This most interesting and unusual surname has two possible sources. Firstly, the surname may derive from a softened form of the Germanic personal name "Wilbert", composed of the elements "wil", will, desire, and "berht", bright, famous. The native form, "Wilbeorht", is attested before the Conquest, but was greatly reinforced in the early Middle Ages by the introduction of the Continental cognate by the Normans. Secondly, the surname, because of its 16th Century recordings exclusive to Northampton, may have been a locational name from some minor or unrecorded place, perhaps a "lost" village. There are an estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets that have now disappeared from Britain since the 12th Century: the prime cause of these "disappearances" was the enforced "clearing" and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool trade in the 15th Century, and natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished. The original place is believed to have been in Northamptonshire, with the component elements being the Olde English pre 7th Century "well(a)", well, spring, stream, and "byden", a vessel, tub, also used to mean "shallow"; hence, "shallow stream". Agnes, daughter of Robert Willabed, was christened in Moulton, Northamptonshire, on March 2nd 1585. On May 20th 1810, Thomas, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Wilbud, was christened at St. Sepulchre's, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Wylbert, which was dated 1279, in the "Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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