Willits Families of Mercer County, Illinois

Willits Families

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Isaac & Elizabeth Willits
Isaiah & Susannah Boone Willits
James Willits
Levi Willits
Reuben Willits
William Willits
Orphan Willits Families

Alternate Spellings - Willitts, Willets, Willetts, Willet, Willit, Willert, et al (A word of caution here: there were two different sets of families in Mercer County: WILLITS & WILLET. They were not connected but the names are often used interchangeably and erroneously)

Links - Beard, Drury, Honeyman, Wolfe. To contact web master Nadine Holder, see About Us.

Contacts - We have worked with several people on these families:
Ken Willits - Milton Willits family
Joseph L. Noell - Edward & Ruth Willits Thornton family
Albert Willett - Willits & Willett families
Karen Gray - Reuben Willits family
Larry Moline - Robert Willits family
Jo Wise - Robert Willits family
Susan Henderson - Boone family
Bartley Casteel - William & Jane Burns Drury Willits family
Charlotte Richardson - San Diego, California Willits Families
Kathryn Willits - "Ancestors of Frank Herbert Davol and his Wife Phebe Downing Willits" by Josephine C. Frost and connections to the San Diego, California Willits families
Richard Willits - 12/2009 would like to get in touch with people researching the Willits families - he has information on the east coast families up through the 19th century to share. Use the About Us link above to contact Nadine Holder to forward your email to Richard.
6/2011 We have heard from Melisa Peterie who has information on sister's Rachel, Clarinda and Minerva, daughters of Robert and Sarah Beard-Willits. Use the About Us link to contact Nadine Holder to put you in touch with Melisa.

As nearly as we can determine there is no one currently actively working on Willits genealogy as a whole, with the possible exception of Ken Willits and Albert Willett. Ken Willits is a descendant of Milton Lacey Willits. Albert Willett has published two books on the Willett family. The first one The Willett Families of North America contains some 200 pages on Willits families. It is out of print, but Albert "Jim" Willett is furnishing his data to us most generously. There are also some published Willits genealogies: Ancestors and Descendants of James and Ann Willits, Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, Alfred C. Willits, 1898; Genealogies of Berks County, Pennsylvania, John Eshelman, 1930 (we have found this book consistently agrees with Quaker records); The Willits Family - Descendants of Richard Willets of Long Island, Ted Lawrence Bartlett, 1982 (Ken Willits and Albert Willett have a copy as does the Mercer County Historical Association). (Comments from various Willits researchers indicate that Bartlett's book seems well researched - we have recognized his use and correction of the History of Mercer County 1882 and the History of Wayne County, Indiana, 1878.) Some of the Willits Quaker records are contained in Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy and in Heiss's Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana.

Richard & Mary Washburn Willits

The Ancestors and Descendants of James and Ann Willits… is available from the Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It only takes the family into early Pennsylvania, then mainly concentrates on James and Ann who went to New Jersey. It does contain a paragraph of interest to us: "Richard Willits, the immigrant and founder of the Willits family in America resided in the year 1657 in the town of Hempstead on Long Island, New York. Father-in-law William Washburne was one of the first proprietors of Hempstead. Richard married Mary Washburn (born approximately 1629), daughter of William and Jane, prior to 1650. Richard died 1664, likely was never a Quaker. In fact in 1658 and 1659 connected with the court that enforced the laws enacted to suppress the spread of Quakerism. Widow removed to Jericho - became a Friend and minister and raised her children in that faith. Mary died 11-17-1713."

Some of this information is born out in the records of Westbury Monthly Meeting in New York (page 470, Vol. III, Hinshaw). Under the heading "Willets:" "Richard (Willits), Immigrant ancestor, Jericho, died 1667; m Mary Washborn, dt William & Jane b 1629 d 12 Mo (Feb) 17, 1713/14 age near 85 yr. This Meeting also contains the records of the children of Richard and Mary Washborn Willits: Hope b 7 Mo (Sept) 1652, m Mercy Langdon; John b 5 Mo (July) 1655; Thomas b 3 Mo (May) 1660, married Dinah Townsend; Richard b 12 Mo (Feb) 1660/61, m (1) Abigail Bowne, (2) Abigail Powell; Mary b 2 Mo (Apr) 1663, m John Fry. It also bears out that Mary Washborn Willits was heavily involved with the Quakers as it mentions that meeting was held at her house from 1697-1709, and that she signed someone's removal certificate in 1707. She probably was not a minister as Quaker ministers traveled and did not preside over meetings. She was more likely Elder of the Meeting.

Thomas and Dinah Townsend Willits is the family of interest to us as they were the progenitors of the Mercer County families. Hope Willits was the progenitor of the families documented in The Ancestors of James and Ann Willits… Because of the early arrival of Richard Willits in America there are now a great many descendants. In the 1790 Census there were 72 heads of families, containing 378 individuals, with the surname of Willet, Willert, Willets, Willett, Willetts, Willirt, Willist, Willit, Willits, Willitts, Willt. They are predominantly located in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Thomas & Dinah Townsend Willits

The Quaker records of Westbury Monthly Meeting in New York do not document the marriage of Thomas and Dinah Townsend; only giving her name as married to Thomas in the list of children of Richard & Mary Washborn Willits. The births of their children are also not recorded. The marriages of several of their children are recorded there, so we can piece together some of their family. More children are listed in the Ancestral File of the LDS Library, but we have not included them as we do not know what proof there is for them. Although only son Thomas is of interest to us in Mercer County, we are including other sons here for other Willits researchers and to also give a flavor of the number of Willits families that existed of this line.

Richard Willits, son of Thomas & Dinah of Islip (Long Island, New York) married 7m 16d 1706 Deborah Underhill, dt John & Mary, and widow of Robert Coles Jr. Richard married second about 7m 1740 to Margaret Powell, widow of John, and daughter of John & Abigail Hallock. Richard died in 1753 leaving five sons and three daughters.

Amos Willits, blacksmith, son of Thomas & Dinah, married first in 1713 to Mary Hallock, daughter John & Abigail Swezey Hallock, and they had Ruth, Samuel and Mary. In 1719 he married second Rebecca Whitson and had Jacob, Amos, Joseph, Hanahy, Martha, Thomas, Catharine, Sarah and Jemima, order not known.

Isaac Willits, son of Thomas & Dinah, married in 1716 to Clemence Hallock, daughter John & Abigail. Isaac, Clemence, and two of their children all died in 1736, probably in some epedemic. Three other children, including one son, apparently survived.

Thomas Willits, of interest to us, was born 3/16/1683 in Hempstead, Long Island, New York. He married first Katharine Hallock on 10/24/1706 at John Hallock's home in Westbury, Long Island, New York. She was daughter of John and Abigail Swezey Hallock and sister to the three Hallock women who married Thomas's three brothers. Thomas & Katharine had three children, documented in Genealogies of Berks County, Pennsylvania. They were Clement Willits born 1709, died 1772 in New York; Hannah Willits, born 1711, married Thomas Seaman at Westbury MM, and died 1775 in New York; Jesse Willits, born 1714 and died 1782 in Pennsylvania. We feel this Jesse Willits may have been where the name "Jesse" originated that is carried down in the Willits family, as he was half-brother to Isaac Willits, who named a son Jesse.

Thomas and Rachel Powell Willits

Thomas Willits, son of Thomas and Dinah, married second to Rachel Powell, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Powell, in 1719/20 at North Wales, Pennsylvania according to the records of Westbury Monthly Meeting in New York. Thomas & Rachel apparently continued to live in New York until about 6/25/1736 when Rachel received a certificate to Pennsylvania. Thomas received a belated certificate 2/26/1737, having already removed to Pennsylvania from New York. Eshelman locates them at Catawissa Monthly Meeting in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the currently available Catawissa Monthly Meeting Records begin in 1798, too late to be of much use in our families. We have found Eshelman to be extremely accurate in his recording of dates from Quaker meetings, and he apparently had access to some meetings minutes that are not now available to the public, so we are willing to accept his data.

Thomas and Rachel Powell Willits had at least four daughters and three sons. We have found the daughters' records in Exeter Monthly Meeting in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Eshelman refers to the records as Maiden Creek Monthly Meeting. We found out that meetings were held alternately at Exeter and Maiden Creek so his data may be more accurate. He seems to have had access to original records while most that are available to us at the LDS Library are transcripts that people have made at various times. The daughters of Thomas and Rachel were Amy Willits, born 1721, married William Hughes, son of Ellis and Jane Foulke Hughes on 4/1/1738. Elizabeth Willits, married Samuel Hughes, another son of Ellis & Jane Hughes, on 4/10/1747. Rachel Willits, married John Webb 3/10/1747. Jemima Willits, married John Green in 1751 and died in Iredell County, North Carolina in 1808. We include the daughters here as the married surnames may be useful in tracing other records.

John Willits died 3/1769 in Brunswick Township, Berks County. We do not find a marriage record for him but a will was written on 2/25/1765 which should contain information about wife, and children, if any.

The two sons of most interest to us are Isaac and Isaiah Willits who were the two progenitors of Mercer County Willits families (more below).

Curiously we find more records on this family on Ancestry.Com in a database called "Marriage and Bible Records - Tennessee." Information about Pennsylvania land grants is included in Tennessee records for a Kercher family. They are quoted below.

"Surveyed by virtue of warrant granted in 1752 to a certain Burgoon Bird, who by deed Sept 14, 1754, granted to Peter Conrad in fee, who by deed thereon, endorsed May 22, 1762, granted to John, Isaiah and Isaac Willits and Ellis Hughes [parent of husbands of two of the Willits sisters], by deed, 28th day of 8th month, 1764, did release their right unto Isaiah Willits, who by indenture, August 29, 1765 granted 400 acres thereof unto Godfrey Kercher...and the overplus 100 acres, by indenture, March 25, 1768, unto James McNail..."

"One other of them adjoining the said last mentioned tract and land of James Boone on Mahoning Creek containing 125 acres, surveyed or intended to be surveyed by warrant dated June 1, 1751, unto Francis Parvin, who by indenture, 3rd day, 9th month, 1762, granted to John, Isaiah and Isaac Willits and Ellis Hughes who by deed, 28th day, 8th month, 1765, Isaiah and Isaac Willits and Ellis Hughes released same to John Willits, who, dying, seized thereof and also of other 50 acres, next herein mentioned, granted by will Feb. 25t, 1765, directed executors to sell land. Ellis Hughes and Isaac Willits by deed, April 13, 1771, granted to Godfrey Kercher."

Another Kercher deed mentions the sale to James Boone above and says it is about three miles from Schuylkill River. Another deed in 1779 lists Godfrey Kercher's land as lying in Brunswig Township, Berke County, at the "mouth of Mahoning Creek, bounded, south, River Schuylkill, west, land surveyed for George Boone, north, James Boone's land..." . We will try to locate a map as we should be able to locate the land. From the records above we know that the Willits families were in Berks County at least as late as 1771.

Susannah Boone Willits

The George and James Boone mentioned in the deeds above were uncles of Susannah Boone who married Isaiah Willits, son of Thomas and Rachel Powell Willits, and progenitor of some of the Mercer County families. We are indebted to Susan Henderson of Winnetka, Illinois, for information on the Boone family. George and Mary Maugridge Boone immigrated from England to America and died in Berks County, Pennsylvania; George on 7 Aug 1744 and Mary on 2 February 1740. They had nine children including the George and James Boone mentioned in the deeds above. George Boone was their oldest child who married Deborah Howell 27 July 1713. George was a mathematician and Deborah was a Quaker minister. They donated an acre of land in 1736 to the Society of Friends for a meeting-house and burying place which became the Oley Meeting. George's will was dated 18 November 1753 and was witnessed by son-in-law John Hughes, and by Edward Drury. (We have not pursued whether this Edward Drury is the same one who went to Ohio and was a progenitor of Mercer County Drurys, but it is a thought.) George Hughes was a son of John & Hannah Boone Hughes. They had a daughter Rachel Hughes who married Isaiah Willets, son of Isaac Willets, and grandson of Thomas and Rachel Powell Willets (more on this later).

George and Mary Maugridge Boone's third child was Squire Boone, Sr., ancestor of Daniel Boone of Kentucky fame.

George and Mary Maugridge Boone's ninth child was Samuel Boone, born 7 July 1711 Bradninch, England. On 29 October 1734 at Philadelphia Monthly Meeting he married Elizabeth Cassell, daughter of Arnold and Susannah Cassell. Samuel Boone died on 6 August 1745 but had at least two known children. Samuel Boone, Jr. was a gunsmith and Squire Boone, Jr. was apprenticed to him. Squire Boone, Jr. brought his uncle to Kentucky after he was ruined supplying guns to the Continental Army. Samuel Boone and Elizabeth Cassell had a daughter Susannah, no doubt named for her grandmother, Susannah Cassell. She was born 17 March 1738 and married Isaiah Willets, son of Thomas and Rachel Powell Willets, on 10/23/1755 in Berks County (per Eshelman, from family records).

Isaac and Isaiah Willits, sons of Thomas & Rachel Willits

We will continue with separate pages for these two sons as the families are large and complex.

Isaac Willits was born about 1730 in Islip, New York and died 10/1784 in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Wilson about 1761 in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately we have not found a record of this marriage nor did Eshelman. We have used the surname for Elizabeth given in the Ancestral File with some trepidation. It may not be correct. Our list of children includes Thomas, Margaret, Samuel, Isaiah, Jesse, Ruth, Isaac, Rachel, Levi, and Amos. We will explain sources further on the ISAAC & ELIZABETH WILLITS PAGE.

Isaiah Willits was born 12/19/1732 per Eshelman, and died 1793 in Pennsylvania. He married Susannah Boone 10/23/1755 in Berks County per Eshelman. The list of children we have is: Rachel, Martha, Jemima, Hannah, Deborah, Samuel, Thomas, Isaac, Elizabeth, James, Unknown Daughter, and Isaiah. We will explain sources further on the ISAIAH & SUSANNAH BOONE WILLITS PAGE.

Other Willits Families

We have information on some Willits families that we have not yet been able to place properly. They are listed on a separate page that we have title “Orphan Willits Families.” We would be eternally grateful, as would other searchers if you could help us properly place them (with documentation!) So far we have had help in placing three of the families.

Willits Families of San Diego, California

Some time ago we got a request from Charlotte Richardson who was researching the San Diego Willits families for her son: Daniel Lewis Willits. She told us Daniel's grandfather was Frank Lewis Willits born 3 November 1928 and died 10 October 1967 in San Diego, California. His birthplace was California and his mother's maiden name was Engelman. His father was Frank D. Willits, born 1 October 1899 in Kansas and died 9 Oct 1967 in San Diego, California. His mother's maiden name was Johnson. We had posted her query on the Orphan Willits page.

In April 2005 we heard from Kathryn Willits who has much information on this family including a copy of "Ancestors of Frank Herbert Davol and his wife Phebe Downing Willits" compiled for their son Frank Herbert Davol, Jr., by Josephine C. Frost and published by Frederick H. Hitchcock, New York, MCMXXV. Kathryn told us that Frank Louis Willits was also her grandfather and that he was son of Frank Davol Willits. Frank Davol Willits was named for Frank Herbert Davol who married Phebe Downing Willits. According to the Davol Genealogy (page 16) Frank Willits was son of Louis Wood Willits, born Brooklyn, N. Y. Sept 30, 1858 and married Jan 14, 1896 to Clara Johnson Wiggin of Topeka, Kansas, and Louis Wood Willits was brother of Phebe Downing Willits. We found Louis W. Willits in 7th Ward, San Diego, California, in 1910: Louis W. Willits, 50, 1st marriage, Check Clerk for Commercial Company, Spreckels Brothers, born NY, parents born NY; Clara J. Willits, wife, 49, second marriage, married 14 years, three children born, 3 living, born Indiana, father born New York, mother born Indiana, sales lady in department store; Winthrop J. Willits, 13, born NY, father NY, mother In; Frank D. Willits, 10, born Ks, father NY, mother In; Charles D. Willits, 4, born Mo, father New York, mother Indiana. As a matter of interest Louis W. Willits was tax assessor for the City of San Diego in the 1930 census. In 1930 son Frank D. Willits was living on a county road in Alpine, El Cajon Township, San Diego County, California: Frank D. Willetts, 28, married age 22, born Ks, parents born NY, farmer; Harriett, 29, married age 21, born Nebraska, parents born Germany; Richard E. Willetts, 5 5/12 born California, Frank L., 1 5/12, born California, verifying the 1928 birthdate given by Charlotte.

We decided to find out if these Willits families were related to the Mercer County Willits families and found they were indeed as follows: Charles Downing Willits was parent of Phebe Downing and Louis Wood Willits (Louis named for Charles's wife Sarah Maria Wood.) Charles Downing Willits was son of Obadiah Willits of Jericho, Long Island, New York, and his second wife Phebe Downing. Obadiah was son of Richard and Abigail Seaman Willits of New York. Richard was son of Richard and Ruth (Willits) Willits, of Long Island, New York. This gives them a double connection to the Willits families of Mercer County. Richard Willits was son of Jacob and Mary (Jackson) Willits of Long Island, New York, and his wife Ruth Willits, was daughter of Amos and Mary Hallock Willits. Jacob Willits was son of Richard and second wife Abigail Powell Willits of Long Island, New York. Amos Willits was son of Thomas and Dinah Townsend Willits of Long Island. Richard Willits, father of Jacob was brother of Thomas Willits, grandfather of Ruth, and they were both sons of Richard and Mary Washburne Willits of Long Island, New York. The Mercer County Willits families descend from Richard and Mary Washburne Willits of Long Island, New York, via their son Thomas and Dinah Townsend Willits. Then Thomas and Dinah's son Thomas married Rachel Powell, and their sons Isaiah and Isaac Willits were of the Mercer branch. We have a suspicion that Abigail Powell Willits and Rachel Powell Willits may have been related as well but have no proof as yet. The Davol-Willits Genealogy is also online at Ancestry.com and we had use of it there.