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  • Name UNKNOWN 
    Gender Male 
    Person ID I9908  WILLIS01
    Last Modified 19 Jun 2016 

    Spouse / Partner Ancestors Mary Anne WILLIS,   c. 06 Dec 1801, Barham, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • I always knew the link between my 2 x Great Grandfather George Willis and his mother's husband George Benefield was tenuous and unproven.

      Baptism records show that George was born in Barham in 1821 to Mary Ann Willis. No father is mentioned on the records, and Mary is listed as a 'spinster' and George is described as 'base born' (ie illegitimate). However, there is a record of a Mary Ann Willis marrying George Benefield just two years later

      George Willis' marriage certificate from 1846 contains no information about his father either. Census records for 1841-1861 show Mary and George as the head of a family. I reasoned that Mary would name her first-born after his father.

      However, after conversations with Peter Driver I have revisited that assumption. For the following reasons:

      If George Benefield was the father of George Willis, then why did he keep the surname Willis? In those days before the Adoption Acts were in place, many children used the surname of theirs mother's husband, even if they were not his child, especially if they were very young at the time when their mother married.

      Peter has checked the "Parish Chest" notes of Barham which contain quite a few references to children born to unmarried women. Back then a woman who was not married and had a baby were called before the parish council so they could try to find out who the father was. Then the parish would not have to support the mother and child financially.

      As yet no reference to Mary Willis and son George has been found. Mary was aged 20 when George was born, and George Benefield aged 23. He lived in Womenswold, and Mary in Barham. It's likely that if George was his baby he would have married her as soon as he was able and given the child his surname.

      When Mary's mother died in 1820 (aged just 40) Mary had to take over the position of running the family, including looking after her siblings. This must have been a great strain on her, she was 19, and no doubt had little time for herself, I do not wonder that she fell for one of the village lads who took advantage of her (probable depression), the baby the result. [1]
    Children 
    +1. George WILLIS,   b. 1821, Barham, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Dec 1875, Dover, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 54 years)
    Last Modified 19 Jun 2016 
    Family ID F192  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Sources 
    1. [S28] >DRIVER, Peter , 5 Mar 2014.
      Taken from email correspondence between myself and Peter Driver.