Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Wealands, Wealleans, Wheelans, Whellens, Whillance, Whillas, Whillis, Willans, Willins
Category: 3 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way on a global basis.
DNA website: www.familytreedna.com/public/Whillans
Contact: Dr Frank Whillans
Several homonyms for the Whillans surname exist, with the principal of these being Wealleans, Whellans, Whillance, Whillas, Whillis, Willans, as well as Wheelands/Wheelans/Weelands & Whealands/Whealans/Wealands. It is claimed that all these different spellings occur due to different regional and temporal influences on how the name was heard and recorded by ministers. With the considerable support from scores of other genealogists, research on some of these has been well progressed, eg Whillans from Roxburghshire, Whillas from Berwickshire, Wealleans/Whellens/Whillis from Northumberland, Weelands/Wealands from Durham, and Willans from Leeds Yorkshire.
Considerable discussion on the origin of these homonyms has occurred. The most likely hypothesis argues that the last part of our surname 'lands' is quite obvious, with the first part arising from the Anglo-Saxon for 'well/fountain/spring' appearing to be 'wiell/wiella/wielle', and 'boil/bubble' to be 'weallan'. Therefore the 'spring-lands' emerging near the headwaters of the Liddel River within the Castleton parish of SW Roxburghshire has led us to the present day surname. We were, it is argued, the people who farmed those holdings in the early days.Another associated explanation is that Middle English for 'cart, wagon' is 'whele', and as a consequence, Liddesdale features included the Wheel Causeway (a Roman road fit for wheeled traffic), Wheelrig Head (a 448m hill rising next to the Causeway), and Wheel Kirk (erected about 1170AD, probably on the nearby Wheelrig Ridge and near the still unplaced Whele village, with its adjoining lands referred to as Over and Nether Wheelkirk).
Another hypothesis is that the name derives from MacQuhillans of the 'Route' in northern Antrim of NE Ireland, however this struggles due to the lack of any match to date between MacQuillans Y-DNA and Whillans Y-DNA.
In the early 1600s, King James I successfully stymied the practice of rievers who had raided properties over the border for centuries. In his ruthless dispersal of these rievers and their folk, it is postulated that our clan moved out to adjoining districts. There is no known evidence about how those with our name might have been caught up with the rievers, if indeed they were. It might simply have been necessary for our families to get away from all the turmoil during those early decades of the 1600s.
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: