Jeffrey Ferris, of Greenwich - The Ancestors and Origins of Jeffrey Ferris (c.1610-1666)

Started by R Riegel on Monday, August 8, 2016
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8/8/2016 at 9:58 AM

The search for the parents of Jeffrey Ferris (c.1610-1666) has been fruitless for several centuries. Birth, baptismal, marriage or other records of his early existence in England have not been found. Only cryptic clues were left by Reverend E. B. Huntngton in his 1868 book the History of Stamford, Connecticut. Those limited clues were that the Ferris name came from Leicestershire, that it is derived from Gualchelme and Henry de Feriers, that Henry de Feriers received large grants of land from William the Conqueror and that "tradition" says Jeffrey's wife was "high born."

Because finding a link to Jeffrey Ferris' father has proven impossible thus far, I traced the descendants of Henry de Feriers and the history of those descendants to see if any clues could be found. First, I discovered evidence that the "de Feriers" surname did indeed evolve over the centuries to Ferris. Second, I discovered that the "de Feriers" actually began their history in England in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, not Leicestershire, and many "de Feriers" descendants migrated to various other shires throughout England. Third, I discovered that many likely ancestors (or at least relatives) of Jeffery Ferris played substantial roles at key moments in English history. Finally, I analyzed all of the evidence I could find about the assertion that Jeffrey's father was Richard Ferris and that his mother was Mary Anne Howard.

The PDF memo linked below discusses and analyzes my discoveries in more depth. And, it relates some significant and interesting stories about the "de Feriers" (Ferris) family. (A couple of the stories were included just for fun because they related to familiar tales which will be recognizable.)

The GEDCOM file for Henry de Feriers' descendants is also linked below. Because the "de Feriers" were members of the nobility, you will see they married into other noble families, including descendants of English Kings.

The Origins of Jeffrey Ferris (about 1610-1666) and Some Ferrers Family Stories:

See the GEDCOM file:

Included in the memo (revised 6 July 2016) are:
(1) an analysis of the evolution of the Ferris surname from "de Ferrières" to "de Ferrers," "Ferrers" and "Ferris;"
(2) a history of the de Ferrers family residences (including maps) and their migrations from Duffield and Tutbury Castles in Derbyshire to Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire, Chartley Castle in Staffordshire, Loxley Hall in Staffordshire, Bere Ferrers in Devonshire, Groby Hall in Leicestershire, Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire, Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, Saint Albans in Hertfordshire and London;
(3) an analysis of purported or possible fathers of Jeffrey Ferris, such as Richard Ferris;
(4) an analysis of the purported first wife of Jeffrey Ferris, Mary Anne Howard;
(5) historical stories about the de Ferrers family ancestors;
(6) Ferrers ancestry pedigree charts; and
(7) a list of Ferrises and Ferrers (and possible derivative names) baptized in England between 1480 and 1635.

Private User
8/9/2016 at 10:20 AM

Thank you so much for this R Riegel! This is one of the assumptions that has driven me crazy! I vote that we unhook Jeffrey from Richard until proof can be found. What do you say Erica Howton?

8/9/2016 at 11:13 AM

One thing to consider when making that decision is that displaying a questionable father (and line of ancestry) may discourage further research simply because people assume the mystery has already been solved.

Private User
8/9/2016 at 12:56 PM

My thoughts exactly. When "iffy" parents are connected it presents a bunch of "iffy" relatives. Just as an example, every time Geni says I am connected to a celebrity and their line leads back to Richard Ferris I know that it's probably wrong.

8/9/2016 at 8:59 PM
8/9/2016 at 9:21 PM

R Riegel I'm up to the charts (after my previous skim through). What an enjoyable read. Thank you so much for sharing your hard work.

I want to know more about Lords of Misrule now.

8/10/2016 at 9:45 AM

Thank you for the kind comments.

If you want to know more about the Lord of Misrule, you should follow the link in the text to Professor Beem's first chapter. I too was very intrigued by George Ferrers. He seems to have been quite the Renaissance gentleman. Not only appreciated for his entertainment at court, but also the first person to translate Magna Carta from Latin to English. And, perhaps even a precursor to Shakespeare.

I should mention that the ancestry file shown on Roots Magic contains voluminous notes with much more history and many more stories. Typically, when reviewing a source I would copy and paste relevant text into my notes. If printed, those notes would likely exceed 1,000 pages. Those notes are included in the GEDCOM file. But because of the lack of uniformity in the GEDCOM format the notes may not get imported into every genealogy program. Roots Magic does have a free version, however, and presumably the notes would be displayed in it.

Private User
8/10/2016 at 10:54 AM

Thanks Erica Howton for unhooking Richard. You are awesome! :-)

8/21/2016 at 8:50 AM

For anyone following this discussion, I revised the memo "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" noted above on August 20, 2016. The same link above will open the newest version.

The meat of the revisions arises from finding new contemporary 12th and 13th century manuscripts that show additional and earlier variations of the Ferris-Ferrers surname. See page 3 where I revised and added the following paragraphs:

The de Feriers surname mutated, evolved and varied in spelling over time. That evolution is reflected in various manuscripts and books dating from the 12th to 17th centuries. Early manuscripts were typically written in Latin and names were often spelled as they sounded to the writer. Uniformity of spelling was not as common then as it is now and even the Latin language evolved in England under the influence of the Anglo-Norman, French and English languages. See British Medieval Latin at the Dictionary of Medieval Latin.

The earliest contemporary manuscripts refer to “Henry de Feriers” (1036-1088) as “Henricus de Ferrariis” and his son Robert (1062-1139; 1st Earl of Derby) as “Robt de Ferrars.” See Medieval Lands, Chapter 3. Derby and sources cited therein. The surname “de Ferrariis,” however, continued to be used in contemporary manuscripts at least until the 5th Earl of Derby, William de Ferrariis (c.1193-1254). As noted by Medieval Lands, this 5th Earl of Derby was also referenced as “William de Ferrers” in the Annals of Tewkesbury, p. 156 and his father was mentioned as “William de Ferreres” (1172-1247) in the Annales Londonienses, p. 44. In addition, the wife of the 5th Earl of Derby, William de Ferrariis-Ferrers (c.1193-1254), Sibyl Marshal (1201-1245), was referenced as “Sibilla comitissa de Ferreys” in the Annals of Ireland. And finally, the son of the 5th Earl of Derby, William de Ferrariis-Ferrers (c.1193-1254), also named William (1240-1288), was referenced as “Willelmus Ferreris” by John of Fordun, about a century later (c.1380). See Medieval Lands.

As you can see, by about 1400 the surname de Feriers or de Ferrariis had evolved to include de Ferrers, de Ferreres, de Ferreys and Ferreris. This last evolution in the 15th century (Ferreris) does approach the spelling of the surname as Ferris. In fact, by the 1500's, the English Royal Court appears to have identified the name “Ferrers” with the name “Ferris.” Given the continuing evolution of the English language during that period, perhaps the spelling “Ferris” best represented the sound of the Feriers-Ferrariis-Ferrers-Ferreys-Ferreris surname at that particular time. (See Middle English Pronunciation.)

8/22/2016 at 12:04 PM

In order to be a little more accurate and helpful to those searching for Jeffrey Ferris' ancestors, I would suggest the following changes in the "Family Notes," "Links" and "No Proof" sections on the main page:

In the "Family Notes" section change: "He was born 1610 in Leicestershire, England..." to "He was born about 1610 in England..." Rev. Huntington only said the "name" Ferris was from Leicestershire. He did not say that Jeffrey was from Leicestershire. And, the only support for the 1610 birthdate is the stained glass window designed in 1898 in the Congregational Church which says itself it has no records which indicate Jeffrey's birthdate.

Under "Married. 1. before 1633, probably in England, Mary, ..." to "perhaps named Mary" since the evidence is debatable.

In the first paragraph of the "Brief Biography" section, delete the sentence "Jeffrey stood over 6 ft., with blue eyes and flaming red hair." That statement is from a novel and there is no other evidence for this description. Using the description from a novel probably brings other legitimate evidence into question.

In the "Links" section, delete or correct "The Ferris Family Tree" link since it returns a server not found error. Also delete the "Wikipedia: Jeffrey Ferris" link since it leads to a Wikipedia page that says Wikipedia has no article about Jeffrey Ferris. Add a direct link to the memo "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" at Add a link to Henri de Ferrières (1036-1088) Descendants to the Era of Jeffrey Ferris (c.1610-1666) at

In the "No Proof" section, delete the statement "There is no documentation that the name was originally Ferrers." Based on the research in the Origins of Jeffrey Ferris, there is written evidence that the Ferris name evolved from the name Ferrers (e.g. George Ferrers (1510-1579) also called George Ferris in writing).

9/14/2016 at 9:23 AM

Listing alias names for Jeffrey Ferris:

"Jeffrey ffereies" (from Susanna Lockwood probate records)

"Jef. Firries" (from Stamford, CT records; see History of Stamford, Connecticut, Rev. E.B. Huntington (1868), p. 18)

The above alternate spellings of Jeffrey Ferris' surname appear in contemporary Connecticut records.

I would suggest including these as "alias" names in the Geni database. If others are aware of these alternate spellings, perhaps their searches will prove more fruitful.

9/14/2016 at 12:27 PM

Great idea, and done.

9/14/2016 at 12:47 PM

(I've also updated the overview as requested above)

9/15/2016 at 12:21 PM

Thanks for making those changes.

I have made a few minor and cosmetic changes to the Origins of Jeffrey Ferris memo which is now dated 14 September 2016. The changes are:

Added the following sentence to the fourth paragraph on page 3: “Recall that the de Ferrers were Norman-French and, at least in modern French, the "is" at the end of the Ferris name would be pronounced as a long "i" as in the word “ferry” or the cars "Ferraris."

Addded a map on page 11 locating Bere Ferrers in Devonshire.

Added a 1675 painting of Greenwich on page 13 showing the Thames and London in the background. (St. Alphage church appears to be at the far left of the painting with another church spire appearing further in the background.)

Added more specific locations to the map on page 14, including the Greenwich and Whitehall palaces.

The latest version of the memo can be opened by clicking the following link:

1/2/2017 at 1:44 PM

For anyone following this discussion, I discovered mentions of several additional Ferrers associated with the English Royal Court in the early 1600's. Threfore, I added the following paragrpah on page 18 of The Origins of Jeffrey Ferris (about 1610-1666) and Some Ferrers Family Stories:

Other Ferrers at Court. In addition to the Richard Ferrises described above, a “Master” Thomas Ferrers served in 1603 as an interpreter for Lord Spencer, the Earl of Rutland, who was Ambassador to the King of Denmark. In addition, a William Ferrers described as a “citizen of London” received from King James' Exchequer in 1606 the repayment of a sizable loan Ferrers and another had made to the late Queen Elizabeth. Finally, a payment was made by the King's Exchequer in 1606 to a Henry Ferrers for apprehending a criminal. The ancestry of each of these Ferrers is unclear, but they may be among the “unknown sons” of an otherwise identified Ferrers. See Issues of the Exchequer; Being Payments Made Out of His Majesty’s Revenue During the Reign of King James I, Frederick Devon (1836), pages 4, 12, 39 and 53.


4/24/2017 at 9:34 AM

A new Jeffery Farris (note the spelling) married in 1623 in Wiltshire to Dorothy Sleapsend.

As an after-thought when researching another ancestor, I recently did another search for Jeffrey Ferris. Surprisingly, I was rewarded with one record for a "Jeffery Farris" who was married to "Dorothy Sleapsend" on 30 Jul 1623 in Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, which is about mid-way between London and Devon. There is one chapel in that tiny village called St. Peter. (As I said in my Origins of Jeffrey Ferris memo mentioned above, I have never before seen a given name of "Jeffrey" among the Ferris, Ferrers, etc. surnames, so this was a shock.)

Below is the record as returned by FindMyPast:

Wiltshire marriages index 1538‐1933 Transcription

First name(s) Jeffery
Last name Farris
Birth year -
Marriage year 1623
Marriage date 30 Jul 1623
Place Manningford Bruce
County Wiltshire
Country England
Spouse's first name Dorothy
Spouse's last name Sleapsend
Record set Wiltshire Marriages Index 1538-1933
Category Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers)
Subcategory Marriages & divorces
Collections from United Kingdom

© Findmypast 2017 URL of this page: mars%2fbh%2f0376316%2f1

This was the only record and the only information I could find on about this "Jeffery Farris" or about Dorothy Sleapsend. And, "Jeffery Farris" did not show up in a similar search using The 1623 marriage date seems peculiar for the immigrant Jeffrey Ferris given that his first child was not born until 1635.

I suspect this "Jeffery Farris" may be descended from the Ferrises and Ferrers of Blunsdon or perhaps Beres Ferrers, given the geographic location. In any case, where there is one Jeffery or Jeffrey, there may be more.

4/24/2017 at 2:41 PM

Nice find!

4/25/2017 at 8:28 AM

Thanks. Another thought occurred to me after writing that post. It would be interesting to see the original record. Sometimes the age and condition of an old document makes it difficult to read. And, sometimes the old scripts can be difficult to read. What if the 2 in the date was a 3? Then the marriage date would be 1633. But that is too big of a leap without seeing the original document.

4/25/2017 at 9:48 AM

In case anyone may wonder why this new "Jeffery Farris" appeared on the internet only now, it is because just published online on April 7, 2017 the following new records for Wiltshire:

Wiltshire Parish Baptisms Index 1538-1917
Wiltshire Parish Banns Index 1538-1933
Wiltshire Parish Marriages Index 1538-1933
Wiltshire Parish Burials Index 1538-1991

This serves as a reminder that not all old records are yet available on the internet and that patience and persistence are required.

Private User
11/8/2017 at 9:42 PM

This is random but Id just like to say you all are doing an amazing job with all this research! Hopefully more paperwork will show up and we could confirm who Jeffrey parents are all we can do is wait I suppose.

11/11/2017 at 1:59 PM

Thanks, Private User! Yes, I think we just have to keep hoping and looking for old documents made new by digitization.

I posted a revised version of the "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" memo. I simply added a sentence on page 5 noting that Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554) was the third great granddaughter of Elizabeth Ferrers (1419-1483) the 6th Baroness Ferrers of Groby who had married Edward Grey. I keep thinking about the connections between the Underhill and Ferrers families that persisted from the 1550's in London to the 1640's and 1680's in Greenwich, Connecticut (see page 19). Unfortunately, I still see nothing but coincidence.

11/21/2017 at 12:51 PM

I have posted a revised version of the "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" memo on the Geni Sources tab. The most significant revision appears on pages 8 and 9 and is described below.

Remembering that the earliest document we have showing the spelling of Jeffrey Ferris' surname was the 1640 New Haven record showing the spelling as "Firries," I decided to search that surname on FindMyPast and FreeReg (although I am sure I had done that before). Three baptisms at St. Margaret's in Westminster in 1598, 1600 and 1603 caught my attention because the father for each of them was listed as Thomas. The first baptism was for Margaret "Fferris" in 1598, the second was for another Margaret "Fferris" in 1600 or 1601 and the third was for Johane (or Joan) "Firris" ("Ffirris") in 1603. (St. Margaret's is next door to Westminster Abbey and across the street from Parliament and served as the Puritan church at that time.)

Seeing the father's name Thomas, I recalled the 1599 letter from a Thomas Ferrers-Ferris to Sir Humphrey Ferrers (1540-1608) at Tamworth about the gift of a cup to Queen Elizabeth and noting that this Thomas might have been Sir Humphrey's brother or his son. My earlier research had indicated simply that the brother Thomas was a merchant in London. But looking into his history further it became clear he was more than a simple shop keeper. In fact, in a 162 page list of prominent Elizabethans on the Folger Shakespeare web site, Thomas Ferrers-Ferris was the only Ferrers (or Feriers derivative) listed. He had been a Deputy Governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, among other positions. Those Merchant Adventurers were the people who financed the Virgina and Plymouth colonies, etc.

See Folgerpedia at

This "merchant" brother Thomas Ferrers-Ferris (b.aft.1540-d.aft.1604) was not only the Deputy Governor of the Merchant Adventurers, he accompanied Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (a 3rd great grandson of Anne Ferrers of Chartley) to Stade, Germany in 1598 as an interpreter. He performed the same interpreter services again in 1603 for Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland, at the appointment of King James as a Special Ambassador in Denmark. (They were accompanied by Inigo Jones on that trip.) This Thomas Ferrers likely met another merchant adventurer at the royal court named Sir Walter Raleigh. (Yes, that Sir Walter Raleigh.) Raleigh had married the niece of Clement Throckmorton who had accompanied Georges Ferrers-Ferris during Wyatt's Rebellion in 1554. (That niece, Elizabeth Throckmorton, was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.)

The "merchant" brother Thomas Ferrers-Ferris was also the son of Barbara Cokayne (1517-1560) who was related as a cousin to Sir William Cokayne (1561-1626). Sir William Cokayne was a Governor of the Eastland Company (which traded in the Baltic and Russia), sheriff of London in 1609, Governor of Londonderry (Ulster, Northern Ireland) in 1613 and Lord Mayor of London, England in 1619-20. As a fellow merchant adventurer in the Eastland Company and with a mother named Cokayne, I suspect that Thomas Ferrers and William Cokayne were acquainted.

Talk about a set of nearly perfect family connections for Jeffrey Ferris to arrange his trip to New England. To have a grandfather or a grand uncle who was a Deputy Governor of the Merchant Adventurers who helped finance some of the original colonies in America would certainly be a nice door-opener.

While many of these family members and connections may have died before Jeffrey booked his trip, their children were in the proper milieu for exploration and travel. If you believe Rev. Huntington's recitation that Jeffrey was descended from Henri de Feriers and that Jeffrey married a "high born" woman before departing on his "adventure" to America, then this branch of the family transplanted from Tamworth in Staffordshire to London would be worth exploring.

It turns out that Sir Humphrey's brother Thomas was probably born in the 1540's and died sometime after 1604. But Thomas's children, if any, or his nephews and nieces from his several brothers (Humphrey, Edward, Henry and George) could have included a Jeffrey. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the names of those children. I suspect the baptisms at St. Margaret's, Westminster around 1600 were to the Thomas who was Sir Humphrey's son, not his brother.

Sir Humphrey Ferrers (1540-1608), had a son named John (1566-1633) who had a son named Humphrey (1600-1634). Sir Humphrey Ferrers' (1540-1608) other sons were Walter who had three sons whose names are unknown, Thomas (b.1567) who had two sons and Edward (b.1573) who had four sons, also unknown. See The Visitation of the County of Warwick in the Year 1619, Vol XII, John Fetherston, editor, (1877), p. 7

In addition to the above, I added on pages 3 and 4 a note about the Stowe Manuscripts (1895) which show the use of the "Ferieres" spelling of the Ferrers-Ferris surname as late as 1460. This is just one additional piece of evidence (four centuries later) that ties the Ferrers surname to the Ferieres surname.

I also added a sentence in the second paragraph on page 5 noting that George Ferrers was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1534 as George "Ferres." Would anyone pronounce the surname "Ferris" differently than the surname "Ferres" unless they were French?

Finally, I clarified on page 10 that the “Lady Puckering” in the quote refers to Sir John Ferrers' (1566-1633) wife, Dorothy Puckering (1570-1616).

11/21/2017 at 3:46 PM

Anything about the Merchant Adventurers gets my attention. Nice find!

11/21/2017 at 4:34 PM

Thanks. That find was the result of a few random neurons connecting and a bit of digging.

Having a Merchant Adventurer as a relative and hearing the family stories about distant lands could certainly have relieved some of the concerns about embarking on such an adventure, as well as perhaps paving the way. But the more difficult part now is finding some evidence to support the narrative.

11/21/2017 at 6:07 PM

Erica Howton do you know of any sources listing the members of the Merchant Adventurers companies in the 1620's or 1630's?

11/21/2017 at 8:24 PM

Any one source? Great question. I’ve only seen listings for some of the different companies formed, and less for New England than Virginia & the Carib.

11/21/2017 at 9:44 PM

How about just the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London since that is the one of which Thomas Ferrers was Deputy Governor.

11/21/2017 at 10:18 PM

So we start here and drill into the references

11/21/2017 at 10:32 PM

Thank you!

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