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

Origins Available: English, Irish, Scottish


The story of the Willson family stretches back through time to the Viking settlers who populated the rugged shores of Scotland in the Medieval era. The name Willson was derived from the personal name William. The name literally was derived from the patronymic expression son of William or son of Wil. [1]

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The surname Willson was first found in Berwickshire an ancient county of Scotland, presently part of the Scottish Borders Council Area, located in the eastern part of the Borders Region of Scotland, where John Wulson was a merchant in the service of Sir John of Montgomery in 1405. Michael Wilsoun was Burgess of Irvine in 1418, and John Wilson was Burgess of Berwick in 1467. [1]

Spelling variations are extremely common among Scottish names dating from this era because the arts of spelling and translation were not yet standardized. Spelling was done by sound, and translation from Gaelic to English was generally quite careless. In different records, Willson has been spelled Wilson, Willson, Wilsone, Wulson, Wilsoun and others.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Willson research. Another 333 words (24 lines of text) covering the years 1563, 1603, 1685, 1680 and 1750 are included under the topic Early Willson History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 89 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Willson Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Willson family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 143 words (10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Those who made the voyage were greeted with ample opportunity to acquire land and a political climate far away from the oppressive monarchy of the old country. They settled along the east coast of what would become Canada and the United States. In the American War of Independence, those who remained loyal to England traveled north to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. In this century, many Scots living in North America have begun to recover their rich heritage through festivals, highland games, and Clan societies. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name Willson:

Willson Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • Gabriell Willson, who landed in Virginia in 1650
  • Faith Willson, who arrived in Maryland in 1652-1653
  • Henry Willson, who landed in Virginia in 1654
  • Jeffry Willson, who landed in Virginia in 1654
  • Robert Willson, who arrived in Virginia in 1657


Willson Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • James Willson, who landed in North Carolina in 1702
  • Ann Willson, who arrived in North Carolina in 1702
  • William Willson, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745
  • Charles Willson, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746
  • Samuel Willson, who landed in North Carolina in 1748

Willson Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Zachariah Willson, aged 64, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Edward Willson, aged 19, landed in New York in 1812
  • Abraham R Willson, aged 29, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Alexander Willson, who landed in New York in 1812
  • George Willson, aged 21, arrived in New York in 1812


Willson Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Hiram R Willson, who arrived in Canada in 1828
  • Levi Willson, who landed in Canada in 1832
  • Mordecai Willson, who landed in Canada in 1832
  • Richard D Willson, who landed in Canada in 1834
  • Asher Willson, who arrived in Canada in 1834


Willson Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century


  • Wynne Willson, who landed in St John, New Brunswick in 1907

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  • Henry Willson (1911-1978), American talent agent, known for bringing Rock Hudson, Chad Everett, Robert Wagner, Troy Donahue, Mike Connors, John Saxon, Clint Walker, Doug McClure, John Derek and other to the movie and television screens of America
  • Robert Meredith Willson (1902-1984), American composer, playwright and posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987
  • Forceythe Willson (1837-1867), American poet, brother of Augustus E. Willson
  • Augustus E. Willson (1846-1931), American politician, 36th Governor of Kentucky (1907-1911)
  • Paul Willson (b. 1945), American actor, known for his roles in Office Space (1999), Cheers (1982) and It's Garry Shandling's Show (1986)
  • Vice Admiral Russell Willson (1883-1948), American Vice Admiral, inventor of the Naval Cipher Box
  • Brian Willson (b. 1941), American USAF veteran, activist
  • Robert William Willson (1794-1866), English Roman Catholic bishop who emigrated to Australia in 1844 to become the first Bishop of Hobart, and an advocate for the convicts in Australia
  • Bernard Willson (1919-1994), British ling Uist and noted academic, father of Quentin Willson
  • Quentin Willson (b. 1957), English TV presenter and motoring journalist, perhaps best known as a presenter of Britain's Worst Driver, Fifth Gear, and the original incarnation of Top Gear

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  • Descendants in Canada and the United States of Benjamin and Sarah Willson by Thomas B. Wilson.
  • Willson, Wilson, and Allied Lines by Clotilde Wilson Blower.
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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: Vincit qui se vincit
Motto Translation: He conquers, who conquers himself.

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  1. ^ 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)

Other References

  1. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  2. Urquhart, Blair Edition. Tartans The New Compact Study Guide and Identifier. Secauccus, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0-7858-0050-6).
  3. Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1995. Print.
  4. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  5. Fulton, Alexander. Scotland and Her Tartans: The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families. Godalming: Bramley, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-86283-880-0).
  6. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  7. 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).
  8. Scarlett, James D. Tartan The Highland Textile. London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1990. Print. (ISBN 0-85683-120-4).
  9. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  10. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and Don Pottinger. Clan Map Scotland of Old. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1983. Print.
  11. ...

The Willson Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Willson 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 19 May 2016 at 11:32.

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