I am carrying out extensive research on the Hollyer name and its close variants Holyer and Hollier. I have registered the three names with the Guild of One Name Studies.
The earliest reference to the name is from 1373 in Shustoke, Warwickshire. Warwickshire and the surrounding counties are the early stronghold of this name, but by the mid 16th century there are references spread across the Southern counties from Kent to Hampshire, including the Isle of Wight. The signature on the left is of Joseph Hollyer from his marriage bond of 1687.
I am keen to hear from anyone with Hollyer, Holyer or Hollier in their families and will try to help provide information where I can.
I have a large database including all references from the IGI, the VRIs and the GRO BMD indexes 1837-2001, the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census indexes, many of the indexed 1851 censuses, wills, parish registers and sundry other sources. References in literature have also be collected. While I do have quite a bit of information about the families in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, this is not as comprehensive as that for Great Britain.
Of the three spellings, Hollier is by far the most common. Hollyer is around one quarter of the frequency of Hollier. Holyer is a much rarer variant and almost entirely connected with a single family from Kent. However, even this family often changed the name to Hollyer and Kent is thus today the county with the greatest density of both Hollyer and Holyer spellings.
Aside from the well-known name variants of Hollyer, Holyer and Hollier, many other variations can be found. These can be expressed in the following form:-
where [x,y] means select one of the list and (x) means optional. Hence one can get Holier, Hollyor, Halliar, etc. Even then, there are other variants of the form Holliard. It is not clear what pronunciation led to the final d being added. Sometimes the name can be mistaken with Hellier. Study of the signature at the top of this page shows how the e in the old Secretary Hand can be confused with o. Finally, we know that some people with the quite separate Cheshire name of Ollier became Holliers in the 19th century.
Origin of the Name
It is very unlikely that there is a single origin to the name. There are some early 14th century references to a Robert le Holyere and Adam Holiere which might suggest a Norman origin. One source does make this assertion, based on the Norman Osmund Hoielor of 1108. However, a far more significant reference from 1373 is to a John Holyer, bailiff of John de Clynton, knight, in his manor of Shustoke, Warwickshire. In 1433, there is a record of a Roger Holyer holding property in the nearby Parish of Arley. By the time parish registers started in 1539, there are frequent records of Hollyers at Shustoke and surrounding parishes in North Warwickshire.
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