This surname is a variant of Sealey, Seeley, or Seelye, other variant spellings may be Seely, Seley, Silley, Sealy, Seelie, Sellea, Seally, Sielly, Sillea, Sillia, Cielly, Ceilley, Cielly, Ceely, etc. Note that the names at this site are primarily spelled Cilley for simplicity, but you may find documents using any of the above listed variants.
The name is primarily pronounced "silly", although there are variations, for example in Argentina it is pronounced "seelay". I would like to know if there are other pronunciations.
It was thought to be first used by Captain Joseph Cilley, who settled in Nottingham, New Hampshire. New Hampshire still has the highest population of Cilley families in the United States, followed by Maine, Michigan and California. There is also a branch of the Cilley family in Argentina who are descendants of Commander Greenleaf Cilley, who married Malvina Vernet. Some of them own and operate the Hotel Angostura in Patagonia. Drop by for a visit sometime, it is some of the prettiest country side anywhere!!!
I would be very interested in any information that you may have about Cilley's that do not appear here, so if you have some, please contact me.
The actual immigrant ancestor that the line is descended from is not entirely clear but both have come to America in the 17th century from England. Jonathan P. Cilley suggested in The Cilley Family published ca. 1878 in Rockland, Maine, that our immigrant ancestor was Captain Robert SEALY (see Cilley Family Origin) and Richard N. Cilley suggests in History and Genealogy of the Cilley Family 1550-1984 that it was Thomas, whose father was Andrew, son of Richard of Stoke-in-Teignhead (see Cilley Family Origin).
Another origin of the Cilley name is that it is descended from Count Cilli of Austria, which J. P. Cilley discounts as pure speculation and wishfull thinking, since there is a lack of solid evidence to support this line.
For those who are interested in coats of arms that are associated with the Cilley surname see Coat of Arms.This work deals with the brothers Thomas and Benoni and their descendants and assumes that their ancestors are those that Richard suggests.