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Created 14 October 2008, last modified 14 October 2008

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South African Wilmots
The information on this page was kindly provided by John Wilmot

The name Wilmot is said to be derived from the French seagull: guillemot, in which case Willimott may well be the closest to the original while Willmott  may be less Anglicized than Wilmot. With people less schooled in bye-gone years various spelling combinations emerged. All of us, however, are proud of the way we spell it today and insist on the 'correct' way!.


Ivan Mitford-Barberton and Violet White in their book 'Some Frontier Families' quote our Settler as being William Joseph whereas he was actually Joseph Edward. All the 1820 Settler records and the embarkation records as quoted by Mrs M D Nash in her book 'The Settler Handbook' lists his wife as Ann Routledge.

William Jervois, the Albany Settler Museum resident genealogist in Grahamstown, notes that she died weeks before the Aurora sailed and he married Susannah Richmond - this name appears in succeeding generations. Richmond has become a popular family Christian name together with Charlton, Denton, Eardley and Thomas. Almost to confirm this marriage I recall  my grandfather, Milton Wilmot, telling me the story of  Joseph Edward  coming home to his 43 square rood (10 Morgan)allotment at Salem (lot 31) and saying that the farm Sunnyvale was for sale at a particular price. His wife went into the bedroom and brought out a stocking filled with money and said "Go and buy it." When questioned about the stocking she said: "Do you think I would have come to a strange country with a strange man if I didn't have the where-with-all to get home again?"  They had three sons: John Richmond (2 sons & 10 daughters), Edward Joseph (7 sons & 1 daughter) & Samuel (3 sons & 5 daughters), and a daughter Mary who died young. The Settlers' 13 year old brother George came out with him.George had 2 daughters. The Settlers' sister, Sarah, also came out to South Africa as Mrs William Parr between their marriage in 1827 and the birth of their first child in 1829. Fortunately the Settlers' Tree has been well researched thanks to a complicated will only finalised in 1983! I would like to think that I have the most comprehensive and recent record of his descendants although I won't claim to be up-to-date!. Our Settler's ancestors came from Derby and our Settlers' farther, Joseph, was a 'Carrier' in London - today we would say that he had a transport company!   Brothers John (b1793) and Abraham (b1801) remained in London. In the Settler Museum there is a copybook letter written by George Wilmot to an unnamed brother, who was a trader in furs and general goods in America, probably in Boston. George acted as his London agent, disposing of furs and obtaining the trading goods required by his brother's business. The letters commence in October, 1764 and run to June 1766.They show that George also traded on his own account, in London. Could this  be the link with the South African, British and American families? George married Mary Parsons on 29th June, 1739 at All Saints' parish church, Derby. Their son, Joseph was baptized on 18th November, 17?? at the same church. 

  • In Willsons Party  on board La Belle Alliance there were Benjamin, 22, and James, 30, listed as lawyers. They must have been men of substance as they paid for four servants. Benjamin had a spat with Lord Charles Somerset regarding the plight of the Settlers and later returned to England. James was a teacher at Bathurst & later at Fort Beaufort. I am still trying to trace all their descendants and look forward to receiving any input.  
  • Another Wilmot, Alexander, (b 9th April,1836- d 3rd April,1923) arrived in Cape Town in 1853 from Glasgow having studied law. He was appointed post master in Port Elizabeth and later became an MPLA (member of the Provincial Legislative Assembly in the Cape Colony). He wrote eleven books I know of:  on the Settler Richard Southey, on his Catholic Bishop,  Histories of the Cape Colony and of Zulu Wars. A man of words; he also wrote a lengthy poem, read at the 50th anniversary celebrations in Grahamstown of the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. Recorded in "The Story of the Settlement" by T Sheffield (1912). He laid the foundation stone of the Methodist Church in Alicedale. A descendant, Alex Paul, casts doubt on the surname as Wilmot is not a traditional Scottish name and surmises that Alexander's mother was paid to leave Scotland with her son and daughter.  
  • Robert Edward Eardley Wilmot (1831 - 1861) wrote the book "A Cape Traveller's Diary" in 1856. He was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sacheval Wilmot of Chaddesden Hall, Derbyshire. It is interesting to note that many American families trace their ancestry to Chaddesden Hall.  
  • Major Henry Eardley Wilmot was killed by Xhosa African tribesmen in 1st January, 1852, aged 25, during the 8th Frontier War while on patrol in the Fish River bush and is buried at Peddie in the Eastcape. He was the 5th son of Sir John Eardley Eardley-Wilmot of Berkswell Hall, Warwickshire, the 2nd Baronet judge in the Marylebone County Court, London and grandson of John Wilmot(1750 - 1815) one of the Masters in the Chancery. The Settlers brother, Abraham, who remained in England wrote that Henrys' grandfather was their fathers' uncle and that he had been granted an interview with Henrys' eldest brother and had been acknowledged as one of the line. Brian Johnson Barker writes that in the King Williams Town Kaffrarian Museum there is a muzzle-loading six-pounder cast in beautiful golden-yellow bronze. It is the only one of six that includes the name FM Eardley Wilmot, who was the superintendent of the Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich about the middle of the 19th century. This gun is clearly marked with the British 'broad arrow' and plainly dated 1859.  
  • In about 1905 Robert Charles Wilmot came to South Africa. He had been building gunships on the Nile for Lord Kitchener and then was a missionary in East Africa and married Francis Good there. He was a teacher and became an Inspector of Schools  I have not found a South African link but they could be part of our English family. A descendant, also Robert, describes the Coat of Arms as being the same as the 1820 Settlers'. In my researching I note that there are two  Wilmot Coat of Arms differing only in colour possibly to distinguish the Rochester (Oxford?)  and Derby families. In Heraldry a Coat of Arms is bestowed on a person; succeeding family usually adopt the emblem and add minor changes to personalise them.  
  • Many Wilmot's would like to claim title from the Earl of Rochester. Henry Wilmot helped Prince Charles escape to France from Cromwell's forces. On restoration of the Crown as, King Charles ll, he bestowed the Earldom on Henry. His son John inherited the title and a fortune and was a favourite of the King. He was a poet and philosopher of great talent but sadly his great love was liquor. He died of old age at 38 and his son Charles inherited the title (and no fortune?) The title died with him in 1680 at the age of 20. Anyone claiming heritage must acknowledge that Burkes Peerage does not accept legal heirs.   On the Video circuit there is a DVD entitled "The Libertine" describing his brilliant and depraved life (not recommended viewing). Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto in his book "Rochester" (I have the 1936 edition endorsed Milton TG Wilmot, Naauwpoort) portrays him as one of the most handsome and accomplished young men in Europe' and was a freethinking Platonist who rejected "revealed religion" of the time and lived life accordingly. Fortunately he encountered Dr Gilbert Burnet, a Scottish minister who debated Christianity with reason and months before his death John was struck by "an inward Force". So there folks, is a summary of the origins of the Wilmot name as I know it !!

Generally the Settler Wilmot Family have been hardworking and upstanding people contributing to the business, cultural  and religious well-being of their community. Many have not gained the recognition due - "Born to blush unseen upon the desert air" (Greys Elegy) 

  Please advise of any additions

John Wilmot  15 Rina Avenue, Framesby, Port Elizabeth, 6045. South Africa jaysqh@iafrica.com

  • There are 20 towns in the United States of America with the name Wilmot.
  • There is a Mount Wilmot, Lake Wilmot and Wilmot Pass in New Zealand   South Island named after E H Wilmot, the surveyor- general.
  •  There is a River Wilmot and a small town "Wilmot" in Tasmania named after    Sir John Eardley Wilmot, Governor of Tasmania.
  • There is a Wilmot Town in Jamaica
  • Chester Wilmot, an Australian journalist, wrote a definitive and comprehensive    book  "The Struggle for Europe" on the D-day landings in which he also took part.     (I have the 1954 Reprint Society edition)    He also wrote an account of the "Tobruk" siege from an Australian perspective. 
  • Today there are many South African Wilmot families in America, Austrailia,    Botswana, Canada, England, New Zealand, St Helena, etc.