Origin of our Surname

Our surname is generally believed to be derived from the place name of a 12th-century estate and hamlet in West Lothian, near Edinburgh in Scotland. The earliest record of the name was in the 1170 Staffordshire Pipe Scrolls which listed Henri de Merleis as the owner of the estate then known as Myrge Laese - in the Old English of the day meaning "pleasant field" or "pleasant pasture".

In 1599 the 'lands of Mirrieleis' were recorded in a deed of sale to the neighbouring estate of Binns. This merger is referred to in George Black's Surnames of Scotland which also notes the variant spellings of the name in the 'retours' (old Chancery records - Mureleyis (1602), Murryleyis (1618), Mirrieleyis (1683).

On a 1773 map of West Lothian the name is printed as Myrey Lees and John Black's 1830 map of Linlithgow (below) shows Merrylees on the south edge of 'Binns'. A row of old stone houses which remain on this site today are called 'Merrylees Cottages'. [The Binns has been administered by the Scottish National Trust since 1950 and an original copy of this map is on display in the mansion.]

The site of the Merrylees estate is shown on this enlarged section of the 1830 map of Linlithgow (by the red square).

An indepth article 'Notes on our Surname and its Variants' by Ron Merrylees is recommended reading.

There have been over 100 variants of our surname recorded in the English language since the 12th century and a Scandinavian researcher of the Merrilees Clan has discovered more versions in Norwegian records.