The Willis Tree

A Willis Wedding in Essex - 1928
Wedding of Charles Willis & Minnie Blanks - Chelmsford, Essex - 1928
The Nicholls family of Dover - c1920
William and Susannah Nicholls (nee Kingsnorth), with children Bertha, Elizabeth, Willie, Kathleen, Dorothy and Alice.
The Benefields of New Zealand - 1900
Wedding of Percy and Agnes Benfield, Wanganui New Zealand.
The Willis family of Massachusetts, USA - c1896
Joseph Willis (1824-1907) with his son and grandchildren outside the family home in West Newbury, MA, built by Joseph Snr in 1854.
The Hopper family of Whitfield, 1950
Emily Hopper (nee Harvey) with children.
Granny Gurnsey at school, Dover - c1920
My grandmother Nelly Gurnsey (second row back, 3rd from the left) aged about 8, Belgrave School, Dover.
The Aussie Branch - Stephen Hopper & family - 1924
In 1924 Stephen Hopper, his wife Florence (nee Hill), one step-daughter and seven children were on holiday at Queenscliff in Victoria, Australia and had this group photo taken.

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 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, his brother and parents, 1955

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 2xGreat Grandfather my 2xGreat 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, elder siblings and parents, c1950

 

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 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.

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