This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from either of two places called Wilford. Wilford in Nottinghamshire was first recorded as "Wilesford" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as "Wileford" in "Manuscripts of Lord Middleton at Wollaton Hall" (circa 1190), and Wilford near Woodbridge, Suffolk, appeared as "Wileforde" in the Domesday Book. Both placenames derive from the Olde English pre 7th Century "wilig", willow, with "ford", ford; hence, "ford by the willows". During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a widespread dispersal of the name. The surname is first recorded in the late 12th Century (see below), and can also be found as Wilford. Gervase de Wylford is noted in the Nottinghamshire Death Register (1360). On November 10th 1558, the christening of Frauncis Willford took place at St. Bartholomew's, Exchange, London, and Elizabeth Willford married Nicholas Benboe on August 9th 1585, at St. Lawrence, Poutney, London. A Coat of Arms granted to the family is a shield divided per pale gold and red, on a chevron between three leopards' faces three crescents, all counter changed. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger de Willeford (witness), which was dated 1199, in the "Fine Court Rolls of Suffolk" during the reign of Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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