Wilde Surname Genealogy

There are
three related English surnames of Wilde, Wild and Weld which have all in varying degrees derived from the Old English word wilde,
meaning “wild” or “out of control.” They
would thus be a nickname for someone who
showed these characteristics. The
surnames might also – in the case of Weld and sometimes of Wild or
Wilde – be
topographical, for a person who lived near an area of cleared but
The Wild name had similar wild connotations in Germany and Holland. The Lords of Wild were a Saxon noble family
who lived in parts of Franconia in southern Germany.
These Wilds became known as vagabonds and robber
barons during the 14th century. The
de Wilde surname in Holland means “the wild one.”
Of the three surnames covered here, Weld is
the smallest in number but has two famous families – one in England and another in America.

Wilde Resources on

Wilde Ancestry

Welds boast the oldest pedigree, although they are greatly outnumbered
the Wilds and Wildes.

Welds. The
Weld pedigree is said to have dated back to the year 1000, prior to the
Conquest, and to a nephew of Edric, the Duke of Mercia.
It was William Weld, the Sheriff of London in
1352, who married Anne Wettenhall and established himself at Eaton in
county of Chester.

main line from there revolved around Humphrey Weld, Lord Mayor of
London in
1609, whose grandson, also Humphrey, purchased Lulworth castle in
Dorset in
1641. They were conspicuous as a
recusant family. Thomas Weld was in fact
a Catholic bishop and cardinal in the early 19th century.
The Lulworth branch died out in the
1920’s. But the castle was taken over by
the related Weld Blundells.

Subsidiary lines in the 17th century are thought to
have included the Weld goldsmiths in London and the Welds from Sudbury
Suffolk who set off for New England.

and Wildes
. The spelling was
initially Wyld and Wylde. Prominent
or Wildes from the south have been:

  • the
    Wylde family of Worcestershire
    who made their fortunes as
    clothiers in
    Tudor times and remained an important family in the county for the next
  • Robert
    Wylde later Wild from Huntingdonshire, born in 1609, who was a
    poet of some stature and a Puritan preacher who conflicted with the
    after the Reformation.
  • and
    Thomas Wilde, an 18th century attorney from Saffron
    Walden in Essex, who founded in 1785 the legal firm of Wilde Sapte (the
    forerunner of the multinational law firm Dentons today) and was the
    forebear of
    a distinguished line of lawyers, judges, and politicians in London.

in his 1890 work Homes of Family Names in
Great Britain
asserted the following about Wild and Wilde:

ancient English name is mostly confined to the northern midlands, its
homes being in Derbyshire, Notts and the West Riding, whence it has
spread to
the counties around.”

or Wylde was a popular sobriquet in Yorkshire, judging by the number of
in the 1379 poll tax returns there.

However, the largest numbers of Wilds and
Wildes in England have been in
. That was the case,
according to recent surname
research, in the 1600’s and that was still the case in the 1881 census. A Philip Wyld was recorded in Oldham in 1486
the Wild name has remained important in that town (there were over
1,000 Wilds
in Oldham in the 1881 census). The Wilde
name has been more common south and east of Oldham in the vicinity of

most famous Wilde, Oscar Wilde, had Dutch forebears.
Colonel de Wilde, a Dutch army officer, came
to Ireland with William of Orange in the 1690’s and was granted lands
there. Ralph Wilde was a land agent and
farmer in
Castlerea, Roscommon; his son Thomas a country doctor there; his
grandson Sir
William (Oscar’s father) a well-known and respected eye surgeon in
England. Oscar himself was not proud of his Dutch ancestry

were other Wildes in
Ireland, of uncertain origin. A Wilde
family in Abbeyleix in present-day county Laios dates from the early
1700’s. William, Robert and Walter ran a
company there called Wilde Brothers Seedsmen.
Many of the family emigrated in the 19th century – to America,
and elsewhere. But the trade directory
for 1934 showed that Wildes had also stayed

America. The
Welds came first, as in England.

Three Weld brothers from
Suffolk came to America in the 1630’s and settled in Roxbury,
Massachusetts. It was from the youngest
brother, Joseph, that most of the distinguished later Welds descended:

  • the
    early Welds were closely connected
    with Harvard University
    . Indeed
    connection has stayed strong, as attested by the fact that two Harvard
    buildings and the Harvard boathouse bear the Weld name.
  • ironically
    it was William
    Fletcher Weld, who did not attend Harvard, who made the family rich. He was an American shipping magnate during
    the Golden Age of Sail in the 19th century. Foreseeing
    that that age was coming to an end, he prudently invested in railroads
    and real
    estate. He multiplied his family’s
    fortune into a huge legacy for his descendants.

Weld, recent Governor of Massachusetts, is the most prominent
living member of this family. When the Massachusetts Senate
president publicly
teased him about his ancestors having come over on the
, Weld joked: “Actually, they weren’t on the Mayflower.
They sent the servants over
first to get the cottage ready.

Wilds and Wildes.
There were early Wilds and Wildes also in the Boston area:

  • the line from John Wilde, born probably in Braintree in the
    1670’s, extended to a notable legal family that culminated in Judge
    Samuel Sumner Wilde who held office in Massachusetts from 1815 to 1850.
  • while Abraham Wild – possibly with his brothers – was a merchant
    in Boston dealing in West India goods in the years after the
    Revolutionary War.. His son Charles Wild was able to attend
    Harvard Univerisity and returned with a medical degree. He
    practiced medicine in Brookline for forty years. Charles’s son
    Edward was an ardent abolitionist. When the Civil War came he
    fought in the war and was active in recruiting African Americans for
    the Union army.

came to Pennsylvania from England during the first half of the 19th
century. Joseph Wilde from Wakefield in
aged just fifteen, arrived in 1826, married and made his home in
county. George Wilde, also from
Wakefield, followed him a year later. Meanwhile
Isaac Wilde, trained as a cabinet-maker, was just nineteen when he
arrived in
Chester county with his mother from Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire in
1843. He was the first of three
generations of
funeral directors in Pennsylvania

South Africa. Abraham Wild
from Oldham in Lancashire was one of the pioneer 1820 settlers to South
He and his family made their home in Grahamstown.

Australia. Joseph and George Wild from Chester were early arrivals
in Australia, having been transported there for burglary in 1797.
George died in 1812. Joseph, granted a conditional
pardon that year, was an early explorer of the hinterland of New South

Emanuel Wilde was a cotton spinner from Rochdale in Lancashire who
departed with his wife Sarah on the Berkshire
for Australia. They settled in Cathcart, NSW.

Wilde Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Wilde Names


who was the Sheriff of London in 1352, is considered the forebear of
the Welds in England and America.

Fletcher Weld
born into a Boston
Brahmin family, developed a world-class fleet of clipper sailing ships
during the 19th

was the famous
Irish-born author and playwright. He is
remembered for his epigrams, his play The
Importance of Being Ernest,
and his novel The
Picture of Dorian Gray
, as well as for the circumstances of his
imprisonment and early death.
Jimmy Wilde
, known as “the Mighty Atom,” was
a Welsh professional boxer and the first official world flyweight
champion in
Marty Wilde,
born Reginald
Smith, was among the first generation of British pop stars to
American rock and roll. He is the father
of the pop singers Ricky and Kim Wilde

Select Wildes/Wilds/Welds Today

  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 9,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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