Willsey History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The family name Willsey 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 Willsey family

The surname Willsey 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 Willsey family

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

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

Willsey Ranking

In the United States, the name Willsey is the 18,381st most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [2]

Ireland Migration of the Willsey family to Ireland

Some of the Willsey 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.

Migration of the Willsey family

In the immigration and passenger lists were a number of people bearing the name Willsey Thomas Wills settled in Maryland in 1633; Bennet Wills settled in Maine in 1627; John Wills settled in St. Christopher in 1634; Thomas and William Wills settled in Virginia in 1654.



The Willsey 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


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