Some Background on the Name
When researching this family name, one must be alert to many variations in its spelling -- NUNALEE, NUNLY, NUNLEA, NUNNERLY, NUNNALLY, NUNALEA, NUNLEY and, according to some researchers, perhaps seven or eight additional spellings. Some believe the name derives from a name popular in seventeenth century England -- NUNN. The origin of NUNALEE most likely is from the word nunn which meant meadow. Thus, "Nunn - a - lee" meant "out of the meadow."
Ship manifests show a Thomas NUNN, age 22, who sailed from England on the David bound for Virginia in 1635. On April 15, 1635, a Richard NUNN, age 19, sailed from England on the ship Increase bound for Boston. It is quite possible that one or both of these Nunns are related to people with the name NUNNALLY that appear in Henrico County, VA as early as 1640. Later 1782 and 1783 Virginia records reveal several families with these names living in Charlotte, Chesterfield, Halifax and Powhatan counties. Most interesting to me are the listings of an Alexander NUNLEY in the 1782 Continental Census for Charlotte County and of several NUNALLY families in the same census for Halifax County. These families were located in close proximity to a principal migratory route at that time to North Carolina, the Roanoke River.
The first North Carolina recorded NUNALY I have included in my database is one Alexander NUNELY who appeared in the 1810 Cumberland County census: age 45 and over, 1 male under 10 and 1 female 45 and over. The 1820 census for adjacent Bladen County lists this information for one Alexander NUNLY: FWM: 3 age 10 and under; 1 age 10-16; 1 age 16-26; 1 age 18-26; 1 age 45 & up; FWF: 2 10-16; 1 45 & up. During this period the line separating Bladen and Cumberland counties was moved and it appears that the 1810 and 1820 censuses relate to the same Alexander at the same physical location. Either the 1810 census enumeration was deficient or, and more likely, Alexander was joined by other family members in the 1820 census. A Soundex search of the 1830 censuses for eastern North Carolina for any surname resembling NUNLEY yielded no results. Perhaps some reader will kindly share some information with me.
Alexander NUNNERLY died in March 1840 in Bladen County at the age of 72. This places his birth about 1768. No doubt this is the same Alexander listed in the aforementioned 1810 and 1820 censuses. A marriage record shows his name spelled "NUNLEY." To my knowledge, no connection has been proved between this Alexander NUNNERLY (NUNLEY) and the NUNALEE families of Virginia; however, I consider it very likely.
Alexander Nunnerly (NUNALEE) and Descendants
Alexander NUNNERLY was born about 1768 and died March 18, 1840 in Bladen County, NC. In Cumberland County in April 1803, he married Sally JORDAN, likely the daughter of Matthew JORDAN. They had a son, Thomas. There may have been other children.
Name Changes -- Early records are replete with multiple name spellings for the same individual. Frequently it was due to copying errors because of illegible handwriting. Quite often those entering information into records relied on the phonetic spelling, given the fact that many people were illiterate and were not sure how to spell their own names. I found it interesting that the surname of Alexander Nunnerly's son, Thomas, is spelled "NUNALEE." On March 26, 1844, Sally NUNNERLY, by that time a widow, was one of nine parties who executed a document appointing an attorney for the purpose of seeking a distribution of property. This record can be found in Cumberland County Deeds, Book 45, page 332. Though listed in the document as "Sally NUNNERLY", she signed it as "Sarah NUNALEE."
Children of Alexander NUNNERLY and his wife, Sarah "Sally" JORDAN:
Children of William Love NUNALEE and his wife, Sabra Jane HALL:
Children of Sarah "Sally" NUNALEE and Haywood HALL, JR:
Children of Charles Lee NUNALEE and his wife, Elizabeth Queen JOHNSON:
Very likely Thomas NUNALEE, born in 1813, had siblings. It is quite possible that some members of his family joined the large migration of North Carolinians to the South and West between 1800 and 1860.
If you have any information which tracks the NUNALEE surname back to North Carolina during the period prior to 1860, I would like to hear from you. I am especially eager to learn more about Alexander NUNNERLY, born in 1768.
This page was last revised on 18 February 2006
1995-2015 by John H. Croom, all rights reserved.