that I will now be tempted to include - since many of the British noble families are linked through marriages at some point in their history; perhaps as far back as King Edward III or earlier.
Instead I will try to stick to possible families that have been found in the archives with a good chance of having a direct Townsley surname connection. These include - Tounley, Tounsella, Tounsley, Tounesley, Towndeley, Towndely, Towndley, Townedley, Townelay, Towneley, Townelley, Townesley, Townlay, Townley, Townnsellee, Townslay and Townsly. But note that I have NOT researched the various Tansley, Tinsley or Tonsley families - even though some coat-of-arms sellers do make unsupported claims that Tinsley is the origin of the name Townsley. The Tonsley familes are mainly linked to the Northampton area and there are some parish register entries recorded as Townley or Townsley around there in the 18th century. So possibly linked .. or simply mis-recorded?
So far the only well-documented family that could, possibly, provide the origin for the Townsley name is the Towneley family of Lancashire. However there is zero evidence to support this proposal - despite being sent this “Townsley” coat of arms by a company claiming to know my origins. It is one of the Towneley family designs. But linking to a medieval family will remain a fanciful daydream until some evidence appears - even though that does not stop me from looking!
And some partial family trees have got close to establishing a link ...
While digging into archives I have gone through many sources, collecting up information from all around the British Isles and publishing the results on the web. There are over 5,600 entries for the Townsley surname alone in the current database.
So this is not a full, worldwide, one-name study since it makes no attempt to cover all the American families - some of which go back to the 17th century. But it does provide a very large percentage of the known British references to the Townsley surname.
This web site aims to contain, or link to, almost all of the information collected since 1997. But there is still plenty to do ...