- This is a very old surname. Recent research suggests, although without absolute proof, that the name originated in the Yorkshire region, although why this should be so is unclear. It almost certainly derives from the prominence of the surname 'William' which was not recorded in England (or Scotland) before the 1066 Norman Conquest, but thereafter, probably for political reasons, became the Number One baptismal name. As such, and with the development of surnames which commenced shortly afterwards it naturally gravitated to being a popular surname, as did the variant or nickname forms, Will, Wills, and Wile. The suffix 'man(n)' is an Anglo-Saxon word which has a variety of meanings. It is most commonly taken to describe a high ranking servant or even a close friend. In England it was considered a signal honour to be associated with ones superior by being allowed to take his name as in 'Will' plus 'Man(n)', curiously the reverse applies in Gaelic countries where not to take the name of the chief was considered unacceptable, hence the development of the clan system. The early recordings of Wil(l)man include Adam Willeman and Walterus Wilman both of whom are recorded in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls of Yorkshire, whilst later in 1563 Harry Willman married Alis Worship at St Antholins Church, London. The variant spelling forms include Wileman, Wyleman, and Wilman, all have exactly the same meaning. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Symon Willeman, which was dated 1279, The Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The hammer of the Scots' 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.
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