Recorded in a range of spellings which include: Wilce, Wilse, Wilsey and Wilsee, this is an English surname. It apparently originates from a place called 'Wilsey' or similar, of which the only known example is Wilsey Down, in Cornwall. The surname does not seem to be recorded in any early Cornish records, which may indicate that this is not the source. If so it may have originated from a now 'lost' medieval village of which the only reminder in the 20th century is the surviving surname. Locational surnames are often 'from' names. That is to say that they are not found in their 'homeland' region, because they were not given to people until they moved elsewhere, and then as a form of identitiy. This could be the next village, but was often London, the only large city in England until the 18th century, and the one to which people naturally gravitated in search of work. Spelling being at best erratic, and local dialects very 'thick', lead to the development of 'sounds like' spellings, as with this name. The meaning of the name is probably 'Willow island' from the Olde English pre 7th century 'wilgen - ey'. Examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving church registers of the Greater London area include: Joan Wilse, who married Will Symmons at St Matthews, Friday Street, on August 22nd 1603, Elizabeth Wylshey who married John Barber at St Gilles Cripplegate, on June 6th 1613, and Elizabeth Wilce, who married Isaac Hayden at St Vedast, in the city of London, on February 2nd 1769.
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