This very interesting surname recorded in the known spellings of Wilsher, Wilcher, Wilshire, Wiltshear and Wilshaw, is medieval English. It is a regional name from the county of Wiltshire in south western England, and describes (usually) a former inhabitant of that county who had moved somewhere else. The county name itself is first recorded in the spelling of "Wiltunscir" in the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, often described as the first newspaper, in the year 870, and later as "Wiltescire" in the Domesday Book of 1086. The place name derives from Wilton, once the principal town of the county, plus the Olde English pre 7th Century word "scir", meaning a district or administrative division. Wilton is named from the Olde English "tun", meaning a settlement, and "Wil", a shorter form of the river-name "Wylye". This itself is believed to derive from the ancient Welsh "gwil", meaning "tricky", and hence the meaning of the "settlement on the tricky river". The surname was first recorded in the mid 12th Century, (see below) and other early recordings include: Nicholas de Wiltesir, in the charters known as "Curia Regis" for Wiltshire in the year 1207, and Thomas Wylshere who was recorded as a witness in the Fines Court Rolls of the county of Cambridgeshire in 1483. An early recording in the surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London is that of Elizabeth Wilsher and Richard Smyth who were married in Twickenham, London, on July 22nd 1543. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hunfried de Wilechier. This was was dated 1157, in the "Pipe Rolls" of Sussex, during the reign of King Henry 11 of England, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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