Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from “Wantage John” Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to “Friendship Andrew” Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. Those facts launched the search for Andrew’s parents among a couple of Willis families. Part I of this analysis posted earlier concluded that Andrew Willis did not descend from the family of Quaker Richard Willis.
Part I Recap
The analysis showed the following as to Friendship Andrew:
- He may have been born between 1720 and 1730, or likely sooner.
- His first appearance may have been 1743 when an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond.
- He was a planter of Dorchester County when he bought land called Friendship in 1753.
- Friendship was located in Caroline County after 1773.
- Friendship Andrew died in late 1777 or early 1778.
- His eldest son distributed per his father’s direction Friendship Andrew’s land among five heirs including four surviving sons.
- Andrew was likely Quaker. Two of his sons were Nicholite, or New Quakers, a sect which later merged with the Quaker
And as to the Quaker Richard Willis family:
- Quaker Richard had a daughter Frances and sons Richard II and John:
- Richard II had a daughter Mary and a son Richard III, who had no children.
- John had no children.
- Quaker Richard “daughtered out” with no male descendants beyond Richard III.
- Friendship Andrew is not descended from Quaker Richard.
- Quaker Richard had a daughter Frances and sons Richard II and John:
This post continues the search for Friendship Andrew’s parents within Wantage John Willis’s family. This analysis will try to eliminate men who could not have fathered Friendship Andrew, concluding with “the last man standing” as his parent. Wantage John had four sons:
- Andrew – six known sons, one named Andrew
- William – possible sons William and Thomas
- Thomas – no children
- John Jr. – six known sons, none named Andrew
Neither Andrew Willis, Son or Grandson of Wantage John, is Friendship Andrew
Andrew Willis, son of Wantage John, was born in 1690. His well-documented family lived in southern Dorchester County, and he died in 1738. He had a son named Andrew born around 1719, about the right time to be Friendship Andrew. However, that son Andrew lived until at least 1781 in southern Dorchester, not the part that became Caroline County in 1773. Moreover, young Andrew was not Quaker. Three of his children were baptized at Old Trinity Church between 1768 and 1775. His children were not the known sons of Friendship Andrew. Therefore, neither Andrew Willis born 1690 nor his son is Friendship Andrew.
William Willis, Son of Wantage John May Be Friendship Andrew’s Father
William inherited the family homestead under Wantage John’s 1712 will and lived there with his wife Judith (neéSeward/Soward). In 1734, they sold the property to Judith’s brother Richard. Dorchester records do not show them buying or inheriting other land. However, deed records show they gave a deposition in 1748 about the boundaries of a tract in the Neck Region of Dorchester County. William testified he had known the property for about 25 years near Hudson’s Creek. William and Judith must have moved there even before they sold Wantage, maybe as early as 1723. Such a move makes sense because Judith’s family owned land in that region.
Dorchester records do not show William and Judith had any children. However, two deed book entries indicate they may have had sons. In 1764, a sale of land on Hudson’s Creek locates the tract at the head of Willis’s Cove near where William Willis lives. This reference could be to William husband of Judith, or it could be to a son of that couple. Second, a Thomas Willis gave a 1784 deposition about the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Soward. At the time, Thomas was about 70 years old, therefore born about 1714. He stated he had been shown one boundary marker of the tract about 30 years ago. Thomas is the right age to be a son of William and Judith.
Beyond those two instances, the records give no clue about children of William and Judith. Regardless, the couple is the right age to have had a child Andrew, a relatively common name among William’s extended family.
One factor not in their favor, besides the lack of circumstantial evidence, is geography. Friendship Andrew Willis in 1753 purchased land a considerable distance from the Neck Region of Dorchester County. That distance brings into question how a son of William would know about the land or the owner from whom he bought it. Two siblings, Thomas and John Jr., lived much closer to Andrew’s land purchase and are thus more geographically desirable.
Thomas Willis, Son of Wantage John, Is Not the Father of Friendship Andrew
Thomas and Grace Willis are not Friendship Andrew’s parents. They are in the right place, the part of Dorchester County that became Caroline. However, there are no children in the record and circumstantial evidence indicates there were none.
No Children in the Record
In 1717, Thomas Willis purchased 50 acres of land, one half of a tract called Sharp’s Prosperity, adjacent his brother John Jr. in what would become Caroline County. Thomas died intestate in 1722, and Grace Willis administered his estate. His brothers Andrew Willis and John Willis signed the inventory of his estate as kindred. John was on the adjoining property. Andrew was not too distant, living at the time on Shoal Creek some fifteen miles away. The record does not state whether Grace Willis is Thomas’s widow or his sister, nor does it indicate if he had children. However, the inventory of Thomas’s estate lists only one bed and bedstead suggesting Grace is his widow, and they were childless.
Land Records Also Suggest No Children
The ownership history of Sharp’s Prosperity also suggests the couple had no children. Various parties paid the rents on the tract after Thomas’s death. The last such entry, thirty-four years after Thomas’s death, shows payment by “heirs of Thomas Willis.” If Thomas and Grace had children, those children would be the heirs. If there were a single child, that child at maturity would have taken over the land and payment of rents, which did not happen. If there were multiple children, they likely would have sold the land and divided the proceeds. The record shows no such sale.
If there were no children, Thomas’s siblings and his spouse would be the heirs. In that case, Grace may have been living on the tract, and her in-laws farmed the land and helped pay the rents. The debt books show no rent payments after 1756.Upon non-payment of rents the land reverted to the proprietor. We do not know why the heirs quit making payments. Possibly, Grace died. Also, her brother-in-law John Jr. acquired some additional land in 1756. Both of those events would be reason to let the land go.
Clues in the Probate Record
Thomas’s probate record reveals a couple more facts about Grace. First, she was not a Quaker. The inventory states that she took an “oath on the Holy Evangels”, that is, swore on the Bible, that her inventory filing was true and correct. Quakers did not swear on the Bible, they “affirmed” or “testified according to law” and the record usually noted that fact. The couple’s religious affiliation is significant because Friendship Andrew was probably Quaker. Two of his sons were members of the Nicholites, or “New Quakers.”
Secondly, Grace’s maiden name may have been Bexley. Her administration bond listed William Woods and William Bexley as sureties. Normally, bondsmen assuring probate administration performance included one or more relatives and, if necessary, a non-relative wealthy enough to be good for the bonded amount. It surprised me to see no Willis as a surety. In 1693, a William Bexley in Talbot County made a will naming a son William. That son may be the listed bondsman.
Thomas’s estate inventory shows total assets of only £12.10.4, including a debt William Bexley owed the estate of 2 shillings, 4 pence. William Bexley’s debt suggests he may be a relative. No one else owed money to the estate. In colonial Maryland, wealthy people loaned money on a regular basis. Non-wealthy people like Thomas Willis did not, except to family. However, Thomas’s inventory of cobbler tools and leather shows he was probably a shoemaker. One explanation for the debt might be that Bexley bought a pair of boots and had not yet paid for them. We just do not know. However, we do know that there are no hints in the record that Thomas and Grace had children or that they were Quaker.
All things considered, we can be relatively certain that Thomas and Grace were not Friendship Andrew’s parents.
John Willis Jr. Could Be Friendship Andrew’s Grandfather
John Willis Jr. had six sons, none named Andrew. However, his eldest son John III is a candidate to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John Willis III was born to John Jr. and his first wife Mary about 1704. Documentary evidence does not help us here. History does not record a marriage, land purchase, children, or even the death of John III.
If John III were Anglican, the records of St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish might have that information. However, those records do not survive. If Quaker, John III likely would have attended Marshy Creek Meeting established in 1727 near his family’s home. However, I cannot find records of that meeting. Other meetings he may have attended such as Northwest Fork Meeting do not record his name.
John III died sometime after 1771, likely during the period 1776-1790 when there is a gap in the Caroline County probate records. If Friendship Andrew were born between 1724 and 1732, John III was about 21 to 29 years old at that time. That makes John III a reasonable candidate to be his father. John III is the only son of John Jr. that fits as a possibility. The other sons are either too young or their families are well documented and do not include a son Andrew.
Conclusion – The Last Man Standing
Two of Wantage John’s four sons cannot be the forebearer of Friendship Andrew:
- Direct evidence shows Friendship Andrew did not descend from Wantage John’s son Andrew.
- Solid circumstantial evidence rules out son Thomas.
That leaves William and John Jr.
- Son William is geographically undesirable but has a proved marriage and likely children. William could be Friendship Andrew’s father.
- Son John Jr. had a son John III the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John III is in the right place at the right time, but nothing else in the record argues either way as to his parentage.
Between William and John III, the latter is more likely the father of Friendship Andrew based on location, but we cannot prove it. Possibly down the road more facts will emerge. Until then we have two “last men standing,” and cannot conclusively prove either one.
 Dorchester County Deed Book 8 Old 404 – 4 Sep 1730, Deposition of Andrew Willis, aged about 40.
 Maryland Will Book 21:918 – 24 May 1733, Will of Andrew Willis submitted to probate 23 Aug 1738
 Birth year estimated.
 Dorchester County Deed Book 28 Old 356 – 22 Sep 1781, Andrew Willis of Dorchester County, planter, purchased for £60 current money 49½ acres from Benedick Meekins of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, being part of a tract called Addition to Adventure and part of a tract called Adventure
 Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, Cambridge, MD – Children of Andrew and Sarah Willis: Andrew 12 Feb 1768; Keziah 12 Oct 1770; George 3 Dec 1775.
 Dorchester County Deed Book 9 Old 214 – 15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judeth of Dorchester County, planter, for £6 current money sell to Richard Seward of Dorchester County 50 acres called Wantage near the head of Blackwater River adjoining Littleworth. Signed William (M) Willis, Judeth (+) Willis
 Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 658 – 3 Sep 1748 Judah [sic Judith] (+) Willis age 50 stated she had heard of the tracts Rosses Range and David Ropies but did not know the bounders; Wm (M) Willis age 52 stated he has known the place for 25 years but not the bounders.
 Dorchester County Deed Book 19 Old 343 – 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester County, Merchant., to Nicholas Maccubbin of Annapolis, Merchant for £285.14.6, three tracts totaling 291 acres on Hodsons Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives.
 Dorchester County Deed Book NH 5:259 – 4 Dec 1784, Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70, regarding the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Seward/Soward.
 Perogative Court of Maryland Inventories, 9:9 – Inventory of the Estate of Thomas Willis, 15 Oct 1722.
 Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Volume I and II, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, MD, 2016
 Ibid, Vol II, p 234, 1756, Book 20:159, Heirs of Thomas Willis, Sharp’s Prosperity, 50 acres.
 Ibid, Vol I and II, Rent entries, which include the years 1758, 1766, 1767, and 1770, show no property named Sharps Prosperity nor any payments on behalf of Thomas Willis.
 Testamentary Proceedings of the Perogative Court of Maryland, 26:77, on 28 Nov 1722 John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County exhibited bond of Grace Wallis administratrix of Thomas Wallis. Sureties William Bexley, William Woods, dated 29 Sep 1722. Also filed inventory of the estate.
 Dorchester County Deed Book 25 Old 26, 13 Nov 1770 -2 Aug 1771, Deposition of John Willis the Elder of Dorchester Co, aged about 67 years, mentions his father John Willis and a bounder of land called Painters Range on Hunting Creek Mill Pond.