In my discussions in “Searching for Kerley Roots in Dorset and Southern England, Part 1”, I revisited an earlier post on the 1642 passage of a Richard Kerley to Virginia, sponsored by Hugh Gwyn.
I would also like, in this part of my speculations, to revisit a post entitled Notes on the Kerley and Saunders Family Immigration to the American Colonies, Part 1 that I made on June 3, 2013, in which I stated the following:
“The history of the 17th century settlement of the English colonies suggests that researchers should be looking both in England and the Colonies for relevant genealogical information. However, I suspect that researchers in Virginia and Massachusetts tend to discount the possibility of finding genealogical clues in the “other colony”.
“But it might be worth some consideration. Take a look at the following information on the passengers aboard a 1638 voyage of the Confidence, bound for settlements in Marlborough and Sudbury, Massachusetts:
“JOHN SANDERS, 25 of Langford, Wilts, Salisbury, husbandman; Mrs. Sarah Sanders, John Cole 40, Roger Eastman 15 servant; Richard Blake 16 servant; William Cottle 12 servant; Robert King 24 servant . . .
“[WHB: Note the following passengers on that voyage of the Confidence:]
“EDMUND KERLEY 22 of Ashmore, county Dorset; husbandman William Kerley husbandman Sudbury; Edmund Morris of Kington Magna, county Dorset.”
1) If, indeed, the Hugh Gwyn of 1742 is the Gloucester County (Virginia) landowner Hugh Gwynne, who was later a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, it would be almost certain that Hugh Gwyn was a member of the British gentry.
2) That Edmund Kerley (Ashmore) and William Kerley (Sudbury), the three 1638 passengers on the Confidence and Richard Kerley, the 1642 passenger sponsored by Hugh Gwyn, are somehow related, and that the decisions of each of them to leave England for the American colonies were not coincidental.
The following discussion from the website www.living-in-the-past.com about the 17th century British term “husbandman” used to describe William and Edmund Kerley should be considered:
“The debate about what the term “husbandman” means in the 16th and 17th centuries is by far yet unresolved. Some sources suggest it merely means “a farmer, or anyone occupied in agricultural pursuits.” Another source indicates it could be used merely to mean “householder, or head of a family.” One can see Richard using it this way to identify himself as the head of the household he was about to describe.
“But there is also a body of data suggesting the term “husbandman” applies to a very specific rank or class; being lower than yeoman and higher than labourer. And this brings us immediately to consider the use of the term”yeoman” in the Parish records. Again, there is much disagreement about the exact meaning or meanings of the term “yeoman”. Generally the term derives from the former “free tenant” or “freeman of the Manor” in feudal society. It was clearly used to describe rank and status in rural society by the latter half of the 15th century, and by the 16th century it had come to mean a man holding free land to a certain value.
“But even that is debatable, for some farmers who merely rented their lands and owned little or none of their own were often recorded as”yeoman”. In records pertaining to legal matters in the time of James I, the term “yeoman” was sometimes crossed out and changed to”husbandman” when it was found the man had no freehold property, and in another instance “husbandman” was changed to “yeoman”when it was shown he did have such property. And statements like that below strongly suggest a clear heirarchy separating the two.
“The honourable will abhor them; the worshipful will reject them; the yeoman will sharply taunt them; the husbandman will utterly defy them; the labouring man bluntly chide them.” 1567
“In the most general terms, “yeomen” were part of the rural agricultural heirarchy in Elizabethan times. At the top of the scale were the”gentry”; below them the “yeomen”, below them the “husbandmen” and, at the bottom of the scale, the “laborer” who worked only for wages and owned no land. At minimum, “yeomen” may be defined as “independent landowners living on their own property.”
If further research appears to strengthen the two hypotheses presented above, a corollary might also be considered:
That Hugh Gwyn and his close relatives were regarded as being of a higher social status than William, Edmund or Richard Kerley.
There are documents from Dorset, including some from a later time, that might be offered for further speculation, which I will do in the next part of this essay.