Considerable discussion on the origin of these homonyms has occurred. The most likely hypothesis argues that the last part of our surname 'lands' is quite obvious, with the first part arising from the Anglo-Saxon for 'well/fountain/spring' appearing to be 'wiell/wiella/wielle', and 'boil/bubble' to be 'weallan'. Therefore the 'spring-lands' emerging near the headwaters of the Liddel River within the Castleton parish of SW Roxburghshire has led us to the present day surname. We were, it is argued, the people who farmed those holdings in the early days. Another associated explanation is that Middle English for 'cart, wagon' is 'whele', and as a consequence, Liddesdale features included the Wheel Causeway (a Roman road fit for wheeled traffic), Wheelrig Head (a 448m hill rising next to the Causeway), and Wheel Kirk (erected about 1170AD, probably on the nearby Wheelrig Ridge and near the still unplaced Whele village, with its adjoining lands referred to as Over and Nether Wheelkirk). Another hypothesis is that the name derives from MacQuhillans of the 'Route' in northern Antrim of NE Ireland, however this struggles due to the lack of any match to date between MacQuillans Y-DNA and Whillans Y-DNA.
Geographically In the early 1600s, King James I successfully stymied the centuries-long practice of rievers who had raided properties over the border. In his ruthless dispersal of these rievers and their folk, it is postulated that our clan moved out to adjoining districts. There is no known evidence about how those with our name might have been caught up with the rievers, if indeed they were. It might simply have been necessary for our families to get away from all the turmoil during those early decades of the 1600s.
It is postulated that the surname's spelling changed with these moves, with this depending upon how the name was heard by the ministers in the new county. Some surnamed Whillans were in other areas of Roxburghshire (Hawick, Jedburgh, Morebattle) and some in London. Some surnamed Whillas were in Berwickshire. Some surnamed Whillis and Wealleans were in Northumberland. Some surnamed Wealands were in Durham. Some surnamed Wheelans were in Lanarkshire. Some surnamed Whillance were in Midlothian. Some surnamed Willans were in Yorkshire.