The surname of Willingale is very uniquely Essex and is supposed to have originated in an area of the County known as Willingale, a village comprising of two hamlets of Willingale Doe and Willingale Spain situated seven miles due west of Chelmsford, the County Town.
It is said that an Anglo Saxon pioneer called Willa settled here and that he and his family were called “Willa’s Gang”. This became corrupted over time to Willinsgale (still seen in some records) and more commonly to Willingale.
As there are virtually no church records prior to 1538 when Thomas Cromwell ordered the churches to establish and maintain records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, it is impossible to trace the early ancestry of the Willingales.
The earliest reference found so far is at Great Dunmow, a town ten miles north of the village of Willingale and refers to the birth of Margaret Willingale in 1543. Another reference found at Great Dunmow is of the marriage in 1563 of Thomas Willingale and Ellen Milborn.
Also, living around the same time was another family, that of Georgius Willingale found at Bocking, just outside Braintree, eight miles east of Great Dunmow.
Finally there are two more references to early Willingales, the first in 1561, was the marriage of Jane Willingale to Thomas Porter at Maldon, fifteen miles east of the village of Willingale and the other in 1559 at Heybridge, just outside Maldon, was the marriage of Margaret Willingale to John Arthur. This is interesting in that at the moment there appears to be no further reference to the Willingales in the Maldon area until 1662, around a hundred years later.
Unfortunately all the above Willingales are in what we call the “unconnected” tree as we have as yet been unable to link them to anyone in the main Willingale tree.
The earliest reference to a Willingale, and the starting point of the main tree, is at Rawreth where Richard Willingale & his wife Thomasine had five children who were baptized between 1607 and 1619.