Willson History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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]

"The family are said to be descended from a Prince of Denmark, and were established at a very remote period in the Orkney islands, intermarrying with the clans of Monro, and others. After a long continuance in the north, alliances taking place with some of the principal Lowland families, the Wilsons moved southward. " [2]

Early Origins of the Willson family

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]

Early History of the Willson family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Willson research. Another 237 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1563, 1563, 1567, 1662, 1603, 1685, 1680, 1750 and are included under the topic Early Willson History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Willson Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Willson family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Margaret Wilson (died 1685), one of the Wigton martyrs, a young Scottish Covenanter from Wigtownshire executed by drowning for...
Another 26 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Willson Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Willson family to Ireland

Some of the Willson family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 90 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Willson migration to the United States +

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 [3]
  • Faith Willson, who arrived in Maryland in 1652-1653 [3]
  • Henry Willson, who landed in Virginia in 1654 [3]
  • Jeffry Willson, who landed in Virginia in 1654 [3]
  • Robert Willson, who arrived in Virginia in 1657 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Willson Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James Willson, who landed in North Carolina in 1702 [3]
  • Ann Willson, who arrived in North Carolina in 1702 [3]
  • William Willson, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1745 [3]
  • Charles Willson, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746 [3]
  • Samuel Willson, who landed in North Carolina in 1748 [3]
Willson Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Zachariah Willson, aged 64, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Edward Willson, aged 19, who landed in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Abraham R Willson, aged 29, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Alexander Willson, who landed in New York in 1812 [3]
  • George Willson, aged 21, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Willson migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Willson Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Benjamin Willson U.E. (b. 1739) born in New Jersey, USA from Wantage, Sussex County, New Jersey, USA who settled in Bertie [Fort Erie], Niagara, Ontario c. 1784 married to Sarah Crowell having 5 children he died in 1805 [4]
  • Mr. Crowell Willson U.E. who settled in Willoughby [Niagara Falls], Ontario c. 1784 [4]
  • Mr. John Willson U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [4]
  • Mr. Joseph Willson U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [4]
  • Mr. Joshua Willson U.E. who settled in Canada c. 1784 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
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
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Willson Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Wynne Willson, who landed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1907

New Zealand Willson 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:

Willson Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. William Willson, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Maori" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 3rd November 1859 [5]
  • Mrs. Eliza Willson, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Maori" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 3rd November 1859 [5]
  • Miss Selina Willson, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Maori" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 3rd November 1859 [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Willson (post 1700) +

  • Robert Meredith Willson (1902-1984), American composer, playwright and posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987
  • 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
  • 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 linguist 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
  • ... (Another 7 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Cornwall
  • Gerald Francis Willson (d. 1942), British Stoker 2nd Class aboard the HMS Cornwall when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he died in the sinking [6]


The Willson 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: Vincit qui se vincit
Motto Translation: He conquers, who conquers himself.


Suggested Readings for the name Willson +

  • 3639 "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.

  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)
  2. ^ Sims, Clifford Stanley The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames. 1862. Print.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  6. ^ Force Z Survivors Crew List HMS Cornwall (Retrieved 2018, February 13th) - Retrieved from https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listcornwallcrew.html#A


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