Scope and arrangement
The George Ingraham Willis Papers contain correspondence, research notes and original documents he collected in the course of his genealogical research on the Willis, Crowell, Ingraham, Pownall and related families. The research notes include photocopies, news clippings, maps, photographs, wills, postcards and pedigree charts. The collection and the original documents contain estate appraisals, business records, photographs, deeds, wills, and vital records certificates.
The bulk of his research pertained to investigating his ancestor Henry Willis (1628-1714), a carpenter from Warminster, England, who was one of the first English Quakers to settle in Long Island. Henry Willis, who was imprisoned in Salisbury in 1660 for keeping company with other Quakers and attending meetings, emigrated to America sometime between 1670 and 1673, perhaps inspired by the Quaker founder George Fox's visits to the American colonies during those years. Henry Willis subsequently settled in Westbury, Long Island. George made three trips to England between 1982 and 1986, where he and his wife met with a local genealogist to review parish registers, and attended meetings of the Society of Genealogists in London.
Willis regularly noted the repository and dates on his notes and kept carbon copies of the majority of his correspondence. Thus, his papers demonstrate the range of resources that he utilized in his research. His correspondence with other genealogists demonstrates that he was an avid reader of regional genealogical publications, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society's Register and the Connecticut Nutmegger, issued by the Connecticut Society of Genealogists. His class notes from a February 1982 class called "Researching Family History Class" and the advanced "Advanced Family History" class in October of the same year at the University of Connecticut. Those same notebooks also contain notes from his trips to England.
The collection also contains correspondence, clippings and a small number of photographs documenting the families of women who married into the Willis line, such as the Ingraham family, George's maternal grandparents, and his wife's family, the Pownalls.
He also actively sought out original documents in his research, and the collection holds extensive original documents, including wills, deeds, and correspondence, particularly of the Willis, Ingraham and Davenport families. Many of the documents contain Willis' extensive annotations and summaries.
The George Ingraham Willis genealogical research papers are arranged in three series:
- 1851-1852, 1921-1981
Present are letters Willis received while a student at the Lenox School in Massachusetts from his uncle Frederick, his mother Mary and his father William. Miscellaneous letters include a letter of condolence upon his father's death in 1930 from Floyd W. Mundy, a friend of his father's, a 1941 note from Arthur F. Van Dewater, the family attorney, regarding the legacies George would receive from his grandmother Clara Ingraham's estate, and a 1981 letter from his sister Jane with a response to the biographical sketch George prepared on their father: "I have read and re-read your paper on Daddy--It is so perfect. . . ." The biographical sketch to which she is presumably referring can be found in box 2, folder 9.
This series contains George Willis' correspondence with other genealogists and researchers regarding the English ancestry of Henry Willis. Additional correspondence of this nature can also be found in the research files in Series III.
One of Willis' correspondents, Eileen Tennent was the resident genealogist of the Bowne House Historical Society at Bowne Street and 37th Avenue in Flushing. John Bowne (1627-1695) was an English Quaker, known for his uncompromising stance on religious liberty and as a conscientious objector during the Revolutionary War. He was a contemporary of Henry Willis, and photocopies of the Friends records in the Henry Willis folders mention that in 1674, both men were each fined 10 pounds by Governor Andros, then governor of the "Province of New York and the Jerseys," for conducting Quaker marriage ceremonies for their daughters in their homes.
This series consists of materials acquired and generated by George Willis in the course of his genealogical research. Included are his correspondence, research notes, copies of sources and documents, and family papers he collected.
As the majority of the research relates to Henry Willis and the Willis line, those folders are listed first, and are arranged alphabetically by first name. As this line includes several individuals named William Willis, birth and death dates are included in parentheses next to those names in the folder titles. All other folders are arranged alphabetically by family name. Many of the folders contain a range of materials that are not confined to a strict chronological or topical order, so the inclusive dates should be considered estimates.