- Recorded in several spellings including Willan, Willen, Willin, and patronymics Willans, Willens and others, this is an English surname. It is however of Norman-French origins, and a short or nickname form of the popular given name William. Composed of the pre 6th century elements "wil", meaning will or desire, and "-helm", helmet or protection, the name was introduced into England at the famous Conquest of 1066. It subsequently became politically correct to adopt the name in honour of the Conqueror turned king. Early examples of recordings from surviving rolls and charters include Robertus filius Willelmi in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 whilst later Ralph Willem was listed in the descriptive catalogue of Ancient Deeds in the year 1304. Amongst the early recordings in surviving church records are the christenings of Anthony Willan on February 25th 1599 at St. Helen's Bishopsgate, and that of Mary Willans on June 6th 1652 at St. Andrew's Holborn, both in the city of London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Willeyne. This was dated 1584, in the register of the University of Oxford, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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.