When I found out from a copy of the Marriage Banns of Thomas and Jemima, that Jemima was born in Hothfield, Kent, and realised that Hothfield was just 5 km from Westwell, Kent (annoyingly I visited Westwell in 2008 but didn’t know the Hothfield connection at the time!!), I checked on Hothfield online, and found they had an Historical Society. It is called Hothfield memories, and they have a wonderful website full of interesting information to be found at http://www.hothfieldmemories.org.uk/index.aspx
Writing an email saw a lovely reply from a Mr Chris Rogers. He and a lady called Karen apparently did some checking in the church on a snowy Chistmas Day morning, looking for information for me..very unexpected but so lovely and so helpful as well. I kept in contact with them for some years. I received from them 2 CDs about Hothfield that had been made, they also printed the information out in 2 volumes, however they said it would probably be very prohibitive to send as they were very heavy books. They suggested the CDs. There is so much information about Hothfield. Jemima’s parent also came from Hothfield.
An interesting bit of information gleaned from the Church Warden’s account’s for 1819 was about Jemima Willis. It states “paid 15 weeks schooling for Jemima Willis, 4 shillings and 9d.”
There is also a Willis headstone in the Hothfield Churchyard. Some information sent to me via Chris Rogers from the Hothfield Memories talks about a brother of Jemima’s, called George. I had seen a headstone somewhere for a George Willis and also read of a George Willis in South Australia who lived at Rapid Bay. I am not sure at this stage if this is the same George, however Jemima’s brother George does appear to have also emigrated. Here is the information gleaned from the Hothfield History Assoc. On the inscription of the headstone mentioned above, in the Hothfield Churchyard reads the inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Phoebe the wife of George Willis (daughter of Attaway Frances Bourne of this parish who died July 22 1833. Age 23 years. She left issue one daughter (viz) Frances”.
According to Chris Rogers of Hothfield, he believes that Phoebe Bourne married George Willis; Phoebe’s mother was Attaway and Phoebe had a daughter Frances. From information I received from the Kent FHS they mentioned that Jemima had a brother George (christened in 1806), and the guess is that this is the same George Willis who married Phoebe. However, according to Reverend Russell the church paid a sum of 9 pounds in 1838 to two families who were emigrating to Australia. There’s also a footnote that other parishioners emigrated due to low wages and the high price of provisions in England (n.b. Rev Russell was the person who wrote the notes in the church records mentioned above). The text states that George Willis was one of these families and he emigrated with a wife and two children. Chris Rogers states he assumes that after Phoebe died our George found another wife. One of the two children he took to Australia may have been Frances, or she might have stayed home with her grandparents? Either way George had clearly fathered at least one more child, this one with his second wife? Not everyone could afford a large headstone (like the one mentioned above for Phoebe), of over a metre high, and so our George may have had access to some finances when his wife died – perhaps the Bournes were well appointed? Six years later George is being assisted by the same church towards his funds for emigration.
Did George come over and find Jemima and Thomas? or did they settle in different parts of Australia?
The above information is supposition, but as I mentioned there is a George Willis in South Australia. The information above was sent to me by Chris Rogers in January 2009, and since that time many more records are available online, therefore, I hope to be able to do some more research to see if I can find a connection between George and Jemima. Unfortunately, as with Jemima and most of the Henniker clan, it gets harder to see who is who with the online records, as most of them are before 1837, given that Jemima came to Australia with her husband Thomas Henniker in 1839, therefore records that are online are often quite basic. However a search may still give more solid information. However I found the above information sent to my to be interesting, and felt it useful to add it to this blog.