The aim of The Willis Tree website – now in it’s seventh 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 genealogists whose own family trees interlink with mine. As a result, we have been able to share data 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 was born on the Isle of Thanet in Kent and 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 2 x Great Grandfather Jacob Greenland , a harbour man who accidentally drowned in Dover Harbour in 1883 during a night shift, 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 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.
My mum’s ancestral line includes the Calloway, Collard, Gurnsey, Hare, Harvey, Hopper, Huggins and Robinson surnames.
They include my 22 x Great Grandfather, Robert de Hougham, who was a descendant of Norman knights and fought alongside King Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusades.; 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.