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annewillis11

The Willis family and census returns

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I was doing some census searches for someone else entirely and found the young Henry Willis I in Factory Row, Marylebone in 1841.  The senior organ builder was William Richardson, aged 45, and the other organ builders included Willis, James Miller, both aged 20 and Thomas Matthews aged 25. 

According to Boeringer Richardson was ‘a London and Lancashire organ builder established 1845’, but I have found that Boeringer is not always accurate with his dates.  Matthews and Miller are not mentioned in Boeringer but apparently there was a BIOS article in January 1979 about ‘Matthews (Thomas): of London: unknown organ-builder’.  Subsequent census searches for Richardson, Matthews and Miller have not been successful; too many people and not enough information.

I had always thought Henry Willis I was with Grey and Davison.  Frederick Davison was in Marylebone in 1841 , but I suspect this was his private address.  

Was Willis a journeyman with Richardson, or was Richardson an outpost of Gray and Davison?  And when did Henry Willis I set up on his own account?

The 1891 census is a  lesson not to have total trust in census returns.  In 1891 Vincent Willis is listed with the HWI family in London and described as 'single'.   1901 sees the Vincent Willis family in London with five children, the eldest, Esther then aged 12.  Also in the household was his brother in law James Arthur who is described as an 'organ maker'.  Did Arthur work with Vincent in Liverpool?  I can only assume that there was a slip by the enumerator in 1891 as Vincent had married Hannah Arthur in West Derby  in 1887 and had had at least two children by 1891 .

 

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Yes, the information in census returns is not always reliable and needs to be cross-checked where possible. Some errors may have occurred in transcription by officials - it's not until the 1911 returns that we see householders' own handwriting. I have regularly found ages to be inexact and one sometimes gets the impression that people were unsure how old they were. In the 1841 census ages were rounded up or down to the nearest five years anyway. The census returns are nevertheless an invaluable first port of call when tracing one's ancestors.

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1 hour ago, annewillis11 said:

I was doing some census searches for someone else entirely and found the young Henry Willis I in Factory Row, Marylebone in 1841.  The senior organ builder was William Richardson, aged 45, and the other organ builders included Willis, James Miller, both aged 20 and Thomas Matthews aged 25. 

According to Boeringer Richardson was ‘a London and Lancashire organ builder established 1845’, but I have found that Boeringer is not always accurate with his dates.  Matthews and Miller are not mentioned in Boeringer but apparently there was a BIOS article in January 1979 about ‘Matthews (Thomas): of London: unknown organ-builder’.  Subsequent census searches for Richardson, Matthews and Miller have not been successful; too many people and not enough information.

I had always thought Henry Willis I was with Grey and Davison.  Frederick Davison was in Marylebone in 1841 , but I suspect this was his private address.  

Was Willis a journeyman with Richardson, or was Richardson an outpost of Gray and Davison?  And when did Henry Willis I set up on his own account?

The 1891 census is a  lesson not to have total trust in census returns.  In 1891 Vincent Willis is listed with the HWI family in London and described as 'single'.   1901 sees the Vincent Willis family in London with five children, the eldest, Esther then aged 12.  Also in the household was his brother in law James Arthur who is described as an 'organ maker'.  Did Arthur work with Vincent in Liverpool?  I can only assume that there was a slip by the enumerator in 1891 as Vincent had married Hannah Arthur in West Derby  in 1887 and had had at least two children by 1891 .

 

In fact, you have misread the return. The address given is Fitzroy Row, adjacent to Gray & Davison's in Quickset Row, where the young Henry Willis lodged with Henry Miller and his family; their son James was an apprentice with G&D. Also lodging there was Thomas Mathews (possibly Matthews), an organ builder, I think with G&D. Richardson lived at a different address in Fitzroy Row.

Henry Willis & Sons Ltd declare that they were established in 1845, by which I think they mean when the Willis 'shop opened at 2 1/2 Foundling Terrace. From 1841 or thereabouts until his return to London, Willis was in and about Cheltenham working for or perhaps with Wardle Evans, described in 1841 as a Teacher of Music. If anyone has the slightest knowledge of Willis' movements between 1841 and 1845, I shall be very glad to hear of it.

Vincent Willis was another matter altogether. I have no doubt he told the enumerator in 1891 was he was single. He was that night at least at 9 Rochester Terrace, but his family where elsewhere. At least he described himself on that occasion as an organ builder. On the birth certs. of most of his children he is described as an electrician. After he left the Willis partnership in 1894, he eventually set up on his own in a small way as an organ builder and inventor in Brentford, employing from time to time his brother in law, James Arthur who lived with Vincent's family in Ealing.

After Vincent was replaced in Liverpool by his younger brother Henry in 1882 and before his marriage in 1887, he was probably in London, but thereafter he seems to have been centred on Rhyl and Liverpool, but doing what?

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Thanks for this

 

I see that Henry Willis was variable about his birth place in the census returns.    In 1851 it is given as St Luke Middlesex (the same as his wife); in 1871 Middlesex; in 1881 Christ Church Middlesex (Hoxton or Spitalfields?) and in 1891 Spitalfields.  in 1861 he was absent on the night of the census.

According to Thistlethwaite his father sang in the choir at the Surrey Chapel, Blackfriars, so did the family live south of the river at some point?  Or was the music at the Surrey Chapel worth a long walk?

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