Willis Family of Gloucester County, Virginia

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Gloucester, Virginia, United States

This section describes the family relationships of Francis Willis who settled about 1640 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Francis had no children, and left his estate to a nephew, here designated Francis Willis IV.

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The family relations of Francis Willis III are complex. While his will is a most useful document for untangling some of these relationships, some of the relationships are unclear, and there are many things we would like to know, obvious to him when he wrote it, but obscure to us today. This obscurity continues in successive generations, and creates considerable uncertainty about key relations, particularly in the American descendancy in this family. Examining that descendancy is sometimes frustrating as there is a repetition of certain family names (notably "Henry" and "Francis", and some genealogists have combined information about separate individuals bearing the same name. Normally, such confusions can be separated out (albeit often with difficulty) because we can go back to primary sources to show which persons married which spouses, and who had which children. We can do this for Francis Willis III, the subject of this article, in part because his will identifies many of his relations. We know, for example, from this source that the heir to the White Hall estate in Gloucester County was "Francis Willis IV" (whom we arbitrarily designate Francis IV) son of his brother "Henry Willis". Unfortunately, the identificaiton (or perhaps "confirmation" would be the better word choice) of the children of the s Francis IV is not so clear. Most people suggest he had two sons, (Francis V, and Henry, of course), but documentation for that has not yet been located at this early stage in the effort.

At any rate, the following diagram shows one version of the family relationships for Francis Willis III. Some of the relations shown here are quite certain, but others are as yet unproven. For these later instances additional documentation is needed for us to be comfortable with the overall scheme. I suspect that further work will show that some relations are misshown, and that other critical relationships do not appear here at all. With regard to the latter, I've seen some indications of a "John Willis" in the Gloucester County area at an early date, who is most likely related in some way to Francis III; we do not know, however, what the basis of that relationship might be. In addition, the will of Francis III indicates the existence of several cousins bearing the Willis surname. Most likely they are the children of Francis uncle John Willis but they could be the children of some other as yet unrecognized brother of Francis. There are others mentioned in Francis III's will whose relationships are so obscure that they can't be entered into this diagram.

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

One of the main purposes for presenting this diagram is that it provides a basis for exploring certain family problems. Even though the relationships shown are at the moment somewhat sketchy, and some may prove unsound, this diagram provides a way of organizing the information at hand, and can be used as a basis for further exploration. The principle problems being considered are related to results of recent YDNA studies that seem to indicate that certain descendants of the Gloucester County Willis' share the same YDNA with certain lines of Willis' whose ancestry is not known. The presumption is that these "unknown ancestry" Willis lines are in fact descended from someone in the Gloucester County Willis'. The study plan for these problems is two fold:

1. Validate the descendancy for the lines that currently claim descent from the Gloucester County Willis', and have YDNA matches for the Unknown Ancestry lines
2. Identify candidates for the ancestors of the Uknown Ancestry lines among the Gloucester County Willis'