William James Willis

William James Willis & Florence, Korea, 1936

My Maternal Grandfather, William was born in Exeter, Devon on 17 April 1889, and died in San Diego, California on 12 March 1986

We know that they travelled to Korea in 1920 - there are pictures from there at this page.

I have found the Ellis Island Immigration Arrival document, dated April 22nd 1920. This is the date they landed in New York. They were travelling on the "Mauritania", the fastest ship of the time.

Mauritania Mauritania

They were on their way to visit the Rev. G T Cowman in Los Angeles, en-route to Korea, and their passage was paid by the Oriental Misionary Society. Here is a copy:

mauritania passenger list, page 1

Ellis Island Immigration Record

What makes this interesting reading for me is the ages given. According to their birth cerificates, William, on 22 April 1920 was 31 years and 5 days old, born Exeter. He gives 30 years and 1 month old, born Exeter. Florence was 26 years and 3 months old, born Mansfield. She gives 26 years and 3 months old, born Mansfield. And - this is the odd one - John was just 9 months old, born Nottingham. He is given as 1 years and 6 months old, born Manchester. Now, William & Florence's ages are right - but how do you explain a 9 month old baby as looking like an 18 month old toddler? I would have though an Immigration Officer would know the difference.. They stated on the document that their "last place of residence" was Manchester. In that case, he whould have been born in October 1918 - and they were MARRIED on 16 October 1918 in Nottingham. John's birth date has been given my by Nancy Willis, his wife (25 July 1919, Greasley, Nottingham). Perhaps a look at the actual certificate will show more details (Informant, place of residence, etc). I have confirmed that he was registered as being born as Nancy stated, so was officially 9 months old - click here to see a copy). It seems their whole life together was based on fabrication, such as Florence's story and his time in the USA after 1945. Perhaps this was just the start? The other possibility that I can think of, is that they were using the oriental method, whereby a persons age is based on the date of conception - and hence John would have been viewed as 18 months old. If anyone has other ideas, I'd love to hear them!!

The address given for their nearest relative is the same as where Florence was living when they got married, and where their son was born on 25 July 1919. They state it is the home of "Mr. Smith", Florence's father. This was her adopted father. Maybe, with the address and the date of 1920, I can begin to track him down...

On their return from Korea, they sailed on the P&O ship "Kashgar", departing Kobe (Japan) and arriving London via Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Swettenham, Penang, Colombo, Aden, Port Said, Marseille - what a trip!! They arrived in London on 22 April 1922. This time, on the ships manifest, they got all the ages correct! And they were returning to the same house where John was born - 12 Kingsway, Kirkby, Nottingham. They weren't there long though - Olive was born late 1922 in Grimsby....

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These are images of the "Kashgar" sister ship "Kalyan"

With grateful thanks to Bill Burnett, Cindy Williamson, Robert Wood and Edwin W Kilbourne of the "Oriental Missionary Society", I have been able to put together the following:

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, August & September 1926

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, December 1928

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, December 1934

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, March 1935

On 29th August 1936 they arrived in New York en-route to Japan & China. They left Liverpool on 19 August 1936, and travelled on the S.S. Scythia:

1936 USA entry

S S Scythia S S Scythia

And the following record their journey to the Orient:

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, September & October 1936

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, November & December 1936

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, January 1937

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, February & March 1937

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, June 1937

From the Oriental Missionary Standard, August 1937

Excerpts from Edwin W Kilbournes book "Bridge across the century", Volume one

In 1945 he was to be found preaching at the "Trinity Road Baptist Chapel" in Wandsworth, London.

Shortly after, he went to Canada and the USA with a 'Fanny Marsh'. Thanks to Vi Goodrich over in Indianapolis, I've put together the following.... William in the USA, 1957 onwards...