Most English last-names it seems, are either trade names like Miller, Baker, Forester, Cooper etc. or Norman (aka French) Aristocratic names like Stewart, Williams, etc. Wilber, it turns out, is neither of those things. It isn't Norman. William Wilberforce, for instance, was part of the British House of Commons, not the House of Lords, meaning that he wasn't a "Lord," suggesting being of non-Norman descent.
Further research turned up a book, The Wildbores in America, published by John Reid Wilbor in 1869. It is the only attempt I know of to list a complete genealogy of the family, and contains the info for all Wilbers, Wilburs and Wilbors living in the U.S. before 1869. All the variations in spelling, according to the book, derive from the original form, Wildbore.
Wildbore or Wyldbore is an Old English word, thus confirming my belief that it isn't Norman––Old English predates the Norman Conquest of 1066. And it means just what it sounds like: Wild Boar. In fact, according to Roger-Cyndy Wilber––who just happened to be superviser for the NYS Research Library's preservation unit––the 1st edition of The Wildbores in America (which I have unfortunately been unable to find online) contains the Wildbore family crest––"two wild boars on either side of a trefoil."
While I was happy to find out Wilber was Anglo-Saxon, not Norman (I mean really, who likes the Normans?), the meaning of the name brought up a whole new range of questions. As I said before, Wild Boar doesn't really seem likely as a trade name. So if the Wild Boars weren't Norman overlords, but were important enough to have a family crest, and apparently were interesting enough to not be named after some form of menial labor, it begs the question: Who were these people?
The only key I could think of had to be in the place the wild boar––the animal itself that is––held in pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon culture. According to everything I read, the boar was considered to be the most ferocious beast in the forest of Ancient Briton and played an important, if not central role in pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon and Norse Mythology. It was also a popular symbol for warriors.
So there. Anglo-Saxon Warriors. If the Wildbore family crest is a shield with boars on it, Wilber is an Anglo-Saxon name, and there were specific Anglo-Saxon clans or even individual warriors who shared the boar insignia on their armor, then it seemed the logical step in finding out the origin of the Wilber Family would be to see if there were any records of who these warriors were.
I searched for documents containing 'Wild-Boar+Saxon+Warrior,' and can you guess what turned up across the board? Beowulf. While there were a few other results, such as a Viking warrior cult of the Svinfylking and an account King Alfred in battle, the earliest, and most pervasive one was the famous Old English Warrior Epic, Beowulf.
In the story, Beowulf's battle helmet is described as "wonderfully formed, beset with swine forms so that it then no blade nor battle-swords to bite were able...." (John Porter's translation, lines 1452-1454).
So Beowulf was my ancestor? Well... probably not. I have to qualify by saying I realize Beowulf was most likely not a real person. Rather the story of unknown authorship was probably based on the archetypes set by multiple people.
I do feel it's at least probable though, that if a number of warriors did exist who were Anglo-Saxon, and used what they in their own language would have called the Wildbore as their symbol, that some of them were the founders of the Wilber family as it exists today. And being descended from ancient pagan Anglo-Saxon warriors is pretty cool––even if it isn't possible to prove they were Beowulf.