There are some many variants spellings of the English county surname "Wiltshire," that there must have been a point in history when almost the whole population left, and scattered not just through the U K, but world-wide as well. And indeed this is true. In the 15th and 16th centuries much of the common land of Wiltshire was enclosed by the landlords for sheep farming, and the inhabitants driven off to seek their "fortune" elsewhere or to die in misery, which many did. This was good practice for the aristocracy when they came to dealing with the Irish after the Potato Famine (1846 - 1851) and the Highlanders of Scotland from 1780 onwards. By the 19th century people already had surnames and retained them, but the earlier "Wiltshires" took their former county as their surname, and spelling being a "hit and miss" situation, created the forms that we have today. These include Willshire, Willsher, Willsheer, and now apparently Willshee. There is some discussion is to whether the latter could be a form of Welsh, which has been recorded as Welse, but this seems unlikely. Examples of the name origin include Robert Wylchar of Worcester in 1275, and Thomas Wyleshre of Cambridge in 1483. Later forms include John Wiltsheere of London in 1680 and William Willsheer also of London in 1798. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hunfridus de Wilechier, which was dated 1161, in the Pipe rolls of Wiltshire, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The church builder", 1154 - 1189. 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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