Recorded as Willatt, Willett, Willatts, Willets, Willetts, and others, this is an English surname. It is a marvellous example of the medieval creativity in developing patronymic surnames from popular personal names. Found widespread in the region known as the West Midlands, the name however spelt is derived from the personal name "Will", a shortened form of "William", a Norman personal name introduced into the British Isles by the Normans after 1066. The surname also contains the diminutive ending "-ett", meaning little, and sometimes the suffix "-s", signifying a patronymic name: "son of Willett".However, the surname may also be of Anglo-Saxon origin, and a locational name from "Willett", a hamlet and river in Somerset. The river was recorded as "Willite" in the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of the year 854 a.d., whilst the placename is recorded as "Willet" in the Domesday Book of 1086. The derivation is from the Olde English "wiell", meaning a spring or stream, and an unrecorded second element. Early examples of the surname include William Wyllet, mentioned in the Subsidy Rolls of Sussex of 1327 and 1332; and Stephen Wilotes recorded in 1327 in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire. Thomas Willett was the first mayor of New York in 1665, in the reign of Charles 11. and Thomas Willatt is recorded in the tax registers known as the Feet of Fines for Huntingdon in 1682. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Wilet, which was dated 1277, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Somerset", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 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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