The Willis Tree

Welcome to The Willis Tree website!  

The aim of the site – now in it’s sixth year online – is to gather together research and remembrances relating to the history of my family.

Much of that history is rooted in the English county of Kent (particularly around the coastal town of Dover), with a couple of strands coming from the West Country county of Devon.

From these villages and towns the family has spread across the globe  – so that today there are descendants living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

The information, images and reminiscences on this site come from many different sources, including a large number of cousins and fellow amateur genealogist whose own family trees interlink with mine.  As a result, we have been able to share data and thus expand our knowledge.

It is hoped that the information on this site will help others discover their ancestral roots and rediscover their living relatives!


My dad, his brother and parents, 1955

My dad was born on the Isle of Thanet in Kent but brought up in Dover. His line includes the Alefounder, Benefield, Greenland, Kingsnorth, Mayne, Nicholls, Pyne, Suters and Willis surnames.

Dad’s ancestors include tailors, harbour men, stone masons, publicans, farm labourers and soldiers.which includes

For example: my 2xGreat Grandfather Jacob Greenland who accidentally drowned in Dover Harbour in 1883, my Great Grandfather William Nicholls who was born in 1870 and spent his early years in India with his family where his father was a gunner in the Royal Artillery,  and my Grandad’s cousin, James Willis, who married a Belgian girl and ran a pub in Dover before dying from a liver condition in 1916 aged just 42.


My mum, elder siblings and parents, c1950

My mum’s ancestral line includes the Calloway, Collard, Gurnsey, Hare, Harvey, Hopper, Huggins and Robinson surnames.

My mum was born and brought up in the village of Whitfield, just outside Dover, and her ancestors include publicans, domestic servants, soldiers, coffee shop owners and dockyard workers

They include my Great Grandfather Thomas Hopper who died in 1916 from alcohol-related problems aged just 43; his wife, Emily, outlived him by forty-one years, struggling to raise their family of 8 children; then there’s my Great Grandparents George Gurnsey & Amy Huggins , both born in 1884. Married in 1909 they lived well into old age, and were devoted to each other until the end, and their son, Frederick Gurnsey, who tells in his own words how he managed to flee the Japanese attack on Singapore in February 1942.

User Accounts  

You are free to view all information on this site. However, in order to view records of individuals who are still living you need to register for a User Account.

A User Account enables you to

~ view details of Living Individuals on the Willis Tree
~ submit new data about individuals and families
~ submit photos and documents
~ download Gedcom files.

User Accounts are available (at the discretion of the site author) to those who either (a) appear in The Willis Tree, (b) have ancestors who appear in The Willis Tree or (c) are seriously researching their (or someone else’s) family history.

To find out how to register for a User Account, click here.