William Kerley, Sr.

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William Kerley, Sr.

Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Ashmore, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Immediate Family:

Son of William Kerley and Elizabeth Kerley
Husband of Bridget Muzzy; Rebecca Josselyn /Kerley (Jude) and Ann Kerley
Father of Mary Smith; Capt. Henry Kerley; William Carley and Mary Kerley
Brother of John Kerley
Half brother of Henry Kerley; Robert Kerley; Margaret Kerley; William Kerley of Dorset and Agnes Kerley

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Kerley, Sr.

William Kerley 1583 Posted on November 19, 2010 by Jeff Carley

Research by Jim Mau

William Kerley was born about 1583, probably in Dorset or Wiltshire, England. He was a member of the great migration of Puritans during the 1630s and a founder of Sudbury, Lancaster, and Marlborough.

Many family trees and family histories give his birth as 1602, but court records in Massachusetts contradict this date.

In the Middlesex County court files of 1659 is this entry from June – “William Kerley, aged about 76 years, is released from all ordinary trainings, paying 5 shillings per annum to the use of the military company in the town where he dwelleth.” (History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877 by Lucius Robinson Paige, 1877.) This would place his birth around the year 1583.

Old age may have overtaken William Kerley in 1658. As late as September 1657 he was appointed one of the commissioners for Lancaster “to superintend the municipal concerns with power to make all necessary rates and levies”. (Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Town of Lancaster, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by Joseph Willard, 1826, page 31.) But by the third month of 1658 he was becoming stubborn – a house and some land for Master Rowlandson “was put to the vote and granted by the major part, (and opposed by none but old Goodman Kerley.)” (Willard, page 60) His wife’s death would have only worsened his mood – “Ann wife of William Kerly Senior died 12 – 1 – 1658”. (Lancaster Vital Records) Willard makes this assessment in a footnote: “Goodman Kerley (William Kerley, senior,) seems to have continued in a wrathful state of mind for some time; for though one of the number appointed to manage the municipal concerns of the town, he did not attend the meetings of his brethren; it being a usual entry in the records that the Selectmen met at such a time and place, all excepting Goodman Kerley.” (Willard, page 60) After this period William Kerley, Senior, generally was referred to as “Goodman” or “old Goodman” Kerley, and the references were usually passive – referring to his land, not to any action by him. It may be correct to attribute any recorded activities of this era to William Kerley, Junior.

Being born in 1583 would have him coming of age around 1603 – a very exciting time indeed. The Spanish Armada had been thwarted during his childhood. The English government encouraged piracy (under the guise of privateering) as a form of commerce. The East India Company had just been organized. The English were busy establishing plantations and consolidating their conquest of Ireland. English mercenaries were engaged in Holland – consider Myles Standish. In 1616 Sir Walter Raleigh led an unsuccessful expedition to Venezuela in search of the Lost Cities of Gold. (For a lively account of the era see 1603 by Christopher Lee, 2003.) Involvement in any of these exploits could explain William Kerley’s military background.

Henry S. Nourse thought William Kerley, Senior, must have served in the English army based on the arms and armor he brought to the New World. (The Military Annals of Lancaster, Massachusetts, 1889, page 1) The will of William Kerley, Senior, included a gun, a sword, a cutlass, iron clothes, and military books. Both his sons were leaders in the military development of early Massachusetts.

Very telling is the way the Massachusetts courts wrestled with the issue of the age limits of military service at about the same time William Kerley, Senior, was exempted from duty. Perhaps it was the infirmity of this revered veteran that forced the issue. Anyone wanting to understand how our ancestors thought and justified decisions can read the short document on this subject in History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1877, by Lucius Robinson Paige, 1877, page 401.

Wikitree info:

William Kerley

  • Born 1602 in Lydlinch, Dorset, England
  • Son of William Kerley and Unknown Unknown
  • Brother of Henry Kerley, Robert Kerley, Margaret Kerley, William Kerley, Agnes Kerley and John Kerley
  • Husband of Ann White — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
  • Husband of Bridget Mauzzy Rowlandson — married May 31, 1659 in Lancaster, MA
  • Husband of Rebecca Jude — married June 16, 1664 in Lancaster, Middlesex Co., MA
  • Father of William Kerley, Mary Kerley and Henry Kerley
  • Died July 14, 1670 in Lancaster, MA


Letter from John Kerley of 05 Feb 2009

Baptisms of Lydlinch Parish, Dorset, England On Line Parish Clerks of Lydlinch, Dorset, England

Vital Records of Lancaster MA to 1850, Page 13

Early Records of Lancaster Massachusetts 1643-1725 by Henry S. Nourse Lancaster 1884

Ashmore County Dorset History With Index to Registers


William was born in 1602 in Lydlinch, Dorset County, England. He was baptised 10 Mar 1602 at St. Thomas a' Becket Church which was built in 15th and 16th centuries and still stands there in Lydlinch today. The baptismal font is from the 12th century.

Not from Wikitree:

Exactly how or when William and family emigrated to America is uncertain - they may have been among the passengers on the "Mary and John", 1630, whose passenger list has never been found. Or the entire family group, including several collateral relatives, may have arrived on the ship "Confidence", 1638 - a surviving partial passenger list includes two Kerleys, William (too young to be this one) and Edmund (age 22). Their parentage has never been identified, but they could have been his nephews by Henry or Robert Kerley.

Wikitree info:

[William] was a founder of Sudbury; and, in addition, Lancaster, Massachusetts. He became a "Freeman" in 1647. At Lancaster, William and his two sons, William, Jr. and Henry owned land and held important offices. He was appealed to by his fellow townsmen in Sudbury to erect a bridge over the Sudbury River. He did build the bridge, and his specifications, still in the town clerk's office, are so precise and clear that an artist was able to reconstruct the bridge in a drawing. An inventory of his personal effects, from his will, is mentioned in "Early Records of Lancaster" by Henry Nourse, page 284. Nourse says that he seemed to have been a soldier because "Iron cloathes" and a "cutlash" were mentioned in the inventory Most of the information regarding him and his family may be found in "Pioneers of Massachusetts",T "Early Records of Lancaster", "New England Historical & Genealogical Register Vol 2", "The Boston Transcript", "Vital Records of Sudbury MA to 1850", and "First Families of America".


40 acres on the west side of North River bounded by the Street Highway or Common Eastward, the woods or Commons Westward, the house lot of John Smith northward, and the house lot of Henry Kerley southward (from Early Records of Lancaster by Henry Nourse, page 284). 20 acres was his own house lot and the second 20 acres he bought from Richard Smith, whose house lot was next to his own. Elsewhere, in the same book, the south boundary of the lands is said to be the house lot of William Kerley, Jr.

William the Immigrant, b. 1602 at Ashmore and Ann White Kerly, founder of Sudbury, Lancaster and Marlborough, MA, married Elizabeth White, daughter of Capt. John and Joanna West White at Sudbury in 1654. She was killed in the Massacre at Lancaster in 1676 along with son(s?) William and Joseph(?) and he remarried Elizabeth Ward Howe, daughter of Rev. William and Elizabeth Hall Ward.



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William Kerley, Sr.'s Timeline

Ashmore, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
Age 25
Ashmore, Dorset, England
Age 28
Age 30
Ashmore, Dorset, England
Age 31
Ashmore, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
July 14, 1670
Age 68
Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
July 14, 1670
Age 68