Origin, Pronunciation and Distribution of the GILLIAM Name in Virginia
Updated January 23, 2008

The Surname
The name GILLIAM is an English variant of William, from a central French form in which W is replaced by G. William is from the Norman form of an Old French personal name composed of the Germanic elements wil ‘will’, ‘desire’ + helm ‘helmet’, ‘protection’. This was introduced into England at the time of the Conquest, and within a very short period it became the most popular personal name in England, mainly no doubt in honor of the Conqueror himself.
Prior to 1700 there lived in Europe many people with "GILLIAM" surnames. In England were Gilham and Gillam; Gillian, GILLIAM in Scotland; Guillam and Gwillam in Wales and Guillaume in France.
Prior to 1700 the GILLIAM surname appears in Virginia records as Gillam, Gilham, Guilam, Guilham Guillam, Guilliams, Gwilliam, Gwilliams, Gillom, Gillum, Gyllom, and GILLIAM (and undoubtedly other spellings).

For convenience, the spelling GILLIAM will be used unless it is known that a particular person or line prefers another spelling. (For example, the GILLIAMs of Albemarle County consistently used the spelling Gillum.)

The Pronunciation
Though many GILLIAMs make a three-syllable word of the name GILLIAM (Gil-le-um), the name is most commonly pronounced in Virginia as a two-syllable word (Gil-lum or Gil-yum).

Surname Distribution
1840 distrib Gilliam1840 distrib Gillam1840 distrib Gillum

1880 distrib Gilliam1880 distrib Gillam1880 distrib Gillum

1920 distrib Gilliam1920 distrib Gillam1920 distrib Gillum

Coat of Arms
My research to date has disclosed no evidence of descent from any person of the same or similar surname who was ever entitled to bear arms.

  • The Mecklenburg signers and their neighbors. Provo, UT., Inc. 2004.
  • Brock, R. A. "The GILLIAM Family," Richmond Standard, April 16, 1881.
  • Bye, Arthur E. A Friendly Heritage Along the Delaware: the Taylors of Washington Crossing and Some Allied Families in Bucks County, Vantage Press, 1959.
  • Colonial Records of Virginia. "Lists of the Livinge & the Dead in Virginia, February 16, 1623." Colonial Records of Virginia, 1874. Richmond, Virginia: R.F. Walker, Superintendent of Public Printing, 1874.
  • Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants: A Comprehensive Listing Compiled from English Public Records of Those Who Took Ship to the Americas for Political, Religious, and Economic Reasons; of Those Who Were Deported for Vagrancy, Roguery, or Non-Conformity; and of Those Who Were Sold to Labour in the New Colonies. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1607-1660. 1988.
  • GILLIAM, Charles Edgar. Genealogical Data on the Ancestors of Richard Davenport GILLIAM, 1855-1935. Self-published. 1938.
  • "Genealogical Notes from the High Court of Admiralty Examinations." New York General and Biographical Register, Volume 47, page 75
  • Nugent, Nell Marion. Cavaliers and Pioneers: A Calendar of Virginia Land Grants, 1623-1800. Vol. 1:1-7. Richmond, VA: Dietz Printing Co.
  • Oxford. Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press.
  • Ray, Worth S. The Mecklenburg Signers and Their Neighbors. Austin, TX, 1946.
  • Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume I-II. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915.