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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Scottish


Willis is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Willis family lived in Berkshire. Their name is derived from the Old English word welle, meaning well, and indicates the original bearer's residence near such a facility.

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The surname Willis was first found in Berkshire where they held a family seat at Hungerford Park, a baronetcy granted by King Charles I. They are believed to be descended from Baron Welles, the Duke of Somerset, and the grandmother of Henry VII, a Norman Baron from Welles in Normandy who was granted Rockingham Castle but was beheaded. Not all of the family emigrated to England as Hugh and Robert de Wellis were listed in Normandy in 1198. Effric de Welles held the fief or Wellis, Normandy in 1180. [1]CITATION[CLOSE]
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)

Johannes Willeson was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 [2]CITATION[CLOSE]
Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
and Walter filius Wille held lands in Dumfries in 1214. [3]CITATION[CLOSE]
Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
Walter Willys was listed in the Subsidy Rolls of Staffordshire in 1327 and Roger Wyllys was found in Kent in 1438. Years later, Richard Willys was listed in the Feet of Fines of Essex in 1517. [4]CITATION[CLOSE]
Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)

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 Willis, Wilis and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Willis research. Another 185 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1207, 1279, 1214, 1576, 1656, 1590, 1645, 1642, 1643, 1621, 1675, 1614, 1690, 1664, 1734, 1614, 1701, 1659, 1660, 1665, 1666 and are included under the topic Early Willis History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Thomas Willis (1576-1656), a member of the English landed gentry and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery at the outbreak of the English Civil War, owing to which he suffered the loss of his position and some of his estates; George Wyllys or...

Another 127 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Willis Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Some of the Willis family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 109 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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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 Willis or a variant listed above:

Willis Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Anne Willis settled in Virginia in 1620
  • Ann Willis, who arrived in Virginia in 1620
  • Ann Willis, who landed in Virginia in 1620
  • Nathaniel Willis settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1630
  • Nathaniel Willis, who settled in Boston in 1630
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Willis Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Jacob Willis, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1702
  • Matthew Willis, who arrived in Virginia in 1714
  • Ellioner Willis, who arrived in Virginia in 1717
  • Pheebe Willis, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1772

Willis Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Mary Ann Willis, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • Margaret Willis, who landed in New York, NY in 1811
  • James Willis, who arrived in New York, NY in 1812
  • Eleanor Willis, who landed in New York, NY in 1816
  • Ellen Willis, aged 18, landed in Mobile, Ala in 1820-1873
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Willis Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • William Willis settled in Quidividi, Newfoundland, in 1703
  • John Willis, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1749
  • Penolope Willis, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Josiah Willis settled in Kiers Cove, Labrador, in 1766

Willis Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Isaac Willis, who arrived in Canada in 1834

Willis Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • George Willis, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Adamant" on March 16, 1821, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • Thomas Willis, English convict from Southampton, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on April 1st, 1822, settling in New South Wales, Austraila
  • George Willis arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Buckinghamshire" in 1839
  • Elizabeth Rebecca Willis arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Buckinghamshire" in 1839
  • Frances Willis arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Buckinghamshire" in 1839
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Willis Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Richard Willis landed in Nelson, New Zealand in 1842
  • Thomas Willis arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Wyvern" in 1856
  • Thomas Willis arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "William Watson" in 1859
  • A. Willis arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Black Eagle" in 1861
  • Robert Willis arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Beauty" in 1863
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  • Robert "Chick" Willis (1934-2013), American blues singer and guitarist
  • Pharmacist's Mate First Class John Harlan Willis (1921-1945), American Navy sailor awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Harold "Chuck" Willis (1928-1958), American blues, rhythm and blues, and rock singer and songwriter
  • Elizabeth Willis (b. 1961), American poet, a literary critic and a professor of literature and creative writing
  • Walter Bruce Willis (b. 1955), American two-time Emmy Award-winning, Golden Globe Award-winning and four-time Saturn Award-nominated actor and film producer perhaps best known for his "Die Hard" series of movies
  • Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (b. 1945), American science fiction writer with ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards
  • Norman David Willis (b. 1933), English trade union leader
  • Henry Willis (1821-1901), English organ builder who built or restored many of the Cathedral organs of Britain
  • Hal Willis (1933-2015), born Leonald Francis Gauthier, Canadian country singer from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, bets known for his single "The Lumberjack," an international hit that sold over 1.5 million copies, inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010
  • Major Richard Raymond Willis VC (1876-1966), English recipient of the Victoria Cross
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Willis Historic Events



Empress of Ireland

  • Mr. George Oswald Willis, British Smokeroom Steward from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking on May 29th 1914

HMAS Sydney II

  • Mr. Percy John Christian Willis (1900-1941), Australian Plumber 1st Class from St. Peters, New South Wales, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking
  • Mr. Lloyd Martin Willis (1922-1941), Australian Cook from Five Dock, New South Wales, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking
  • Mr. George Boyd Willis (1908-1941), Australian Able Seaman from Naremburn, New South Wales, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking
  • Mr. Ronald Verdun Willis (1916-1941), Australian Steward from Manly, Queensland, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking

HMS Hood

  • Mr. Herbert Willis (b. 1922), English Marine serving for the Royal Marine from Mortenhempstead, Devon, England, who sailed into battle on the HMS Hood and died on 24th May 1941 in the sinking
  • Mr. Albert T Willis (b. 1919), English Stoker 1st Class serving for the Royal Navy from Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, who sailed into battle on the HMS Hood and died on 24th May 1941 in the sinking

HMS Prince of Wales

  • Mr. William E Willis, British Stoker, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking

RMS Titanic

  • Mr. William Willis (d. 1912), aged 66, English Third Class Steward from Southampton, Hampshire who worked aboard the RMS Titanic and died in the sinking
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  • The Family History of Nathaniel Purdue Willis of Eason, Oklahoma Territory by Kathryn S. Carter.
  • Some Willis Families of New England by Aurie Willis Morrison.
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Citations



  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)

Other References

  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  2. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  3. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  4. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  5. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  6. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds. Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  7. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  8. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  9. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  10. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  11. ...

The Willis Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Willis Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 29 June 2016 at 14:48.

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