Will History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The family name Will is derived from the ancient Germanic personal name William, which itself comes from the roots will, meaning will or desire, and helm, meaning protection.

Early Origins of the Will family

The surname Will was first found in Cornwall where they held a family seat at Saltash from very ancient times.

"The house belonging to the rectorial estate is called Polgarran, or Polgorran, and was about a century since a seat of the family of Wills, who were lessees of the rectory. This house was rebuilt by Mr. Anthony Wills, who being embarrassed in his circumstances, quitted the parish, and with his six or seven sons, presented himself to the Prince of Orange at Torbay, offering them all as soldiers in his army. Their services being accepted, they conducted themselves with so much prudence, fidelity, and valour, that they all acquired the dignity of captains, and some among them became majors or colonels. One in particular, was made a standing major of the field, and was afterwards, in 1714, made principal commander of the army and troops of horse, against the Pretender at Preston, in Lancashire. For his valour and achievements he was created a Baronet of England, and general of all the land forces in the kingdom. On the death of Mrs. Wills, widow, this estate fell into the hands of the bishop, who leased it out to Mrs. Dorothy Crewys. The name of Wills is still well known in this parish; but whether these belong to the family before mentioned, it is difficult to say." [1]

Early History of the Will family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Will research. Another 77 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1620, 1666, 1741, 1698 and are included under the topic Early Will History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Will Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Wills, Will, Wylls and others.

Early Notables of the Will family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was Sir Charles Wills (1666-1741), British general, son of Anthony Wills of St. Gorran, Cornwall. "His father, whose family had been settled in Cornwall since early in the sixteenth century, farmed his own land, and, having encumbered his estate with debts, quitted the same at the revolution...
Another 53 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Will Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Will Ranking

In the United States, the name Will is the 4,081st most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [2] However, in France, the name Will is ranked the 6,048th most popular surname with an estimated 1,000 - 1,500 people with that name. [3]

Ireland Migration of the Will family to Ireland

Some of the Will family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 52 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Will migration to the United States +

Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Will or a variant listed above:

Will Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Anna Maria Will, who landed in America in 1727 [4]
  • Isaac Will, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1743 [4]
  • Michael Will, who landed in Maryland in 1743 [4]
  • John Michel Will, who landed in New York in 1745 [4]
  • Goerge Michel Will, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1747 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Will Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Gertrude Will, aged 31, who landed in Brazil in 1827 [4]
  • Lawrence Will, who landed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1839 [4]
  • Lewis Will, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1840 [4]
  • Luise Will, aged 28, who arrived in America in 1843 [4]
  • Philipp Will, aged 34, who landed in America in 1843 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Will Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Elisabeth Will, aged 2, who landed in America in 1901 [4]
  • Christine Will, aged 18, who arrived in New York, NY in 1901 [4]
  • Gottlieb Will, aged 9, who arrived in New York, NY in 1901 [4]
  • Regina Will, aged 39, who arrived in New York, NY in 1901 [4]

Canada Will migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Will Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Thomas Will, who arrived in Montreal, Canada between 1793 and 1819
Will Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Pankraz Will, who arrived in Quebec in 1852
  • Otto Will, aged 15, who landed in Quebec in 1868

Australia Will migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Will Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • David Will, aged 25, a baker, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Sir Edward Parry" [5]

New Zealand Will migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Will Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Rev. W. Will, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Stately" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 5th February 1854 [6]
  • Mrs. Will, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Stately" arriving in Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 5th February 1854 [6]
  • William Will, aged 29, a shoemaker, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864 [7]
  • Frances Will, aged 28, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864 [7]
  • William Will, aged 6 mths., who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Helenslee" in 1864 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Will (post 1700) +

  • George Fredrick Will (b. 1941), American Pulitzer Prize-winning (1977 for Commentary) newspaper columnist, journalist, and author
  • First Lieutenant Walter J Will (d. 1945), American officer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Hay Will (1888-1949), British stage and film comedian
  • J. Will Knight, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Utah, 1916 [8]
  • Carlos Will Mejía (b. 1983), Honduran football midfielder
  • Brigadier-General John Will Coffey (1897-1951), American Professor of Ordnance, US Military Academy West Point (1947) [9]
  • J. Will Kirk, American politician, Mayor of Adrian, Michigan, 1897-99 [10]
  • Walter Will Bankhead (1897-1988), American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Alabama, 1940; U.S. Representative from Alabama 7th District, 1941 [11]
  • Sam Will John, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Alabama, 1908 [12]
  • J. Will Proctor, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from South Carolina, 1956 [13]

Bismarck
  • Fritz Will (1921-1941), German Matrosengefreiter who served aboard the German Battleship Bismarck during World War II when it was sunk heading to France; he died in the sinking [14]
USS Arizona
  • Mr. Joseph William Will, American Seaman Second Class from Colorado, USA working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he died in the sinking [15]


The Will Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Sursum
Motto Translation: Upwards


  1. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  3. ^ http://www.journaldesfemmes.com/nom-de-famille/nom/
  4. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The SIR EDWARD PARRY 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849SirEdwardParry.htm
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 12th December 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2017, April 12) J. Knight. Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  9. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, November 3) John Coffey. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Coffey/John_Will/USA.html
  10. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 27) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  11. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, December 11) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  12. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 3) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  13. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  14. ^ Bismarck & Tirpitz Class - Crew List Bismarck. (Retrieved 2018, February 06). Retrieved from https://www.bismarck-class.dk/bismarck/crew/bismarck_crew.html#crew_details
  15. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from http://pearl-harbor.com/arizona/casualtylist.html


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