Presley


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Presley or Pressley in England is allied to the surname Priestley and may come from an ancient place-name (found in Yorkshire and elsewhere) or a term for a dweller by a priest's wood or clearing.  Presley in America often incorporated the German Preslar or Presler.

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England and Scotland.  As Priestley, one origin of the surname was a place-name near Bradford in Yorkshire (the playwright J.B. Priestley hailed from those parts).  Presley in the abbreviated form cropped up there and in the southwest.  As Pressley the name is thought to have originated in NE Scotland and crossed with the Scots Irish to Ireland.

America.  In Virginia and the Carolinas there were records of English Presleys and Irish Pressleys.   Two early Presley families were the Presleys of Northumberland county, Virginia, recorded there from 1647 to 1749 and the Presley family that then followed in Fairfax county.  Irish Pressley families were to be found in South Carolina from the 1730's.

Some German Preslars changed their names to one of these forms, it is thought, around the time of the Civil War.  Johann Valentin Presler was an early 18th century German immigrant to America.  His son Andreas settled in the then frontier area of the central Carolina border and is considered to be the male ancestor of the "King," Elvis Presley.

The 1920 census showed the Presley name mainly confined to the South, bordered to the north by Tennessee, the east by the Carolinas, and the west by Texas.

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Elvis Presley, the "King," was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and was discovered as a singer in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953.
Priscilla Presley, the ex-wife of Elvis Presley, was the founder of Elvis Presley Enterprises who helped to turn Graceland into a multi-million dollar tourist attaction.

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  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Devon)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Tennessee) 
  • 1,000 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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