What’s In A Name? Wilson

In the next in our occasional series of articles, we explore the surname Wilson, its origins and famous bearers of the name.

Wilson is an old surname, common in the British Isles. When William the Conqueror set sail across the English Channel, fought and defeated the Saxons and claimed the English throne, his name became the most popular given name in the country.

The surname Wilson is a patronymic name—Will the diminutive form of William, thus Will’s son. The name William itself is Frankish in origin, the Norman form is Willelm, a compound of ‘will’ (desire), and ‘helm’ (protection). A Robertus Willelmi appears in the Domesday Book in 1086, one of the earliest examples of its recording in history.

He conquers

Spelling variations include Willson, Wilsone, Wulson, Wilsoun and more. The Wilson motto is Vincit qui se vincit, which translates as He conquers, who conquers himself.

In Scotland, the surname Wilson was first found in Berwickshire in the Scottish borders where a John Wulson is recorded in 1405 in the service of Sir John of Montgomery.

Notable historical Wilsons include Margaret Wilson from Scotland, one of the Wigtown martyrs who refused to declare an oath swearing James VII as head of the church in England. She was a Covenanter, a group of people who didn’t believe in Royal control of the church, promoting instead Presbyterianism.

Reprieve granted

The Covenants were declared treasonable in 1660. Margaret Wilson was captured with a number of others and sentenced to death. Her father travelled to Edinburgh to plead with the Privy Council for Scotland for a reprieve. They granted this, but the Scottish baronet Sir Robert Grierson chose to carry out the sentence, anyway. Margaret Wilson was chained to a stake in the Solway Firth where she drowned.

Another noted Wilson was the British Labour politician, Harold Wilson, who was prime minister 1964 to 70 and 1974-76. His government was famous for sponsoring liberal changes in a number of areas, such as the laws of censorship, divorce, homosexuality, immigration and abortion, as well as the abolition of capital punishment.

Probate research

Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “When we carry out probate research, Wilson is a name that turns up frequently because it’s so common in the British Isles.

“If our exploration of the name has piqued your curiosity about your own family tree, we offer a family tree verification service where we provide an independent, accurate assessment of your family tree, Wilsons or not!”


With thanks to https://www.houseofnames.com/Wilson-family-crest and http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Wilson#ixzz5O4S1PB4d