Willoughby Surname Genealogy

Willoughby surname has its origin in the
place-name Willoughby found in various counties – Lincolnshire,
Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire – in
the English Midlands
. The root of
the name is the Old English word willig
meaning “willow” plus byr a
settlement or homestead. The name
appeared as Wilgebiin the Domesday
Book of 1086

Willoughby Resources on

Willoughby Ancestry

England. One Willoughby family had its origin in
Lincolnshire. Ralph de Wilebi was
recorded there around the year 1200. His
great grandson Sir William de Willoughby married the heiress to the
Baron of
Eresby and from that union, around 1313, sprang the Barons Willoughby
of Eresby
who distinguished themselves in the French wars. From
this original line came:

  • the Barons
    Willoughby de Broke, first established in Wiltshire in 1491
  • the Barons
    Willoughby of Parham, first established in Suffolk in 1547
  • whilst there were
    other descendants in Kent.

In 1626 the Eresby Barons were made the Earls of
Lindsey. Since that time they have been
associated with the hereditary office of the Lord Great Chamberlain.

Another Willoughby
family can trace their descent back to a Nottingham merchant Ralph
Bugge who had
bought lands in Willoughby-on-the-Wolds in the 13th century. Sir Richard Willoughby, a lawyer, was Chief
of the Common Pleas in the 1330’s.

“In 1332 Sir Richard was kidnapped by the Folville gang
who wanted 1,300
marks for his release. He was able
to raise the money and was compensated by the Government with an annual
of 100 marks.”

These Willoughbys acquired the Wollaton estate
in Nottinghamshire and later the Middleton estate in Warwickshire. Sir Francis Willoughby
built Wollaton
Hall in 1585. His heir Percival then
the family presence at Middleton and his descendants became Barons
Middleton in
1711. They held Wollaton and Middleton
Halls until their sale in the 1920’s.

A subsidiary line, which began in the 14th
century, was the Willoughby family at Risley in Derbyshire. Sir Hugh Willoughby was an early Arctic
explorer who died on his ship off Murmansk in the winter of 1554. Later came Sir Nesbit Willoughby, a British
naval officer who was naval aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria in 1841.

By the 19th
century the Willoughby name had extended south to London and as far
west as
Cornwall. The Willoughbys
in Cornwall
appeared to
have come there in the 1640’s from Essex.
In the latter part of the 18th and the early 19th century many
of them
were involved ln copper and tin mining.
As that industry declined, a number emigrated.

Ireland. Sir
Willoughby from Middleton was a Major General in the army of Charles I
and was
made Governor of Dublin Castle in the early 1600’s.
He had descendants in Ireland, the most
prominent being Dr. Charles Willoughby, an eminent Dublin physician of
the late

Another Willoughby family, supposedly
related to the Eresby Willoughbys, established itself in Monaghan and
in the early 1600’s. Nicholas Willoughby
was High Sheriff of Fermanagh in the 1650’s.
This family later became the Willoughby-Montgomerys.

America. There were early Willoughbys
in New England
and Virginia.

New England. Captain Francis Willoughby, descended
from the Eresby Willoughbys
was a London shipwright and
merchant who immigrated
to Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1638.
He was married three times and served as Deputy Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1665 to 1670.
His story was recounted in Isaac Greenwood’s 1876 booklet The Willoughby Family of New England

One descendant line
via his son Nehemiah in Boston led to Goshen,
Connecticut and then to Herkimer county, New York. Westel
Willoughby was a distinguished medical
practitioner in the early 1800’s after whom the town of Willoughby in
Ohio was
named. His son Westel was a lawyer in
Virginia, his grandsons Westel and William noted academics.
Another line via Nehemiah led to Bennington,
Vermont and then, after the Revolutionary War, across the border into

Virginia. Willoughby Bay was named after an early
settler, Thomas Willoughby, who had arrived in Virginia in 1610.
His descendants became major landowners by the time of the
Revolutionary War. In
1794 Captain William Willoughby built in Norfolk county what is now
known as
the Willoughby-Baylor townhouse.

“When William Willoughby
died in 1800 at the age of 42, his estate included fourteen slaves and
dwellings. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.
Daughter Eliza married Dr.Baynham Baylor and
the house remained under the Baylor family name until it was sold in

A Thomas Willoughby, believed to have been related to Percival
Willoughby, received a land grant at Elizabeth City in 1628. He
later settled in Lower Norfolk county at
his plantation
Willoughby’s Hope. His descendant Benjamin
Willoughby moved to
Greene county, Tennessee in the 1790’s.

John Willoughby – either
from Virginia or the Caribbean – was to be found in North Carolina
(then called
Albemarle) in the 1650’s. He was a
member of the Albemarle Council in the 1670’s before being involved in

Caribbean. Francis Lord Willoughby of Parham had
commanded the Royal fleet in the Caribbean in 1650. Twelve years
later, after the Restoration, he
established himself as the Governor of Antigua.
Although he died childless, his brother William and son Henry succeeded
him as Governors and accumulated large land holdings there.

Canada. Percival
Willoughby was one of the promoters
in England of the colony in Newfoundland, even sending his son Thomas
out to
the early settlement there in 1612.
Thomas was clearly the black sheep of the family and he stayed out of
favor with his father.

Some Irish
Willoughby immigrants came to Ontario.
Thomas Willoughby from Cavan arrived in Lambton county sometime in the
1840’s. Charles Willoughby and his
family from Wexford settled in Wellington county in the late 1840’s.

and New Zealand
. The family story was
that Richard
Willoughby had been banished
by his family in England and
had come
out to Australia sometime in the 1850’s where he and his wife Catherine
three children.

Frederick Willoughby and his family from Oxfordshire came to
Tasmania in 1857 and moved onto New Zealand a few years later, settling
Hokitiki on the NZ West Coast.

Willoughby Miscellany

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

Willoughby Names

Sir Richard Willoughby was Chief Justice of the
Common Pleas in the 1330’s.
Sir Hugh
was an early Arctic explorer who died on his ship in

Francis Lord Willoughby of Parham
the Royal fleet in the Caribbean in 1650 and resurfaced as the Governor
of Antigua in 1663.

a prominent physician in New York in the early 1800’s.

Select Willoughbys Today

  • 6,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Warwickshire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply