Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 28

I always thought that my Great-Grandad, Reginald Willats, only had one sibling, Harry.
How wrong was I.
I’ve since discovered that he had a Sister called, Doris, and eight half siblings, who have given me endless questions, the need to know more and an overwhelming sadness for my Great, Great-Granny Eleanor.
I will shed light on this over the following weeks, when I tell you the life stories of my Great, Great- Granny.

While Mum and I, were visiting my Nans, having a good old chinwag about Nans memories, especially of her father Reginald Willats.
In the depths of conversation, my Nan mentioned that her Father Reg, had, had a sister, but she didn’t know her name or anything about her, only that she had died and her death had helped to save the lives of others.

When I got home, I went on a mission to try to discover who she was and what had happened to her.
Within the hour, I knew her name, the quarter and location of her birth and death and I had ordered her certificates, hoping they were the correct ones.

The week waiting for the two certificates to arrive through my mailbox, was torture. Doris was on my mind twenty-four seven and still I wasn’t ready to see how she had died. Children’s death certificates are alway heart wrenching and by far the worst.
The certificates finally arrived, her name was confirmed, as well as confirming that Harry and Eleanor were her parents, and that my gamble had paid off, I had indeed ordered the right certificates. Her death certificate also confirmed the horrific, scary reason, her parents were left heartbroken.

I couldn’t leave it there, I had an overwhelming need to find her resting place, to know she is somewhere safe, a place we could go and visit her, to lay a flower and let her know she isn’t forgotten. A quick search and I had the information I was hoping for, bringing her story to life.

Even though her life was short, our little Doris, deserves her own special post.
She deserves to be remembered.
Her life and even her death deserves to be celebrated, because this little lady helped medical science, her death helped save others and continues to do so.


Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats was born on the 28th February 1904, at Number 11 Moreland Street, Tollington, Islington, England, to Harry Herbert Willats and Eleanor Mary Willats nee Kirby.
At the time of her birth, her father Harry Herbert, was working as a Music Hall Artist.
Her Mother Eleanor, registered her birth on the 14th April 1904.

Doris Willats, Birth Certificate

Just over three years later, Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats, died at, Great Northern Hospital, Islington, London, England.Great Northern Hospital, Islington, London, England.
Doris, died on the 9th April 1907 from, Acute Septic Meningitis (Streptococcus) and Exhaustion.
Her mother Eleanor, registered her death the same day, 9th April.

Doris Willats, Death Certificate

Six days later, Harry Herbert, Eleanor Mary, and their two sons, Harry and Reginald (aka Reg), laid Doris to rest, at Finchley Burial GroundFinchley Burial Ground, Islington, Middlesex, England.
She was buried in an open grave, with thirteen other people, who were all buried between the 21st March 1907 and the 15th April 1907, in grave reference number, Z/3/15000.

Doris Eleanor Poppy, burial

I know it was the done thing, that money was tight for most but I really don’t like the thought of her being in a grave with others and not her own flesh and blood. At least she wasn’t alone.

Doris Willats, Burial.

I wonder how life would have changed for Eleanor and Harry, after her death?
Would it have drawn them together or torn them apart?
Would Eleanor have ever got past the fear of losing another child?
Would she have been a nervous wreak, every time Reg and Harry got sick?
Would they have buried the pain deep and smiled and got on with life, or did the sadness overwhelm them?
No matter how they coped or how they forced themselves to get up and get through the day, I know they would have done their best to survive and I’m mega proud of them for that.

Meningitis has since rippled it’s way through our family, it’s been a part of our history and our present.
Hopefully Doris’s death wasn’t in vain, that her death, helped to save others including my nan’s (Doris’s niece) life, when she nearly died from the same devastating disease all those years later.

I will be forever thankful to our little, Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats.
Her life was incredibly short but she truly lives on in our hearts and I will do my upmost to never let the baby, whom we didn’t know her name, to be forgotten.
She will always have a special place in my heart.

Never to forgotten.
Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats


10 thoughts on “Doris Eleanor Poppy Willats – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 28

  1. Thank you Georgina, for your tribute to my Dads little sister Doris,her death probably helped save my life ,when I nearly died of Meningitis, she had a very short life, but I am sure she was very much loved,and through your efforts she is not forgotten love Nan X X X


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