This interesting and ancient name is of Scottish origin, and derives from the Gaelic personal name "Mac Gill Iosa", translating as the "servant of Jesus". The meaning for practical purposes is a disciple or follower of Jesus, a reference perhaps to one of the early converts to the Christian church. The given name is first recorded in Scotland circa 1128, when one Gillise was a witness to the charter by King David 1 to the Abbey of Holrood, whilst in 1264 it is recorded that Gylis filius Angus, (Gillis, the son of Angus) known as 'Angus the sutor' (shoemaker), did homage to the prior and convent of St.Andrews at Dull, Scotland. The surname from this source can be found as Gillie, Gillies and Gillis, and is most frequently recorded in the Hebrides. The patronymic forms of the name include Gillison, but are most common as McAleese, McAleece, McAlish, McL(e)ish, McLeos, McLese and McLise, all of whom derive from the pre 10th century M'A'Lios, a short form of the original Mac Gill Iosa. Later examples of the name recording include the merchant Robert Gillies, who emigrated to Boston, in the American colonies, in August 1766, embarking from Greenock, Scotland, on the ship "Lovely Betsy". In 1799 William Gillie or Gillice, was recorded as being a 'farmer in Tindhassie, whilst Lord (Adam) Gillies (1760 - 1842), was appointed Judge of the Exchequer in 1837, in the first year of the reign of Queen Victoria. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Gyllis, which was dated 1521, in the "Rental Book of the Diocese of Glasgow", during the reign of King James V, King of Scotland, 1513 - 1542. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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