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 spelling, of which the only known example is that of Wilsey Down in Cornwall. The surname does not however appear to be recorded in any of the public records of Cornwall, which may indicate that this is not the source. If so the only other rational explanation is that it originates from a now 'lost' medieval village, of which the only reminder in the 20th century is the surviving surname. Locational surnames are usually 'from' names, and may not in consequence be recorded in their own 'homeland'. They were surnames given to people who moved away, as an easy form of identification by their new neighbours or workmates. This could be the next village, in which case the name will appear in county or church registers, but often it was London, the only large city before the 17th century, and the one to which people naturally gravitated in search of work. The meaning of the surname is almost certainly 'Willow island' from the pre 7th century 'wilge eg'. Examples of the surname recording taken from surviving early church registers of the city of London include: Joan Wilse, who married William Symmons at St Matthews, Friday Street, on August 22nd 1603, Elizabeth Wylshey, who married John Barber, at St Giles Cripplegate, on June 6th 1613, and Elizabeth Wilce, who married Isaac Hayden at St. Vedast church, on February 2nd 1769.
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