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3750

Williscroft

 

About the study

I started the Williscroft & Woolliscroft Onename study in the early 1990's. I had collected a lot of data on the surname whilst trying to research the ancestry of my grandfather Harry Williscroft. In those early days it took me a little while to realise that both surnames are interchangeable, not only between documents but also within documents. As a consequence I decided to start a one-name study.

Since then I have become fascinated with how the bearers of this unusual and rare surname had migrated not only through England and the United Kingdom but the whole world. As a consequence they have been involved in some of the major events of world history.

The study was registered with the Guild of One-name Studies in 2012

Variant names

The registered variants of the name are Williscraft, Wolliscroft, Wooliscroft, Woolliscroft. These are spelling of the name I have found in records since the 1700's.

Early spellings include Wollascroft, Wyllascrofte, Willascroft, Wolverscroft and Wilardiscroft to name a few. The common element in the spelling is that the name sounds the same and spelling depended on the skill of the transcriber.

It is likely that the earliest spellings have transcription errors which (not unusually) confuse -n- and -v-, and that the name is from Willavescroft - "Wiglaf'€™s croft"€™. The medial -es- and -ddys- represent the possessive "€˜his"€™. ('The Place-names of Staffordshire', David Horovitz, 2001, private publication).

I have also researched the names Werlawescroft, Whatecroft and Watecroft found in the early records for Staffordshire. I have drawn the conclusion that these are distinctive names in their own right. Werlascroft or Werlawsescroft appear to originate from a place near Bushbury in Staffordshire now known as Westcroft. I have not found these surnames in present day records.

More recently I have researched the use of the name as a first name with interesting results. Amongst the surnames connected with the surname are Austin, Fowler, Lewis, Slade, Mort, Douglass, West and Brown to name a few. Perhaps the most well known being George Wooliscroft Rhead (1855-1920).

Name origin

The surnames appear to share a common origin from the hamlet marked on present day maps by 'Wooliscroft' located just outside Stone in Staffordshire, England. The place can be traced back to the 12C and perhaps Doomsday and before. It was part of the Aston by Stone and Walton Manor following the Norman Conquest. Today it is located in Hilderstone Parish, Staffordshire.

History of the name

There are some early references to the surname in Staffordshire:-
  • Henry the son of Walter of Wilardiscroft is referred to as a tenant of Gilbert, son of Geoffrey de Astone in a feoffment dated 1311. Geoffrey was the Lord of the Manor of Aston by Stone in which the hamlet 'Wooliscroft' was situated.
  • Richard de Wylascroft is mentioned in the Plea Rolls for Staffordshire in 1367.
  • In the Poll Tax Returns of 1377 John de Wyllardyscrofte at Fenton, Staffordshire and William Wyllardcroft at Walton, Staffordshire are mentioned.
  • In 1488 there are two references to a William Wollascroft regarding land at Podmore and Brockton in Staffordshire. This piece of land at Podmore remained in the 'family' for 200 years.
  • In 1532 William Wylliscroft, his wife Joan and family were living in Great Bridgeford, Staffordshire when a survey of the Archdeaconary of Stafford was carried out.

Name frequency

The Woolliscroft surname is more common in the British Isles but the Williscroft surname is more common in Canada and New Zealand. Williscroft and Woolliscroft are both rare surnames. The other variant names are very rare.

In England and Wales there were 132 households where the head of household bore the Williscroft, Wooliscroft or one of its variants surname on the 1881 census returns. In 2003 there were 384 families (Electoral Roll). Today the greatest concentration of the names Williscroft and Woolliscroft in England and Wales remains in Staffordshire.

Distribution of the name

Today the name is found not only in the United Kingdom but also Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Germany and Sweden. However, irrespective of where an individual lives today, they have their roots in Staffordshire, England.

The exception are some of the Williscroft families who have their roots in Ireland in the 1700's. However, the evidence suggests they are descendants of William Williscraft from Staffordshire who possibly fought at the Battle of the Boyne.

Data

I have recorded the following data as part of my research into the Williscroft & Woolliscroft surname:

British Isles

  • Birth, Marriage and Death entries from the General Register Offices for England & Wales (since 1837) and Scotland (since 1855). Now available for you to search online at the Williscroft Archive
  • England and Wales census from 1841 to 1911 (1901 for Scotland) and those from Ireland for 1901 and 1911 (none!).
  • Grants of probate and administrations since 1858 in England and Wales have also been recorded.
  • Pre 1858 probate and administrations for England which I have transcribed. 
  • Pre 1837 marriages for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland transcribed from parish records. The records so far transcribed are available for you to search at the Williscroft Archive
  • Newspaper references including Family Notices and Obituaries
  • Military Records from 14C to present day

United States

  • Census records 1840 to 1940
  • Social Security entries
  • Military Records
  • Newspaper references including Family Notices and Obituaries

Canada

  • Census records 1851-1916
  • Records of Birth, Deaths & Marriages
  • Electoral Rolls
  • Newspaper references including Family Notices and Obituaries

New Zealand

  • Electoral Rolls
  • Newspaper references including Family Notices and Obituaries
  • Births, Deaths & Marriages registrations

Australia

  • Birth, Death & Marriage registrations
  • Electoral Rolls
  • Newspaper references including Family Notices and Obituaries
  • Trade Directories

In addition to the above, my database also includes data from numerous researchers who have shared their families history with me since I started the study.

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