Although there are several variant spellings extant (Keathley, Keathly, Keithley, Keatly, etc.), it appears that most of them derive from the same source, a hamlet in West Yorkshire, England called
Keighley. During and after the Viking invasions of England in the 9th-11th centuries, some of the invaders chose to stay and start a new life. Keighley was the location of several of these Norse settlements. The name is
derived from "Kioge" (a Norse proper name), and "ley", the Middle English spelling of "lea", meaning "one who lives in a meadow".
Although the hamlet was clearly settled by at
least the 11th C. ( it was recognized in the Domesday Survey, ordered by William the Conqueror in 1085), there are few extant records until the early 13th C. By 1284, the hamlet was called "Kygheley", and one
of the first documented holders of the name was Sir Henry de Kygheley, who "held the manor in 1305". Sir Henry was a member of Parliament as early as 1300, at which time he was appointed to hear complaints
against King Edward I regarding violations of the Magna Carta, the 1215 document that is the basis of English common law. He evidently did his job too well, for in 1306, Edward had him confined to the Tower of London.
This is one of the earliest documented exceptions to the rule that members of Parliament could not be imprisoned during the legislative term. There are still, today, Keighleys serving in the English government and civil
During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Keighleys (also Kithley and Kygheley) were among the most prominent of the West Riding, Yorkshire, families of knightly rank, and included knights, public servants,
and friends of the King.
A prominent member of the family was Sir Richard Keighley (1385-1415), a Knight in the service of the King. He was killed at the Battle of Agincourt, wherein the English routed a much larger
French army. Sir Richard was immortalized, if only briefly, by William Shakespeare, in his play, "Henry V", Act 4, scene 8.
Among the early settlers in America coming from this tradition were Phillip Kithley
(c. 1622), his son Thomas (c. 1642), grandson Andrew (c. 1650s), John Keighley (d. 1719), and John Keathley (1730- 1793). We are still researching the validity of these connections.