Gilean History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Gilean is an ancient name whose history on English soil dates back to the wave of emigration that followed the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The name comes from the Old French given name Guillaume. The name Guillaume was modified into two forms after arriving in England: Gillham and William.

Early Origins of the Gilean family

The surname Gilean was first found in Suffolk where Giliana was listed in the Feet of Fines in 1198. [1] Many of the family stayed in Normandy as in the same year, Udon Galien was listed there. [2] Due the prevalence to the often personal name, the name was scattered in early censuses as show by the Rotuli Hundredorum of 1279 which listed Gilianus de Levekenore Buckinghamshire and Adam filius Jellion in Cheshire. [1]

Years later the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed the name as both a personal name and a surname: Petnis Gillam; Willelmus Giliam; Giliaum Spyser, 1379; and Ricardus Gillumman, i.e. the servant of Gillura. [3]

Early History of the Gilean family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gilean research. Another 95 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1276, 1283, 1379, 1524, 1636, 1682, 1665, 1701, 1690 and 1699 are included under the topic Early Gilean History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gilean Spelling Variations

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Gillham, Gillam, Gilliam, Gilham, Gillem, Gillum, Giliam, Gwillam, Gwillham, Gwilliam, Gwilham, Gyllham, Gylham and many more.

Early Notables of the Gilean family (pre 1700)

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Zachariah Gillam (Guillam) (1636-1682) American sea captain involved in the early days of the Hudson's Bay Company. Benjamin Gillam, American sea captain, brother of Zachariah, who in 1665 commanded the Charles which brought Radisson and Groseilliers to England where they began the foundation of the Hudson's Bay Company; and James Gilliam, also known as James Kelly, (died 1701), an English pirate active in...
Another 70 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gilean Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Gilean family

To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Gilean or a variant listed above: Benjamin Gillam, a ships carpenter, who made the trip in 1635 and settled in Boston. Susan Gilham made her home in Jamaica in 1661; Susan Gilham settled in Barbados in 1661.


Contemporary Notables of the name Gilean (post 1700) +

  • Gilean "Gil" McVean, English professor of statistical genetics at the University of Oxford


  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)


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