This surname WILLIS was a baptismal name 'the son of William ' an ancient and popular font name. Early records of the name mention WILLIS (without surname) who was listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. In 1086 the compilation of the Domesday Book was ordered by William the Conqueror (1027-87), king of England from 1066. He was born in Failaise, the bastard son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, by Arlette, a tanner's daughter. On his father's death in 1035, the nobles accepted him as a duke. When Edward the Confessor, king of England died in 1066, William invaded England that Autumn, on 14th October, 1066 killing Harold (who had become King). English government under William assumed a more feudal aspect, the king's tenants-in-chief and all title to land was derived from his grants, and the Domesday Book contains details of the land settlements, and the names of the owners of such. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. Early records of the name mention Edwin Willis who was recorded in the year 1273 in County Yorkshire and Johannes Willeson, of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Henry Wyllis of County Cheshire, registered at Oxford University in 1508. William, son of Henrie Willison, was baptised at St. Mary, Aldermary, London in the year 1579. Henry Willis married Sarah Linden, at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1795. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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