Descendants of Ann Harris

Second Generation


2. John Wills (Ann ) was born on 18 Jan 1824 in Braithwell, Yorkshire. He died on 2 Jun 1860 in Sydney. He was buried in CoE cemetery, Camperdown.

John Wills (possibly Willis) was born in England in 1824. While various NSW birth and death certificates record John’s birthplace as London, it is believed he may have been born in Braithwell, Yorkshire. Following a search of UK records by Ann Bain (a descendent of Albert Charles Wills) the best fitting records for the family are of a John Willis marrying Ann Harris in 1820 at Newbury, Berkshire and the baptism of two sons John Willis and George Willis in 1823 and 1826, respectively at Braithwell, Yorkshire. It is possible that Ann’s name was recorded as Wills by the UK penal system and she accepted it as her name. All records of the family in Australia are under ‘Wills’.

John Wills came to Sydney in 1832, at age 8, with his mother who was transported on the “Burrell”. On arrival, John and his younger brother George, aged about 7, were placed in the Male Orphan School at Liverpool, Sydney as Ann Harris was given a domestic service placement with no provision for children. When Ann Harris was subsequently assigned as housekeeper to William Middleton at Bow Bow Creek in the Manning Valley on the mid-north coast of NSW, George was able to accompany his mother while John remained at the Orphan School.

John would seem to have been a good student as he became a School monitor, a role which provided him with a stipend of ₤4 per year. In 1836 at age 12, John was apprenticed to an ex-convict tailor John Stephen. In addition to allowing John to learn a trade, it also allowed him to live with the Stephen family in Erskine St, Sydney.
It appears that John was able to maintain contact with his biological family as he is recorded as a witness to the wedding in the Manning River district of his half-sister Annie in 1854 and was an equal beneficiary in the will of William Middleton with his full brother, George and half sister, Annie. Thus William Middleton would seem to have accepted John Wills as an integral part of his family.

In 1847 John married Elizabeth Porter in the Presbyterian St Andrews Scots Church, Sydney. He fathered 8 children, 6 boys and 2 girls, of whom only 4 sons survived to adulthood. John and Elizabeth only spent 13 years together as John died in 1860 aged 36. He died from influenza in his tailoring premises in George St which probably had a residential section in an upper floor. He was buried at the CoE Church cemetery, Camperdown..

John would seem to have been quite a successful tailor. He is listed in the 1858 1st edition of the Sands Directory, an annual commercial publication that listed property owners and businesses in Sydney, with a business address of 484 George St and a residence, Primrose Cottage at Woollahra (near today’s Oxford St). John also accumulated other property around Sydney although it is considered that Elizabeth Porter and possibly an inheritance from William Middleton, contributed to this success (discussed under these persons).

In 1851 John purchased land in the Riley Estate Woolloomooloo for ₤125 and in 1856 bought two 1 ha parcels of land in Nelson St (now Macpherson St), Waverley for ₤86 and ₤82. In 1857, John transferred the Riley Estate & Waverley land into a trust with Elizabeth the beneficiary. It is not clear whether this was established to protect the family from any business debts or whether John was then in ill health. A measure of their substantial financial position and community standing was John’s will which bequeathed Elizabeth with goods to the value of ₤1500, a large sum at that time and that in 1858 a renowned colonial artist and ex-convict forger, Joseph Backler, was commissioned to produce separate oil paintings of John and Elizabeth; (the paintings are currently held by Colin Wills, a great grandson of James Porter Wills, who had them restored).

John married 1 Elizabeth Porter daughter of Thomas Porter and Sarah Ward on 5 Apr 1847 in St Andrews Scots Church Sydney. Elizabeth was born on 7 Feb 1825 in Sydney. She died on 12 Aug 1908 in Waverley. She was buried in CoE section, Waverley Cemetery.

Elizabeth Porter was born in 1825 in Sydney. She was the 7th of 9 children born to Thomas Porter and Sarah (nee Ward) who were convicts transported separately to New South Wales in 1819 and 1818, respectively, for forgery offences (discussed under their names). Nothing is known of her early life apart from the family being allowed to freely exist in the community.

When John died in June 1860, Elizabeth must have had a harrowing time. Her youngest son George Edmund Joiner was only 5 weeks old, she had three other surviving young sons, William Henry aged 11, Albert Charles aged 9 and James Porter aged 7 and her only surviving daughter Amelia Cordelia, aged 2 years, died 2 months later.

Elizabeth was obviously left well enough endowed to continue owning Primrose Cottage in Woollahra as she became listed in the Sands Directory from 1863 in her own right. She seems to have sold the tailoring business as a new owner, Charles Brown, is listed as a tailor and draper at the premises in the 1861 Sands Directory.

Elizabeth takes up residence in 1867 at the Waverley landholding in Valley Cottage where she stays until her death in 1908. The land covering 2 ha had frontage to Nelson St and Leichhardt St meeting at the junction of Nelson Rd with the rear being Wills St.

The pioneering nature of the move to Waverley in 1867 is indicated by Elizabeth being the only resident listed in Nelson St (about 500 m long). Wills St was established in 1879 and the Sands Directory indicates that it ran from Albion St to Nelson St, and would seem to have serviced the Wills land holding. The street was named by Waverley Council after Elizabeth who was its only resident. However, in 1886 Wills St appears to have been re-routed to run to Leichhardt St, in which case it would have followed the southern border of the Wills land holding.

Even in 1900, when street numbers were common in Macpherson St, Elizabeth and son Albert lived in unnumbered residences with only 5 houses between #23 and #51, suggesting they were still living on a larger than normal land holding but Waverley Council had allowed street numbering for future sub-division. By 1888, Wills St has disappeared as a street as the Council did not want to pay for its grading and maintenance. The Wills family land holding seems to be still mostly intact in 1888 by the close grouping houses owned by Elizabeth, Albert (both listed in Macpherson St), James and George (both listed in Leichhardt St).

Elizabeth died in 1908 aged 83. The cause of death is given as heart failure and Bright’s disease and that her illness had been treated for 3 years. She is buried at the Church of England section of Waverley Cemetery in a plot between family members of her sons Albert Charles and George Edmund Joiner. A family plot of James Porter is in an adjoining row.

During her lifetime, Elizabeth appears to have been adept at managing her financial affairs. She sold various portions of the Waverley land holding in sub-divisions, and also acquired a property, 'Hillside', at Cecil St, Blackheath close ot land holdings by other members of the Porter family. In her will she meticulously distributes her assets to those who are seemingly in her favour. Two parcels, including her house at 27 Macpherson St, and land bordering an unnamed lane of the eastern side in a trust to her grandson George Horsely Wills on the death of her son and his father, Albert Charles. One parcel adjoining the unnamed lane was bequeathed to her granddaughter Annie Rose Wills (then Mrs Bennett) and one parcel in a trust for Sarah Jane Anderson, wife of her eldest son William Henry Wills on his death. In 1922, the lane was formally named as 'Wills Ave' and exists today. The 3 parcels of bequeathed land became #1, #3 and #5 Wills Ave. Her son James Porter Wills was the only son to be given a parcel in his own right - the remaining land bordering Macpherson St..

They had the following children:

  5 M i John Thomas Wills was born on 24 Apr 1848 in Surry Hills. He died on 10 Jan 1849.
+ 6 M ii William Henry Wills
+ 7 M iii Albert Charles Wills
  8 M iv John Wills was born on 6 Jan 1853. He died on 6 Feb 1853.
+ 9 M v James Porter Wills
  10 F vi Elizabeth Ann Jones Wills was born on 20 Apr 1856 in Paddington. She died on 1 Mar 1857 in Sydney.
  11 F vii Amelia Cordelia Wills was born on 9 Apr 1858 in Paddington. She died on 7 Aug 1860 in Waverley.
+ 12 M viii George Edmund Joiner Wills

3. George Wills (Ann ) was born in 1826 in England. He died on 2 Jul 1892 in Manning River.

George married Mary Ann Kneale daughter of Patrick Kneale and Anne Cannell on 4 Sep 1855 in Bungay, Manning River. Mary was born on 30 Sep 1835 in Lezayre, Sulby, Isle of Man. She died in 1892.

They had the following children:

+ 13 M i William Wills
+ 14 M ii George Wills
+ 15 F iii Caroline Wills
+ 16 F iv Matilda Wills
+ 17 M v John Henry Wills
+ 18 M vi James Wills
+ 19 F vii Amelia Wills
  20 F viii Female Wills was born in 1871 in Bow Bow Creek. She died in 1871 in Bow Bow Creek.
  21 M ix Albert Ronald Wills was born in 1873. He died in Bow Bow Creek.
+ 22 F x Edith Theresa Jane Wills
+ 23 F xi Agnes Anne Wills
+ 24 F xii Amy Muriel Olive May Wills

4. Annie Wills (Ann ) was born in 1836 in Bow Bow Creek. She died on 7 Feb 1902 in Parramatta.

Annie married John F Cripps on 22 Nov 1854 in Bow Bow Creek. John died in 1917 in Newtown.

They had the following children:

  25 F i Elizabeth W Cripps was born in 1855.
  26 F ii Esther A Cripps was born in 1858 in Balmain.
  27 M iii Thomas Cripps was born in 1860 in Goulburn.
  28 M iv John F Cripps was born in 1861 in Cooma.
  29 F v Annie M Cripps was born in 1863 in Cooma.
  30 M vi Charles W Cripps was born in 1866 in Sydney.
  31 F vii Grace S Cripps was born in 1868 in Sydney.

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