Wildgoose Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Wildgoose Surname Meaning

The surname Wildgoose comes from the Old English wilde gos which means, as might be expected, wild goose. The name was thought to have started out as a nickname.

Just what the attributes of a wild goose to the medieval mind were it is difficult to know now. Geese played an important part in Celtic traditions where they featured as messengers from the “other world.” They were also admired for their life-long and faithful devotion to their mates and also for their alertness against danger. 

These positive attributes contrast with the more modern interpretations as someone stupid or scatter-brained.  The negative connotations were clearly there in Edward Berens’ 1823 tract on the evils of poaching entitled The History of John Wildgoose. 

The Wildgoose surname has cropped up in both England and Scotland.

Wildgoose Surname Resources on The Internet

Wildgoose Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Derbyshire) and Scotland
  • to America

England.  The name Wildgoose or variants thereof appeared at an early time at various locations around England. Sometimes these names became prominent:

  • Sir John Wildgose of Salehurst in Sussex was local gentry who served as Sheriff of Sussex in 1614. His family had come from Iridge in Essex. He, however, left no male descendants, his only son having died before him.  
  • William Wildgoose was the famous Oxford bookbinder who bound Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1624. His son Thomas carried on his work and was admitted as a White Baker to Oxford in 1645.  

However, there were few by the name of Wildgoose in Oxford, Essex or Sussex in the 19th century.

Derbyshire. The main concentration of the name has in fact been in Derbyshire.

Here it may have come from a single-family origin. The most likely candidate is John Wildegos, recorded in 1327 from just across the Derbyshire boundary at Bradnop in Staffordshire. Wildgoose Farm in Bradnop is said to have existed from that time and Wildgooses were found at Alstonfield not too far from Bradnop in the 1500’s. It is thought that these Wildgooses could have moved across the border into Derbyshire as the lead mining there developed.

The village of Sheldon in Derbyshire’s Peak District lies closest to the old Magpie lead mine and Wildgooses were to be found there. They were also at Matlock and Darley Dale. The name Wildgoose has cropped up frequently in the records at St. Giles church in Matlock and St. Helen’s church in Darley. There were Wildgooses as well at Dronfield in northeast Derbyshire.

By the time of the 1881 UK census, some Wildgooses had spread north from Derbyshire into the neighboring counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Of the 802 Wildgooses recorded then:

  • 40% were to be found in Derbyshire
  • 18% in Yorkshire
  • and 14% in Lancashire.

Scotland. The Wildgoose name was also to be found in Scotland, in and around Aberdeenshire. John Wildguse appeared as a canon of Aberdeen in 1366. John Wilgus served as a juror in a witch trial in Aberdeen in the 1500’s and James Wildgoose was apprenticed to the Aberdeen goldsmith Coline Allan from 1762 to 1795. He became a proficient silversmith in his own right.

The Wildgoose name extended up the coast to Slains – where the name was recorded in 1597 and a Wildgoose burial ground existed – and further north to Peterhead.

America.  Wildgoose did make it to America. Robert Wildgos or Wildgoose landed in Maryland in 1679. His descendants settled in Delaware. A later Robert Wildgoose fought in the Revolutionary War. He then changed his name to Wilgus. The Wilgus name is still present in Delaware. But Wildgoose – perhaps it was too much of a mouthful – can hardly be found anywhere in America.

Wildgoose Surname Miscellany

Reader Feedback – The Name of Wildgoose.  Over the years the Wildgoose name was a strange name for many and was made fun of.  But people learned that the people were far different from the name.

The men are peaceful, calm, hard-working and very family oriented. The Wildgoose men are not perfect but have been respected for their willingness to help other people. The Wildgoose men don’t talk much but are friendly and will be a friend, but they have kept to themselves because of how people viewed them because of the name of Wildgoose.

Today the name is still made fun of but it is the character of the people and not the name. Some women will not marry a Wildgoose to protect their name and the names of their children.  That’s the world we live in.  But I am a Wildgoose and will stay one.  it’s my name, not my character. I love who I am and that’s that.

Tyrone Wildgoose (tyronewildgoose@hotmail.com)

Reader Feedback – Wildgoose/Wilgus from Delaware.  My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Wilgus, shortened from Wildgoose back in the 1700’s.

She was from the state of Delaware and moved through the states from there. She married a Thompson. Thompson was a name on the passenger list of the Mayflower.

Koneta Shelton (sheltonkoneta48@gmail.com).

Wildgoose Names

  • William Wildgoose was the Oxford bookbinder who bound the sheets of Shakespeare’s First Folio in smooth brown calf in 1624.
  • James Wildgoose was a skilled silversmith in Aberdeen in the late 1700’s.

Wildgoose Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Derbyshire)
  • 200 elsewhere (most numerous in America)

Wildgoose and Like Surnames

Nicknames must have been an early feature of medieval life in a family or community as these nicknames later translated into surnames.  People then lived a more natural life than we do today and the surnames have reflected that.

They could be about color (Brown, Gray, Green etc), whether of hair or complexion or other factors; mood (Gay and Moody are two extremes); youth (Cox and Kidd); speed of foot (Swift and Lightfoot); and actions (such as Shakespeare and Wagstaff).  Then there were likenesses to animals (notably Fox and Wolfe but also Peacock) and to birds (Crowe and Wren for example).  And then there were some extraordinary nicknames such as Drinkwater and Wildgoose.

Here are some of these nickname surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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