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Willes Coat of Arms / Willes Family Crest

Willes Coat of Arms / Willes Family Crest

The surname of WILLES was of two-fold origin, a baptismal name 'the son of William', from the nickname Will. The name is also spelt WILLS, WILLIS, WILLISON and WILL. Following the Crusades in Europe in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries, a need was felt for a family name in addition to the one that had been given at birth. This was realised firstly by the nobles and people of gentler blood, as it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. The name was also locational, the dweller by the well or stream, from residence nearby. Local names usually denoted where the original bearer held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention WILLE (without surname) who was recorded in County Lancashire in the year 1199. William Wille of the County of Lancashire in 1279. John atte Wylle of the County of Sussex in 1296. Adam Wylis was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Edward Wills was recorded in County Somerset in the year 1400. William Willison was baptised at St. Mary Aldermary, London in 1579. Henry Willis and Sarah Linden were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1795. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification. A notable member of the name was William John Wills (1834-61) the explorer, born in Devonshire. He studied medicine and then became surveyor of the crown lands in Victoria, Australia. He then became second in command of an expedition to the north of Australia, where he died of starvation.

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Last Updated: April 12th, 2023

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