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About the study

This is a worldwide study of the surname WILLGOOSE and its many variants, some of which are listed below.

Variant names

Research suggests that the original name was probably WILDGOOSE with other variants being WILLGOSS, WILDGUST, WILGUS, WILDIGOS, WILGOHS - and even the rather bizarre WIL-DE-GOSE. To date, over thirty different spellings of these variants have been found.

Name origin

When considering the origins of the this surname, the immediate notion is that it indicated a keeper of geese. However, it is now thought more likely that the name was bestowed as a nickname upon an ancestor who displayed the qualities of the wild goose, which is to say shy, retiring and suspicious. My own observations would add 'noisy' and 'messy' to these characteristics!

Historical occurrences of the name

The earliest recorded instance of the name is one HENRI WIDIGOS who lived in Bradnop in Staffordshire in 1201 although a WILLIAM WILDEFUHEL appeared in Yorkshire as early as 1185. Whether a wild fowl was a cousin of a wild goose I know not but I wouldn't rule it out. In the first half of the sixteenth century a family of WILDGEESE settled in Alstonfield not far from Bradnop and this is only a short flight to the lead mines of Derbyshire to where most of the present-day English, American and Australian bearers of the name can trace their origins, some via Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire where our ancestors moved in the early nineteenth century. A handful of Derbyshire men sought their livelihoods in the lace industry in Nottinghamshire and it is this branch that changed the name to WILDGUST and emigrated to America.

A family of WYLDGOOSE is found in Thrigby in Norfolk for a short period in the early sixteenth century but after 1697 nothing more is heard from them although a WILLGOSS fisherman from Ramsgate in Kent moved to Lowestoft in Suffolk in the nineteenth century.

The late sixteenth and early seventeeth centuries in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire produced the variants WILDEGOSSE and subsquently WILGOSS and WILDEGO and these families moved to London.

A family with the surname also appears in Trowbridge in Wiltshire in the early seventeenth century but then disappears completely. However, as the name then crops up in Bristol in neighbouring Gloucestershire it is not unreasonable to imagine that that town was where they went.

At about the time that the WILDGEESE were settling in Derbyshire, ancestors of the same name were making their home in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. In the nineteenth century some of them emigrated to New Zealand and Australia but many remained in Scotland. It is the preponderance of WILDGOOSE settlements in the eastern counties of the British Isles that leads me to believe that we have Danish ancestry - where the name is recorded as WILGOHS - and this thought is reinforced by the fact that the name WILDGANS is also found in Germany from where at least some of the Vikings came. One theory suggests that our ancestors were originally a Germanic tribe, the Vandals, who in the Dark Ages swept through Europe 'like wild geese' as far as Andalusia in Spain. Intriguingly, one of the words they left behind in Spanish was 'ganso' - 'goose' which translates as 'gans' in German. Perhaps the theory isn't so far-fetched after all!