Show ContentsWistlitch History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The proud Wistlitch family originated in Cornwall, a rugged coastal region in southwestern England. In early times, people were known by only a single name. However, as the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames are derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. The Wistlitch family originally lived in Devon.Wistlitch is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties. As a general rule, the greater the distance between an individual and their homeland, the larger the territory they were named after. For example, a person who only moved to another parish would be known by the name of their original village, while people who migrated to a different country were often known by the name of a region or country from which they came. The name Wistlitch indicates that the original bearer lived by the westernmost of a group of lakes.

Early Origins of the Wistlitch family

The surname Wistlitch was first found in Devon where the place name, Westlake is still found today near Langbrook and Marjery Cross. Ironically, the place name is not near a lake. Today there are no fewer that seven places named Westlake in the United States, and one each in Australia and New Zealand.

In the parish of Kilkhampton, Cornwall, "Elmsworthy, which was for some time a seat of the Westlakes, is now a farm house, the property of Mr. Galsworthy, of Hartland. The last of the Westlake family died in 1772 in such indigent circumstances, that he was supported by the parish. It is a singular fact, that this man, the representative of a wealthy family, was twice nominated as sheriff of the county, while he was an inhabitant of the parish poorhouse. Such is the instability of all human greatness! Within the church there are many splendid monuments of the Grenville family, and memorials of the Orchards of Aldercombe, the Westlakes of Elmsworthy, and the Waddons of Tonacombe in Moorwinstow." [1]

Early History of the Wistlitch family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Wistlitch research. Another 82 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 133 and 1333 are included under the topic Early Wistlitch History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Wistlitch 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 Westlake, Westlock, Westloke, Weslake and others.

Early Notables of the Wistlitch family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Wistlitch Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Wistlitch family

A look at the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Wistlitch: Phillip Westlake settled in Virginia in 1635; William Westlake settled in Maryland in 1775.

  1. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print on Facebook