52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors #19 Thomas Arthur Willis

This week, I am continuing to work my way systematically through my ancestors, and my ex-husband’s.  Last week I wrote about my maternal grandmother, Edith Meriden Docwra, so this week I am writing about my ex-husband’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Arthur Willis. I usually post these on a Monday, but I am late this week.

Thomas Arthur Willis was born 24 January 1900 at Sydney Flat.  He was the eldest child of Thomas Matthew Willis and Elizabeth Hansen[1]. At the time of his birth, Victoria was still a British Colony, but he was less than a year old when Victoria became a state in the Commonwealth of Australia.  Sydney Flat was renamed Woodvale by 1914[2].

Tom grew up on his father’s farm at Sydney Flat/Woodvale, until around the 1920s[3] when he went to work on his uncle George Willis’s farm at Mystic Park[4].  He later bought the farm.

It was while living at Mystic Park that Tom met Dorothea Isabella Sinclair Smith.  Dorothea had left her parents’ home at Winlaton (near Swan Hill), to go to work in the “Heller’s milk bar in Kerang[5].

Thomas and Dorothea were married on 3 June 1929 at the Eaglehawk East Methodist Church[6], and they had one child, Murray.

Thomas and Dorothea lived on their farm at Mystic Park, until 1955, when their son married. They retired and went to live at 33 Andrew Street Kerang.

Tom died 27 May 1957 at the Kerang and District Hospital[7].  The following is from a “book” that Murray’s wife, my mother-in-law dictated to me in 1997:

Later on 21st May 1957 I stayed in Kerang the night before to go to  the doctor as I was staying at Murray’s parents’ home in 33 Andrew Street Kerang.   Dot was getting breakfast and Tom and I were eating porridge.  Tom, Murray’s father, dropped his spoon.  He lent down to pick it up and fell to the floor.  He had a stroke and was paralysed down one side.  He couldn’t speak or see and he died in hospital a week later on 27th May 1957.

His funeral was held at the Methodist Church in Kerang on Tuesday 28th May 1957, and he was buried at the Kerang Cemetery[7]

Sources of information

[1]Thomas Arthur Willis, birth certificate no. 2805 (1900), Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

[2]Ancestry.com Operations Inc., “Australia, City Directories, 1845-1948,” database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com.au : accessed 6 Jul 2017); Sands & McDougall Victoria Directory 1914, page 1286, locality Woodvale, Thomas Willis, farmer.

[3] Ancestry.com Operations Inc., “Australia, City Directories, 1845-1948,” database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com.au : accessed 28 Jun 2017); Sands & McDougall Victorian Directory 1923, page 1252, Locality Mystic Park, Thomas A. Willis, farmer.

[4]“Willis Family History,” compiled by Trevor Bennett; supplied by Bennett, 11 Apr 1991; copy held by Lois Willis

[5]“Descendants of James Smith and Dora Mansfield”. Compiled by Jennie Bradley, ca.1979. Details transcribed by Lois Willis in 1991 from copy of family tree lent to Lois by Ralph Smith..

[6] Victoria, Australia Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, marriage certificate 6159 (1929), Willis-Smith; Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Melbourne.

[7]“Mr. T. A. Willis,” (Kerang) Kerang New Times, 31 May 1957; Clipping held by Lois Willis; no date and name of newspaper was on the clipping.  These were found by searching the newspapers on microfilm at the State Library of Victoria.

Background of featured image is a photo from Unsplash – https://unsplash.com/photos/O0R5XZfKUGQ Photo by Casey Horner