Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,766 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

I was a one-namer before I knew there was such a thing. I started researching my own family history seriously in the mid 1970s and got into the habit of noting all occurrences of my surname 'just in case'. Before I knew it I had collected all the births, marriages and deaths from the GRO Indexes and had set about trying to organize them into family groups and descents, a task made much easier by the advent of computer technology during the 1980s. I registered the surname with the Guild of One-name Studies in 1982, since when the study has grown to include well over 17,000 references relating to more than 4,500 identified individuals and including some 1,600 records as yet unascribed. Some 76% of the identified individuals are linked to their Willerton parents. Coverage is world-wide, although the index is a little weak on 20th century events in Canada and the USA.

Variant names

There are many variants of the name to be found. Every vowel sound can be replaced by another, the 'l' can be single or double and several other consonants can intrude. Thus we get 'Willaton', 'Wellerton', 'Wilerton', 'Whilerton' and sometimes even the original spelling 'Willoughton'. Many of these can be sieved out, however. 'Willaton' and 'Williton', for instance, seem to be concentrated in the West Country and probably derive from the Somerset village of the latter name; at any rate, no links to the Lincolnshire Willertons have ever been found. Many other spellings can also be shown to be distinct surnames in their own right, presumably originating from the places mentioned above. Each occurrence is carefully examined in context to determine whether it is a genuine 'Willerton' variant (and therefore to be incorporated into the study) or a separate surname.

Name origin

The 'ton' ending to the name supplies the clue that it is probably locative in nature, i.e. referring to a specific place. Several possible candidates were found, including Willington (Cheshire, Derbyshire, County Durham etc.), Williton (Somerset), Wollerton (Shropshire), Wollaton (Nottinghamshire) and Willoughton (Lincolnshire). Since it quickly became obvious that the vast majority of instances of the surname were found in Lincolnshire, the last named place was settled on as its most likely origin. Meaning 'tun among willows' (a tun being a fenced enclosure from which the word 'town' derives), the place name is pronounced exactly the same as 'Willerton' and has been found with the same spelling on several occasions.

The village is to be found some 14 miles (22 km) North of Lincoln, about 2.5 miles (4 km) West of Ermine Street (the A15). The Ordnance Survey National Grid Reference is SK9293, on the OS 'Landranger' Sheet 112.

Name frequency

According to the "€œSurnames of England and Wales - the ONS list"€ website (, the name "€œWillerton"€ ranked 7911th in the list of surnames found in England and Wales in 1998, when the name occurred 800 times in an ONS (Office of National Statistics) database containing 55.9 million people. This shows a frequency of occurrence of 14 Willertons per million, a decrease in frequency as established by the author'€™s own researches in the available census indexes (1841-1911), when the frequency varied between 20 per million in 1881 and 17 per million in 1911.

No information regarding frequency of occurrence in Canada is available later than 1911, when 41 Willertons were enumerated in a total population of 7.2 million, a frequency of 6 per million

More recent data is available for the USA from the US Census Bureau. In the Federal Census of 2000 199 persons named 'Willerton' were enumerated, showing a frequency of 7 persons per ten million of the total population (281,421,906). The name ranked equal 86,992nd out of 151,671 names occurring more then 100 times. Full details of the American data can be found at

Numbers of Willertons residing in Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand are too small to establish meaningful figures.

Distribution of the name

Historically, the name is overwhelmingly concentrated in England and, more particularly, in Lincolnshire. Of the 650 places in England and Wales where Willerton events have been located, no less than 397 (61%) are within the county. This correlates well with the number of Willertons recorded in the birth indexes for the first 50 years of civil registration (1837 to 1887), where 613 instances were found, of which 376 (61%) were registered in Lincolnshire districts. In the 1881 census a similar story emerges: out of 518 Willertons recorded, 313 (60%) resided in Lincolnshire. By the 1911 census, however, the Willertons had dispersed somewhat, some 47% (288/605) residing in the county. The dispersal seems to have continued since then: of the 131 births registered during the ten years 1991 to 2000, only 51 (38%) were registered in Lincolnshire districts.


Data held in the study includes:

  • All civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths indexed in England and Wales (1837 to 2005), Scotland (1855 to 2006) and Ireland (1845 to 1958)
  • aproximately 2,500 parish register entries (baptisms, marriages and burials), 62% in Lincolnshire
  • All UK census entries, 1841 to 1911
  • All probates in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, the Lincolnshire Consistory Court and the Principal Probate Registry indexes, 1857 to 1990
  • All entries in the Canadian censuses, 1861 to 1921
  • All entries in the US Federal censuses 1820 to 1940

And much more!