This surname, found in Ireland, mainly in Ulster is of Scottish origin, McWilliam(s) having been adopted as their surname by a branch of the McFarlane clan. In the last century, the Registrar of Births reported the interchangeable use of McWilliam with the Irish surname McQuillan in Newry Union, County Down, and that McWilliams, appeared as McQuilliams in Magherafelt Union, County Derry. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames; they came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were found before the year 1000. Early records of the name mention Thome McWilzene, who was a tenant in Strathdee in 1527. Parlene McWilliame was fined for resetting outlawed members of the Clan McGregor in 1613. Patrick McWilliam in Ardunaig, Scotland, was denounced a rebel in 1648, and Alexander McWilliam was a tenant in Seaforth, Scotland in 1721. A family of the name are said to have been established in the parish of Mortlach in 1550, and many have now changed their name to Williamson. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield, and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. Many Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. People heard of the attractions of the New World, and many left Ireland to seek a better life sailing aboard the fleet of ships known as the 'White Sails', but much illness took its toll with the overcrowding of the ships which were pestilence ridden. From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagons to the prairies, and many loyalists went to Canada about the year 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
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