Person:Francis Willis (1)

Francis Willis
Facts and Events
Name Francis Willis
Gender Male
Will[1] 6 July 1689 East Greenwich, Kent, Englandwill written
Death? c1690 East Greenwich, Kent, England
Will[1] 25 April 1691 East Greenwich, Kent, Englandwill proven



In his will Francis Willis identifies his place of birth as St. Fawkes and St. Alsford Parish in the city of Oxford England. His parents are unknown, though some have identified his father as Francis, son of Francis. Others have identified his father as a Henry Willis. In no case has documentation showing the connection, been located. His will dated 1689 identifies several brothers and sisters, as well as a number of cousins, suggesting that there was a substantial Willis family in Oxford about 1612. Since he left a bequest to the city, even though he had long since left it, we can assume that he had considerable ties to that area, perhaps implying an extended family.

He married his wife Jane (some identify her without sources as "Jane Simmons"), at an unknown date. It seems likely that this marriage occurred in England. Francis and Jane apparently had no children since none are identified in his will written in 1689, though they could have predeceased him.

Francis left England for the Jamestown Colony as a young man. His name appears on Gloucester County Land records as early as 1642; it is plausible that he was there at an earlier date, as some have intimated. Here he established a substantial plantation known as White Hall (1) between Ware and Severn Rivers off Mobjack Bay.

Whitehall Plantation, Gloucester County Virginia, home of Francis Willis
Whitehall Plantation, Gloucester County Virginia, home of Francis Willis

Francis was active in civic governance, serving first as county Clerk, and later in the House of Burgesses. Later, his nephew and heir, Francis Willis (?-?), would continue this same tradition. In 1675 Francis and his wife returned to England, settleing in East Greenwich, Kent County. At his death he left a substantial estate, bequething a total of 4030 pounds sterling to various persons, including his wife Jane (1000 pounds) and his nephew Francis Willis (1000 pounds). These bequests, in addition to various property distributions, were the equivalent of something more than $1.5 million pounds in 2002 (1). In addition to monetary dispersions, Francis gave substantial property to two nephews. Nephew William received property on Craney Creek (possibly in Oxfordshire, or Kent County), while Fransis property in Virginia was given to Nephew Francis. Nephew Francis took possession of that property shortly after his uncles death, and lived out his life in America.

See Biography of Francis Willis


(1) Photographs of the plantation are available at [White Hall. The current structure shown in these photographs dates from the early 1690's. There may be some significance to the name "Whitehall". Francis came to America in the early 1640's during the Civil War that eventually led to the Execution of Charles II in 1649. The name may be related in someway to the center of governance along Whitehall Street in London, and may suggest something about Francis political sentiments.
(2) Based on data provided in O'Donoghue, 2004, comparing value of a pound Sterling in 1750, with its value in 2002. In the 60 years between Francis death and 1750, it seems likely that some inflation also occurred, though the rate of inflation is thought to have been modest. In any case, the estimate of 1.5 million pounds is conservative.


DOB: c1612 most researachers seem to accept c1612, but basis for this is unknown. Since Francis obtain land in Virginia by 1642 he was probably born no later than 1622. The 1612 DOB may be based on an assumption that he was 30 years of age when he came to Virginia.
POB: Parish of St. Fowles als St. Algate, Oxford, England stated in his will of 1689
DOD: c1690 Will written 6 JUL 1689, probated 25 APR 1691 Waters, 1901
POD: E. Greenwich, Kent, England Based on Will
Spouse: Jane identified in will as "Jane"; some researchers believe her name may have been Jane Simmons, but a basis for that has not been determined.
DOM: c1640 probably prior to arrival in Virginia
POM: England a guess
Father: Unknown Willis (c1580-c1612) various persons have been identified as his father, but justifications for any of them is wanting.

Ancestry and Family Relations

A discussion of Francis family relations is provided at Gloucester County Willis Relations

The following diagram summarizes key relationships, primarily in the male line descendancy. For the most part, the line of Gloucester County Willis' descend through Francis III's nephew Francis Willis IV

"Family relations among the Goucester county Willis 1550-c1750"
"Family relations among the Goucester county Willis 1550-c1750"


Will identifies no children. Estate was divided between various relatives.



The Willis's of Virginia Maud Porter, 1964 1964, Miller Printing Company; Ashville, North Carolina Source:Tyler, 1915:124-125


Ancestry Lineages

Image Gallery
  1. 1.0 1.1 MySource:Waters, 1901, 239.