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Marley was born in Jamaica to Albert Thomas Marley, an Englishman from Sussex, and Ellen Marley née Broomfield. Norval was a European British Jamaican, however it is supposed that, apart from the British descent, his family was also of distant Syrian Jewish heritage. He travelled to England where he joined the British Army in August 1916 at Liverpool, enlisting in the non-combatant Labour Corps (serving in the United Kingdom); he had previously been employed as a ferro-concreter in Cuba.
Norval later claimed to have been a captain in the Royal Marines. He was a plantation overseer, when he married Cedella Malcolm, an Afro-Jamaican then 18 years old. Their romance began when he was approximately 60 years old and she was merely 17. Marley’s family was made up of British Jamaicans from the parish of Clarendon, but he relocated for work purposes to Saint Ann Parish where Cedella had grown up and resided.
Cedella gave birth to their son Nesta Robert "Bob" Marley on 6 February 1945. No other children arose from this relationship and the couple separated after a short time. Norval provided financial support for his wife and child, but seldom saw them, and Bob Marley never really came to know his father, who died when he was 10.
- Year of birth presumed on the basis of the information that he was 70 years old when he died in 1955
- Information about his age is contradictory; several articles suggest that he was 50 when Bob was born and others that he was 60. His ages on his service record averages to c1885.
- by ivan (2003-06-29). "Interview with Heather Marley". Bobmarleymagazine. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- Adam Chandler (2013-02-13). "Bob Marley’s Jewish Father". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- "Bob Marley's family on 'Welsh' roots". BBC Wales New Online. 2004-01-29. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- Norval Marley's First World War army service record is on Ancestry.co.uk, source images 72099 - 72134 (The National Archives document reference WO 363/M 945, images 510 - 545)
- "Bob Marley's family on 'Welsh' roots". BBC Wales New Online. 2004-01-29. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
- Bob Marley: the regret that haunted his life Tim Adams, The Observer, Sunday 8 April 2012
- Moskowtz, David Vlado (2007). The Words and Music of Bob Marley. Westport, Connecticut. p. 16. ISBN 0-275-98935-6, ISBN 978-0-275-98935-4.
- Davis,, Stephen (1985). Bob Marley. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. ISBN 0385179561.
- Moskowitz, David (2007). The Words and Music of Bob Marley. Praeger. p. 4. ISBN 0275989356.