What do we know of the Kerleys of Ashmore in the period 1638 through 1642? 1642 was an important date, because the Protestant Returns of 1642 were promulgated and the records for Ashmore in Dorset survive.
For those unfamiliar with the Protestation Returns of 1642, the following is excerpted from a Wikipedia article:
“The Protestation Returns of 1642 are lists of males over the age of eighteen who took, or did not take, an oath ‘to live and die for the true Protestant religion, the liberties and rights of subjects and the privilege of Parliaments’. These lists were usually compiled by parish, or township, within hundred, or wapentake. They are of importance to local historians for estimating populations, to genealogists trying to find an ancestor immediately before the English Civil War and for scholars interested in surname distributions.
“In May 1641 reacting to scares, rumours of plots and anxiety that the Protestant reformation was in danger of being undone, a ten man committee of the House of Commons, in the Long Parliament, was appointed to draft a national declaration. It was the first of three oaths of loyalty imposed by the Long Parliament, between May 1641 and September 1643. The others were the Vow and covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant. 
“The declaration, or Protestation, read:
- I, _ A.B. _ do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest to maintain, and defend as far as lawfully I may, with my Life, Power and Estate, the true Reformed Protestant religion, expressed in the Doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish Innovations, within this Realm, contrary to the same Doctrine, and according to the duty of my Allegiance, His Majesties Royal Person, Honour and Estate, as also the Power and Privileges of Parliament, the lawful Rights and Liberties of the Subjects, and any person that maketh this Protestation, in whatsoever he shall do in the lawful Pursuance of the same: and to my power, and as far as lawfully I may, I will appose and by all good Ways and Means endeavour to bring to condign Punishment all such as shall, either by Force, Practice, Councels, Plots, Conspiracies, or otherwise, doe any thing to the contrary of any thing in this present Protestation contained: and further, that I shall, in all just and honourable ways, endeavour to preserve the Union and Peace betwixt the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland: and neither for Hope, Fear, nor other Respect, shell relinquish this Promise, Vow and Protestation.
“It was taken by the members of the House of Commons on 3 May 1641. The following day the Protestant peers in the House of Lords also swore it. Subsequently on the 18 January 1642, perhaps prompted by the King’s attempt on the 4 January to arrest the Five Members of parliament, the Speaker, William Lenthall, sent out a letter to the effect that that all males of eighteen or over should take the oath. The idea was that those that refused to take the oath would be presumed to be Catholics and so unfit to hold office in Church or state. In fact it was not a particularly effective way of distinguishing Catholics from Protestants, as in some areas Catholics took the oath with reservations concerning their religion, and others that were known from recusancy lists, appeared on the returns.[6
The Protestation Return, 1642 for Ashmore had 37 signators of who the following were listed: Watson, Ashmore. p. 129
William Kerley; Rich. Kerley
(signed Thos Dibbern and Will. Kerley, Churchwar.)
Wikipedia definition: A churchwarden is a lay official in a parish church or congregation of the Anglican Communion, usually working as a part-time volunteer. Holders of these positions are ex officio members of the parish board, usually called a vestry, parish council, parochial church council, or in the case of a Cathedral parish the chapter.
The references to the lists of the Ashmore parishioners taking the Oath of Protestation and to the lists of residents of Ashmore seen below are from the work of E. W. Watson, M.A. entitled Ashmore Co. Dorset A History of the Parish With Index to the Registers 1651 to 1820, Society of St Andrews, Salisbury, Wilstshire, 1890. Each reference to that work is listed as “Watson, Ashmore.”
Here are earlier “Lists of Residents” of the Ashmore Parish, see Watson, Ashmore, p. 129.
Iniquistio Honarum, 1291: Subsidy Rolls 2 Ed. iii: Will. le Carle (WHB- 1 of 15 persons listed)
Note from Watson, Ashmore, p. 129
“The names for the Hundred of Cranborne are given together, without distinction of parish in tis Roll. The only names which appear to belong to Ashmore are:
5 Eliz. [WHB-1563] Will. Kirley (one of 5 persons identified by Watson)
Note from Watson, Ashmore p. 130
“Witnesses to Livery of seisin: –
1621 William Kerley (was one of seven persons listed by Watson)
1635 William Kerley, senior; William Kerley, junior
Wikipedia Note: Livery of seisin is an archaic legal conveyancing ceremony, formerly practiced in feudal England and in other countries following English common law, used to convey holdings in property. The term “livery” is related to, if not synonymous with, the word “delivery” as used in modern contract law. The common law in those jurisdictions once provided that a valid conveyance of a feudal tenure in land required the physical transfer by the transferor to the transferee, in the presence of witnesses, of a piece of the ground itself, in the literal sense of a hand-to-hand passing of an amount of soil, a twig, key, or other symbol.
The following excerpts are from Sumner Chilton Powell’s Puritan Village: The Formation of a New England Town, p.72
“In 1636. William Kerley, or Ashmore, Dorset, a parish just next to Donhead St Mary, was cited at the archdeacon’s court for ‘neglecting his parish church.’ Kerley simply replied, ‘that he did not do this out of contempt, but in respect that he has land at lower Donhead and has something to do there.’ He was dismissed with a mild warning to improve his habits.
(Powell’s description of William Kerley’s encounters with the Anglican church and his settling in the Puritan village of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and the later Kerley Oaths of Protestation suggests that the Kerley family’s religious orientation was Puritan.)
Index of Parishes Mentioned in the Ashmore Parish Registers”
Charlton (not specified, almost certainly the Chapelry in Donhead S. Mary) Kerley I.