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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree March 2019 > The vanishing act of Fred Will is

The vanishing act of Fred Will is

When Sue Hassett set about tracing The living descendants of her ancestors to try to find out what happened to her 2x great-uncle ‘brick wall’, she never imagined her genealogical journey would lead to a remarkable reunion



A young Fred Willis and Clara

We are all familiar with The ancestor who at some point, despite our best efforts, disappears down a black hole. For me this was The youngest broTher of my greatgrandfaTher, Alfred Willis. I easily traced to The end of Their lives all of his siblings with The infuriating exception of The elusive Fred. The story of Fred’s life has taken years to emerge, evolving piece by piece in a succession of twists and turns, supporting The old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction.

On The trail of Fred

The youngest child of Edwin and Sarah Rose Willis, Fred was born in Leeds in 1879 and by The time of The 1901 Census he was The only child still living with his parents. Aged 22, his occupation was recorded as ‘teacher in training’. This immediately grabbed my attention as I trained as a teacher in Leeds in The late 1960s. Until this point I’d had no inkling that any of my ancestors were teachers so I was keen to find out more about Fred.

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About Family Tree

Roll up your sleeves and start digging for details about their work today with our top tips for tracing ancestors’ working lives. Learning about your ancestors’ work is the best way to get a feel for the lives they led. Did they have to tramp miles each day to reach the mine? Or did the whole family work together from home? Was everyone down their street employed in a similar industry? Did their toil leave them aching at the end of their shift, or working long into the night, just to make ends meet? Their line of work will tell you about the occupational hazards they may have faced, the sort of income and opportunities it gave, and an understanding of their times and their individual lives too.