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GALEY Family History

This interesting northern English medieval surname, recorded in the spellings of Galley, Gally, Galey, Gally, Galilee and Gallally, has two possible origins. The first is occupational, and a metonymic or nickname for a galley-man, one who owned or sailed on a galley. A galley was a vessel which was principally driven by oars rather than sail, and whilst on the continent of Europe it generally described a warship, in England the meaning was more prosaic. Here it described a low built, flat bottomed vessel, used in rivers and shallow estuaries, and navigated with both sails and oars.

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