Wills History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The family name Wills 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 Wills family

The surname Wills 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 Wills family

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

Wills 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 Wills 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 Wills Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Wills family to Ireland

Some of the Wills 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 Wills migration to the United States +

Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Wills or a variant listed above:

Wills Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Bennet Wills, who arrived in Maine in 1627
  • Bennet Wills, who settled in Maine in 1627
  • Thomas Wills, who settled in Maryland in 1633
  • John Wills, who settled in St. Christopher in 1634
  • Roger Wills, aged 20, who arrived in Barbados in 1635 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Wills Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Solloman Wills, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [2]
  • Benjamin Wills, who was an emigrant in bondage, arriving in America in 1757
  • John Wills, who arrived in North Carolina in 1769 [2]
Wills Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • George Wills, who landed in Maryland in 1833 [2]
  • Abraham Wills, who arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1835 [2]
  • William Wills, who landed in Texas in 1835 [2]
  • James Wills, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851 [2]
  • Fanny Wills, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Wills migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Wills Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Richard Wills, fisherman of St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1794 [3]
Wills Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Charles Wills, aged 20, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1864

Australia Wills migration to Australia +

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

Wills Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Wills, (b.1806, aged 22 born in Liskeard, Cornwall, UK convicted in Cornwall on 25th March 1828, sentenced for 7 years for housebreaking, transported aboard the ship "Sir Charles Forbes" in 1830 to Van Diemen's Land, Tasmania, Australia [4]
  • Mr. William Wills (b. 1808), aged 22, Cornish settler convicted in Cornwall, UK on 25th March 1828, sentenced for 7 years for breaking into the house of Hannibul Boase and stealing jewellery and other items, transported aboard the ship "Sir Charles Forbes" on 1st April 1830 to Van Diemen's Land, Tasmania, Australia [5]
  • Charles Wills, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Singapore" in 1839 [6]
  • Jane Catherine Wills, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Singapore" in 1839 [6]
  • John Wills, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Singapore" in 1839 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Wills 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:

Wills Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Alfred Wills, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1842 aboard the ship Brougham
  • James Fabian Wills, who landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1842 aboard the ship London
  • A. Wills, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Brougham" in 1842
  • Mr. James William Wills, (b. 1800), aged 40, English settler born in Devon travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Timandra" arriving in New Plymouth, Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand on 24th February 1842 [7]
  • Mrs. Betsy Wills, (b. 1802), aged 39, Cornish settler born in Cornwall travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Timandra" arriving in New Plymouth, Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand on 24th February 1842 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Wills (post 1700) +

  • Maury Wills (b. 1932), American baseball player [8]
  • Frank Wills (1822-1857), English-born, American architect who is best known for his Gothic Revival churches throughout North America
  • Elliot Taylor "Bump" Wills (b. 1952), American former Major League Baseball second baseman
  • James Robert "Bob" Wills (1905-1975), American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader
  • Gary Wills (b. 1934), American author, journalist, and historian awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
  • Chill Theodore Wills (1903-1978), American Academy Award nominated film actor and singer
  • Royal Barry Wills (1895-1962), preeminent Boston architect and author
  • Christopher J. Wills (b. 1938), Professor of Biology at University of California, San Diego
  • Frank Wills (1948-2000), American security guard who discovered the truth about the Watergate Scandal break-in that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon
  • Helen Wills (1905-1988), American tennis player, known as the great women's player of her time
  • ... (Another 13 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Cornwall
  • Edward Douglas Wills (d. 1942), British Leading Stoker aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [9]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. John William Wills, British Marine, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [10]
  • Mr. Charles Richard Wills, British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [10]


The Wills 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


Suggested Readings for the name Wills +

  • 1099 Tueth: Other Families, Hart, Fields, Newkirk. Wills by Doris E. Wastradowski.

  1. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  4. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 30th May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/tasmanian_convicts_cornish.pdf
  5. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 30th May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_australia_convicts.pdf
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) SINGAPORE (aka SINCAPORE) 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Singapore.gif
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  9. ^ Force Z Survivors Crew List HMS Cornwall (Retrieved 2018, February 13th) - Retrieved from https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listcornwallcrew.html#A
  10. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html


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