Southwest Virginia Willis Group



Willis Tapestry
YDNA. Willis

……………………..The Tapestry
Families Old Chester OldAugusta Germanna
New River SWVP Cumberland Carolina Cradle
The Smokies Old Kentucky



YDNA. Willis
Southwest Virginia Willis Tapestry
Willis Family in Southwest Virginia

Willis in SW VA

GroupHaplogroupPresumed Patriarch(s)*LocusDescendant**KitsDescendant chain
Southwest Virginia Willis Group
Members of this group belong to the R1b Haplogroup
Members of this group belong to the R1b Haplogroup
R1b1a2a1a1a4Person:Abner Willis (1)
First encountered about 1795 when he appears on tax rolls in Washington County VA. No trace after 1840 Person:Amos Willis (2)203117James C./Londy/William C.
15233 Johnathon
Person:Richard Willis (22)64544
Person:McKinsey Willis (1)First Appears in Madison Co KYPerson:Merrill Willis (4)192034Abner Bond/Clyde
211916William Sydney

Members of this group descend from one of two identified patriarchs:Person:Abner Willis (1) and Person:McKinsey Willis (1). Since they share a similar YDNA signature descendants of Abner and McKinsey are presumed to have a common ancestor, but their exact relationship is unknown. Given their estimated DOB's (1775 and 1799 respectively) they probably represent two separate generations. It may be that McKinzie's father was Abner's brother. It is conceivable that the identity of Abner's brother is Person:Amos Willis (3), and that he is McKinsey's father. Reasons for considering that possibility are that we believe Amos (3) was in Washington County as an adult in the 1790's, and could reasonably have been married and had a child by 1799. In comparison, we know that Abner married in1803 and had a child by 1804. Thus, assuming that Amos and Abner were indeed brothers, its reasonable to suppose that McKinzie could have been Amos's son, and Abner's Nephew. Whether such as relationship is correct or not, has not been demonstrated. Ydna evidence from Amos side, currently not available, would be helpful in evaluating this idea.

There are a number of other Willis lineages in Southwest Virginia prior to 1800, which have been considered as possibilities for itraceing descent to the common ancestor of Abner and McKinzie. These possibilities are described at Willis Family in Southwest Virginia and include:

  • Henry Willis of Saltville is the earliest of the Willis' in Southwest Virginia, settling in Allison Gap near Saltville in 1769. He is absent from local records after 1784. Abner and Amos Willis begin to appear in the records in the vicinity of Saltville, in the 1790's, providing reason to suspect Henry as their father. However, YDNA evidence from persons claiming descent from Henry (Henry Willis Group) seems to rule him out as the common ancestor. That same evidence seems to rule him out as a descendant of Henry Willis of Fredericksburg, an idea that was once entertained. There are a number of lines tracing their descent from Henry of Saltville. Some of these seem to be unfounded. However, one of those lines place him in Greene County TN, and then in Pulaski County. Examining the data for Henry Willis in Greene County and in Pulaski COunty. suggests that these researchers have the right of it. In particular, they note that both Henry of Greene County and Henry of Pulaski, witnessed, or served as bondsmen, for a marriages with women with a last name of "Cochran". While not conclusive, its noted that Henry of Saltville's wife was a "Mary Cochran", suggesting a familly connection between Henry of Pulaski, Henry of Greene, and Henry of Saltville. Most likely they are all the same person.
  • Henry Willis of the New River Valley appears in Montgomery County about the time Henry of Saltville dissappears. A possibility that was considered is that Henry left the Washington County area and moved north east into Montgomery County. The timing of this is not quite right, as there is a brief period around 1784 when both Henry's appear in the local records, more or less simultaneously, suggesting they are two different persons. A number of lienages on Ancestry currently (February 2013) identify this Henry Willis with Henry Willis of Saltville. This seems unlikley as Henry of New River appears in the Montgomery County area with several other Willis. Court documentation seems to indicate that they are closely related. These other Willis' (Issac WIllilis and David Willis), are, however, linked to Southside Virginia YDNA Group (Aka, the "Southern Group" of the Willis YDNA project). I appears that Henry originally settled in Franklin County about 1779, and soon thereafter moved to Montgomery County, David and Isaac apparently moved with him.
  • David Willis settled in Montgomery County sometime after the Revolution, marrying a Ruth Stapleton. Sometime in the 1800's he moved to Lee County Virginia, living close to Issac Willis son of Abner. While this suggested a common ancestral relationship, available evidence suggests that there was no connection between Abner and this David Willis. Rather, David is kinsman of Henry of New River, both by YDNA evidence and supported by original source documentation.
  • Henry Willis of Pike County. Relatively limited information is available for him, but he is sometimes identified with Henry Willis of Saltville. We have no YDNA evidence from his line, but YDNA evidence does support the idea that Henry Willis of Greene County TN, and lateer Polk County KY, is in fact Henry of Saltville, lending no credance to the suggestion of some that Henry of Pike County is in fact Henry of Saltville. The connections of Henry of Pike County are currently unknown
  • Person:Larkin Willis (1) settled in Hancock (?) in northeastern TN. Some of his children and relations moved north into Lee and Scott County by c1810, where they become intermingled with the kin of Abner Willis. There is no known relation between Abner Willis and Larkin Willis. YDNA evidence places persons claiming descent from Larkin Willis in the North Carolina Willis Group [1] and are unrelated to Abner and McKinzie by YDNA evidence.
  • Jacob Wills first appears in the records about 1783, purchasing land on Beaver Creek, Poor Valley, Scott County VA. He left the area by 1795. See: Document. Jesse Rogers Deed, Scott County, VA, 1839. His line has not been extensively studied. While some records show him with the surname spelled "Willis", most use the "Wills" spelling, and there is no immediate reason to see a connection with any other Willis lines in the area.
  • Person:Zachariah Wells (1) settled in Lee County Virginia after 1820. HIs property was adjacent to Person:Isaac WIllis (1), the eldest son of Abner Willis. Land records show his name as sometimes transcribed as "WIllis" or "Willes" suggesting a possible connection to Isaac's family. YDNA evidence, however, suggest that he is unrelated to the Southwest Virginia Group. Among other things, persons traceing descent to Zachariah have been shown to be in the "G Haplogroup", rather than R1b as in the Southwest VIrginia Willis Group.
  • Person:Smith Willis (1) (est DBO of 1767) came into the area following the Revolution, settling in the Holston watersheds, marrying Mary Mullins. He left for Kentucky by about 1800, leaving no known descendants in the area. About 1808 he moved to Wayne County, Kentucky, settling on Otter Creek. In old age (1838) he moved to Morgan Co., TN, where his daughter Eleanor Willis Guffey was living. He died there in 1849. Smith is of an age that he could be a brother (or other relative) of Abner, but would be too young to be his father. Nothing has been found to suggest a family connection, but YDNA evidence from this line is currently unavailable. He remains a possible kinsman, but can not be the common ancestor of Abner and McKinzie.
  • Amos Willis of Hopkins County. An Amos Willis first appears in the tax records of Washington County, VA, about the same time that Abner Willis does. The possibility exists that Amos and Abner were kinsmen. Amos continues on in the area for sometime, appearing in the 1810 census. He then dissappears from the records examined so far. Shortly thereafter an Amos Willis appears in the 1820 census records of Hopkins County KY. Other documentation places him there by 1817. The idea that Amos of Hopkins Count was the same person as Amos of Southwests Virginia, has long been entertained, especially given the fact that Abner named a son Amos. At one time researchers also identified an Abner Willis in Posey County Indiana, as a descendant of Amos Willis. This view was coupled with the idea that Amos came to Hopkins County from Craven County NC. Recent YDNA evidence does in fact link Abner of Posey County to the Craven County Willis' and descendants of Joseph Willis of Craven County. Unfortunately, traditional genealogy doesn't support a connection between Amos of Hopkins County and the Craven County Willis. Rather, Amos of Hopkins County appears to be a brother of a Wright Wroth Willis, and that they descend from Joel Willis and Mary Wroth who lived in Maryland. Traditional genealogy now suggests that Amos was not born until 1789, and is thus too young to be Amos of SW Va. YDNA evidence is not available for Amos of Hopkins County, so apart from the disconnect with his DOB, it may still be possible that Amos of SW VA is the same person.

Willis elsewhere


  1. As defined on the Willis YDNA project site. Persons in this group who have taken the YDNA test, typically trace their descent to someone in the North Western NC area, sometimes referred to as the Carolina Cradle