William was born in Ballinascarthy near Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland and was the son of Thomasine (née Smith) and Jonathan "John" Ford. Ford's ancestors were originally from Somerset, England, and migrated to Ireland as the English created plantations. Ford was an Anglican and attended a local Episcopal Church. The surname Ford is an English surname that dates back to Anglo-Saxon England, although the surname "Forde" is sometimes found in Ireland as an Anglicised version of a number of indigenous Gaelic names. Another Irish surname anglicised Ford is Ó Fuartháin, a name meaning "descendant of Fuarthán". The personal name Fuartháin, derived from the Irish fuar ("cold"), was once taken to represent the Irish fuarathán ("cold little ford"), which led the name to be erroneously translated "ford". The former two Irish surnames were borne by septs centred in the province of Connacht, whilst the latter was borne by a sept centred in County Cork (in the province of Munster).
On April 21, 1861, William married Mary Litogot in Wayne County, Michigan, daughter of Belgian immigrants. He and Mary had eight children, six of whom survived into adulthood. They moved to Detroit, Michigan.
William retired in 1879. He died of natural causes on March 8, 1905, in his home and was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan, USA, Plot: St. Martha's Episcopal Churchyard.
William married Belgian-American Mary Litogot, together they had six children: