Saturday, February 9, 2013

Surname Saturday - Adams and Willis

I haven't done a lot of research on these families yet, so this post is to document what I have so far. My great-great-grandmother Ruth Edna Adams was born in May 1840 in Delaware and married William Martin Willis in 1859. William was born in Maryland in January 1828 and was the son of Senah B. Willis and Elizabeth Todd. I have seen quite a bit of research on the Todds, but not as much on the Willis or Adams families. Ruth's middle name caught my eye since my Willis grandmother was named Edna.

A marriage bond for William and Ruth is signed by William M. Willis and William I. Adams, so William I. Adams may be Ruth's father.

In the 1850 census, there is a Ruth E. Adams born about 1836 living with another family in Milford or Mispillion Hundred, Kent, Delaware, but I don't know if this is my Ruth.

In the 1860 census, the Willis family is in Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware and there is a Mary Adams, age 55 living with Ruth and William. I've wondered if Mary was Ruth's mother, but haven't been able to find any proof so far.

1860 Dover Hundred, Delaware census

In the 1870 census, the family is living in Mispillion Hundred, Kent, Delaware, the same place as the Ruth E. Adams in the 1850 census.

There are several children: James, Esther, Henry, Georganna, and Francis. Mary Adams and Sarah Adams are living with them. Georganna was a colorful character that I've posted about before.

In the 1880 census, they are still in Mispillion Hundred, Kent, Delaware and my great-grandfather Eugene Willis is 1 year old. Other children are James, Henry, Georganna, Frank, William, John, and Thomas. John's middle name is Van Berkalow which I would think is another surname in the family, but I haven't found any connections so far.

By 1900, the family had moved to Centerville, Queen Anne's County, Maryland.

From another researcher's note, Ruth and William are buried in the Chesterfield Cemetery, Centerville, MD.

I was curious about what the "hundred" meant in the place names in Delaware. From Wikipedia, "Hundreds are unincorporated subdivisions of counties, equivalent to townships, and were once used as a basis for representation in the Delaware General Assembly. While their names still appear on all real estate transactions, they currently have no meaningful use or purpose except as a geographical point of reference. The divisions, or "hundreds" as they are called, comes from the times when Delaware and Maryland were colonial holdings of Great Britain. While Delaware alone retains the use of "hundreds", the origin of most place names in both states can be traced back to the times of British rule."

Here are a few items for my "to do" lists on these families:
  • See if I can find any info on Ruth and William after 1900.
  • Look into the Van Berkalow surname
  • Look for info on Ruth's parents
  • Review research done on the Todd family
I would love to hear from anyone else researching these families!


  1. I am just beginning to reserach the Willis family lineage - I am a Willis and we have Adams relatives, as well. Several of my family members have researched the Willis/Adams families. I would love to share/learn more. - Ashley (Willis) Ellis, Fort Smith, AR.

    1. Ashley, I'd be glad to exchange information. You can find an email for me under my Profile on the bottom right of this page. Click on the View Complete Profile to see it. I am just beginning on the Willis/Adam families too, so maybe we have some of the same lines. Hope to hear from you soon!

  2. I am a descendant of Mary Elizabeth Willis and William James Adams. The Willis/Adams connection was quite strong here because Mary’s two brothers married William’s two sisters. William Martin Willis married Ruth Edna Adams and Caleb Todd Willis married Rebecca F. Adams. Back in the 1970s I found the headstone for Mary Elizabeth Adams under a bed of ivy in the King’s Creek Cemetery. On a recent trip back to that cemetery I discovered that the entire cemetry has been destroyed by nature. How sad! Now I wish I had removed that headston when I had a chance.

    Carolyn Adams Patterson

  3. I happened upon your post. You noted descending from Eugene. I descend from John Van Burkelow Willis. The only note I had on Eugene was he might have moved to Landsdale,PA Mary's husband was either Fisher or Henry Fisher Adams and she might have been a Ross. I'd appreciate any additional info you might be willing to share.

    1. Bill, I'd be glad to share what I have. It is thought that Mary's husband was Henry Fisher Adams and that she might have been a Ross, but I don't have much proof on that. See the post right above yours for a little more info on the Adams/Willis connections.

      I've posted an obituary for Eugene here:

      Eugene's wife was Pearl Chilcutt. They divorced and she married Raymond Henry.

      Do you know where the Van Burkelow name came from? I figured that had to be a family name, but I haven't found it used anywhere else. Would love to hear more from you! You can contact me through the form on the right-hand side of this page. --Kathryn

  4. I happened back to your page again in a search for john van burkelow's son wm martin. I have a fair amount information on the family. As for the name I say. However there was a minister van burkelow in Delaware back in the day. Please contact me directly for any questions.

    1. Thanks! I can't contact you through your comment since your profile seems to be private. You can email me through the form on the right hand side of the blog where it says "Contact Me". Any info you put in there is not published or viewable by anyone else.

  5. Your Willis ancestors are a part of a group of Willis known as THE MARYLAND GROUP in the Willis Y-DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. I am a member of this group. There currently are 14 men who have tested into the group. Two of us are very serious Willis Family researchers. We have split our efforts. My focus is on using DNA analyses to find all the various branches of our Willis tree. My efforts are documented in a Master DNA Chart of our group. It is located at the link below:

    In addition, there are a number of research papers that have been published about the first couple generation of our Willis family. Here is a blog post with links to these papers:

    Finally, here is an overview of the various key branches of our Willis family:

    Hope this helps.

    J Willis
    Raleigh, NC

    1. Thanks! We've been in touch via Ancestry's messaging about DNA matches. I'll send you some more info there. Good to get this info on the blog though and I will try and get a post up on it in the near future.