Recorded in many spellings including While, Whiles, Willas, Wiles, Willes, Wills, Willys, Williss, Willos and Wileson, this is an English patronymic surname. It is however arguably of early Germanic or Anglo-Saxon pre 7th century origins deriving from the popular personal name William, composed of the elements "wil" meaning will or desire, and "helm", a helmet or protector. This name was particularly popular with the Norman-French and became so in both England and to a lesser extent, Scotland, after the 1066 Conquest.Robertus filius Willelmi is recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, whilst amongst the early hereditary recordings is that of Richard Willam in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1275. The patronymic forms are first recorded slightly later with Johannes Willeson and Adam Wylis appearing in the Poll Tax records of Yorkshire in 1379. Early examples of the name recording taken from surviving church registers in the diocese of Greater London include: John Willys at St Stephans, Coleman Street, on December 6th 1549, William Whiles, a christening witness at Christchurch Greyfriars, on April 6th 1565, the marriage of Alexander Willis and Jane Smallwood on October 1st 1598, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, and John Willas who marrieed Ann Blows at St Giles Cripplegate, on August 28th 1838. An interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was Francis Willis (1718 - 1807), a physician who attended King George 111rd in his first attack of madness in 1788, and who became popular at court. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter Wilys. This was dated 1327, in the Poll Tax Rolls of Staffordshire, during the reign of King Edward 111rd of England, 1327 - 1377. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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