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Woolsey Name Study

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Surnames/tags: Woolsey Wulsey Wolsey
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This is an ancient English personal name derived from the old Saxon words, wold-sey meaning a wooded lawn. After becoming a surname it was for a long time spelled Wulsey. The great sixteenth century Cardinal Wolsey was not the first of the name to attain distinction at Westminster. Almost six centuries before his time, flourished Saint Wulsey , the first abbot of Westminster, "...where...", says the historian, "he lived for many years, exemplary for his conversation, until his death, which happened Anno Domini 960. Then was his body buried in the same monastery; and the 26 day of September was kept by the citizens of London with great veneration of his miracle-working memory."

The name Woolsey belongs to one of a lesser-known type of surname changes: descending from a given name. So we have the given name Wulci becoming Wulci, son of Wulci. Wolsey, Woolsey - 'the son of Wulsi´.

At first sight the name seems local, and an abbreviation of Wolseley, q.v. A parallel is found in the case of the famous founder of Wesleyanism, whose latest biographer shows that his progenitors were Wellesleys [but this a different name that Woolseys - www]. But no doubt can exist on the subject. Wolsey is a modern form of the personal name Wolsi or Wusli. St. Wulsy was first abbot of Westminster, died 960 A.D. [Notice that this is before the conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066.]

William Wulsi, county Cambridge, 1273. [Hundred Rolls of 1273, with Robert Woolsee] A. 1605. Bapt. - Israel Wolsey; St. Dionis Backchurch, p. 92. 1613. Richard Letten and Mary Wolsey: Marriage Lic. (London), ii.21. 1680. William Greene and Cassandra Wolsey : Marriage Alleg. (Canterbury), p. 30. Philadelphia, 1,2.

Woolsey, Wolsey, Woosey: 1. Leofwine Wulf siges sunu a1038, OEByn (Ha); Wisi, Visi 1066 DB; Willelmus filius Wulsi (Wlfsi) 1166 P (Nf); William Wulsy 1219.AssSt; Richard Wolsy 1313 FFEss; Robert Wulcy, Wolcye 1524 SrSt. OE Wulfsige - 'Wolf Victory´. The personal name was common in Suffolk where it gave rise to the sur-name of Cardinal Wolsey. (ii) Roger Wulfesege, Wulfes aege 1168, 1171 P (Ha); Waldevus Wulfesega 1176 P (Nb). A nickname, "Wolf´s eye", which may have contributed to the frequency of the surname.

We have not found the name Wolsey or Woolsey as a place name in Great Britain, although one writer suggested that Wulci derived from wold sey. This is an ancient English personal name derived from the old Saxon words wold-sey meaning a wooded lawn.

After becoming a surname it was for a long time spelled Wulsey . Close to it is Wolseley St , but that is a different name going back early, such as Ulselei DB and Wulfsieslega, and Wulfsige´s Leah. The closest to Wolsey we found was Wolsty Cu [Wolsstibay 1322] "Wolves´ Path". "Wolsty is on the sea."

Here is another reference to wolves given by R. Lee Woolsey on his website which does not give a reference for it.

This website URL is http://www.wellsnv.com/woolsey/misc/woolsey.htm

The name can be traced to the Old English word 'wolflesey', which literly meant 'a wolf's eye'. One who was given this nickname was usually likened to a wolf, a warrior or captain who finally succeeds in their long and valiant attempts and hard enterprises. This symbolism went back to Roman times when the wolf was revered.

However, it is believed by this writer that this applies to the name Wolseley, which is a different name altogether from Woolsey or Wolsey.

Researcher Wilford Whitaker has been studying the name for more than a quarter century. His work is well documented here: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~woolsey/www/woolname.html

To see the spread of Woolsey visit: http://forebears.io/surnames/wolsey

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