Mr Edward John Willey

Mr Edward John Willey was born in Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan, Wales in 1891.1

He was the eldest child of English parents, Richard Willey (b. 1865) and Rhoda Gilman (b. 1868). His father, a mine pit haulier, hailed from Curry Rivell in Drayton, Somerset and his mother from Marshfield, Gloucestershire. They were shown together on the 1891 census, just months before his birth, living at an unspecified address in Ystradyfodwg. They had only married a few weeks previous in Cardiff.

Edward had seven surviving siblings from a total of eight: Archibald James (1893-1965), Eva Priscilla (1895-1930), Melinda May (1897-1926), Ada Mathilda (1899-1934), Edna Lucy (1901-1907), Walter Ewart (1904-1974), Ivy Lillian (1907-1925) and Horace Wilfred (1910-1988).

His large family lived in Ystradyfodwg before moving to nearby Rhondda where they appeared on the 1911 census living at 29 Mill Street. Edward was not listed with them, nor on the previous census and he appears instead to have been raised by his paternal grandparents in Drayton, Somerset.

His grandfather, Edward Willey (b. 1840), a farmer, had been married to his grandmother, the former Martha Ann Gooding (b. 1839), on 13 April 1865. His father Richard was the eldest of their eight children. Edward and his grandparents were listed on the 1901 living at Corn Street and on the 1911 census at an unspecified address in Drayton. By the time of the latter record a 19-year-old Edward was described as an unmarried farm labourer.

Edward's uncle Hubert Charles Willey (b. 1873) had emigrated in the 1890s and settled in Schenectady, New York where he married an American woman, Margaret Sebast (1873-1962) and had several children. He encouraged family back in England to join him there and Edward was the first to go. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number S.O./P.P. 751 which cost £7, 11s) and was destined for the home of his uncle.

Edward Willey died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

His uncle Hubert allegedly lived with the guilt of Edward's death for the rest of his life. He later moved with his family to Colonie, Albany and died in 1946.

His grandmother died in 1916 and his grandfather in 1922, both in their native Somerset.

His parents continued to reside in Rhondda and his father died in 1936 and his mother in 1943. They are both buried in Penrhys Cemetery in Rhondda. None of his surviving sisters ever married and all died before they reached their 40th birthdays. In contrast, all his brothers were married and raised families. His last surviving sibling was his younger brother Horace (who was born on 16 April 1910) who was the only one of his family to leave Wales, living in Essex with his family until his death in Colchester in 1988 aged 78.


  1. His birth was registered in the third quarter of 1891 in Pontypridd. Age given as 18 when he joined Titanic.

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Gavin Bell, UK

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Edward John Willey Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1304, updated 13th January 2020 15:22:28 PM)