The Origins of Jeffrey Ferris (born c.1604-1610-d.1666)

A Search for Jeffrey Ferris (born c.1604-1610-d.1666)
(Updated 2 April 2019)

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 "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" memo linked at left and 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.)

Because the "de Feriers" were members of the nobility, you will see they married into other noble families, including descendants of English Kings.

Included in the "Origins of Jeffrey Ferris" memo (revised 8 June 2018) are:

(1) an analysis of the evolution of the Ferris surname from "de Ferrariis" 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 pedigree charts; and
(7) a list of Ferrises and Ferrers (and possible derivative names) baptized in England between 1480 and 1635.

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Arrival in New England

Jeffrey Ferris took the Oath of a Freeman at the General Court in Boston on 6 May 1635. While he was second in a sequence of six Watertown men to take the oath that day, there is no evidence that he owned land in Watertown and there is no evidence indicating when or on what ship he and his family arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. “The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635,” Robert C. Anderson, (NEHGS, 2011), Vol II, p. 517-520.

Family

1. The name of Jeffrey's first wife is unknown, although there has been much speculation about her identity. The only known written record of her existence is that of her death in the Stamford town records which reads "(____) wif to Jeffery Ferris, died 31:5:58." (Died “31:5:58” translates to 31 July 1658 because March was the first month of the year under the Julian calendar, making July the fifth month of the year.) “Stamford Town Records, Vol. 1, 1641-1723,” Paul R. Finch, NEHGS (2011) and “Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Stamford Families,” Rev. E.B. Huntington (1874), p. 33.

The children of Jeffrey Ferris and his first wife were:

Peter, born between about 1629 and 1635. He married Elizabeth Reynolds in Stamford on 5 July 1654.
Joseph, born between about 1632 and 1636. He married Ruth Knapp, the daughter of Nicholas Knapp, in Stamford on 20 November 1657.
Mary, born in about 1636 or 1637. She married Jonathan Lockwood, the son of Robert Lockwood; date unknown..
John, born about 1640. He married Mary Jackson by about 1666.
James, born about 1642. He was married by about 1670; spouse unknown.
“The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra.

After his first wife's death in 1658, Jeffrey married twice more as follows:

2. Susanna Norman, the widow of Robert Lockwood, in about 1659. She had 10 children from her prior marriage, seven of them ranging in age from 4 to 17. She died 23 December 1660 at Greenwich.

3. Judith Feake, the widow of William Palmer, in about 1662. She had five children from her marriage to William Palmer. Judith Feake married (3) John Bowers soon after the death of Jeffrey Ferris.

“The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra.

Biography

After becoming a freeman in Boston, Jeffrey and his family moved to Wethersfield, Connecticut where he owned 8 parcels of land totaling 99 acres. Jeffrey and his family remained in Wethersfield until 1640 or 1641.

After a lengthy religious dispute in Wethersfield from about 1638 to 1641, twenty-nine Wethersfield families moved to Stamford, Connecticut in 1641. Stamford had been purchased in July, 1640 by John Davenport (through Nathaniel Turner) and then resold to the Wethersfield families in November, 1640 with their agreement to begin settling Stamford by the spring of 1641. Also in July, 1640, Daniel Patrick and Robert Feake purchased Greenwich, Connecticut from the Native Americans with Jeffrey Ferris' name appearing separately as a purchaser at the end of the agreement. “Stamford’s Colonial Period 1641-1783,” Stamford Historical Society; "The History of Ancient Wethersfield, Connecticut," Vol. 1, Sherman Adams, (1901), pp 24-28; A History of the Town of Greenwich," Daniel Mead (1857), p. 21 et seq.

Whether Jeffrey moved briefly to Greenwich before moving to Stamford is unclear. But Jeffrey was on a list for 10 "acres of marsh and upland allowed" at Stamford in 1641. And, Jeffrey was assessed for a mill and a Captain's house in Stamford in January, 1642. “The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra and "Stamford Town Records, Vol. 1, 1641-1723," Paul R. Finch, NEHGS (Boston, 2011), pp. 4, 17, 24.

Jeffrey was party to a suit in Stamford in 1649, suggesting he was still living there. But on 25 November 1650 Jeffrey bought William Hallett's house and land in Greenwich on Elizabeth Neck and likely moved to Greenwich. History of Stamford, Connecticut: from its Settlement in 1641, to the Present Time, Rev. E.B. Huntington, (1868), p. 62. “The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra.

On 27 June 1654, Thomas Pell bought 50,000 acres of land from the Native Americans located just north of New Amsterdam including what is now the Bronx and lower Westchester County. By 1656 Jeffrey Ferris had moved to a settlement on Thomas Pell's land known as East Town by the Dutch and as Westchester by the English. The actual settlement was at a location now known as Westchester Square and the Dutch claimed governing authority over that settlement. Jeffrey's presence in Westchester on the first of January 1657 (the Gregorian year) is evidenced by his signature (actually his mark) on a document acknowledging Dutch authority over Westchester. Jeffrey was also mentioned on that day in the journal of Brian Nuton (Newton) who had been invited to Jeffrey's for breakfast. See Wikipedia re Thomas Pell; “How Extensive Did Thomas Pell Believe His Land Acquisition from Local Wiechquaeskecks To Be?” Historic Pelham, Blake A. Bell (2018); "Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York," Brodhead, John (1893); and “Documentary History of the State of New York,” Vol. 3, C. Morgan (1850), p. 559.

Jeffrey's first wife died on 31 July 1658. Her death was recorded in the Stamford town records. But Jeffrey is also noted as being present in Westchester in late 1658 and early 1659 for the prosecution of a lengthy lawsuit. His first wife's death in Stamford may have been coincidental to a visit with their sons Peter and Joseph who lived with their wives and children in Stamford and Old Greenwich in 1658. And, her death may have been a result of an influenza epidemic which hit New Amsterdam and New England in 1658. “The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra; “Narrative of New Netherland 1609-1664,” J.F. Jameson, Ed. (1909), p. 399 (Archive.Org) and “A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases,” Noah Webster, (1799), pp. 191, 193 (link).

Jeffrey married Susanna Norman (Lockwood) of Fairfield about 1659 but she died at Greenwich 23 December 1660. Jeffrey next married Judith Feake (Palmer) about 1662. Jeffrey executed his will on 6 January 1665 (the Gregorian year) and died in Greenwich on 31 May 1666. “The Great Migration,” Anderson, supra.

Jeffrey Ferris' Origins in England

Neither Jeffrey's parents nor his place of birth in England have been found. While the stained glass window of Jeffrey in the First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Connecticut indicates he was born in 1610, that window was not designed until 1896 (“FCC of Greenwich - Our Stained Glass Window Tour”), and there is no other evidence to indicate that date is correct. In his “The Great Migration" Anderson, supra, estimates Jeffrey was born by about 1604.

Reverend E. B. Huntngton in his 1868 book the History of Stamford, Connecticut, described Jeffrey Ferris's ancestors at page 31 as follows:

"The name Ferris is from Leicestershire, house of Feriers, from Henry, son of Gualchelme [aka Walkelin] de Feriers, to whom William the Conqueror gave large grants of land in the three shires of Stafford, Derby and Leicester.

Tradition invests the emigration of this family to this country with the hues of romantic adventure — the ancestress, high born, following her plebeian lover out into this western world, to share with him here the fortunes which English aristocracy would not allow there."

While Reverend Huntington is likely correct that Jeffrey Ferris is descended from the “house of Feriers,” he was not able to identify Jeffrey's parents or where they had lived in England. Although Rev. Huntington said “[t]he name Ferris” is from Leicestershire, he did not say that Jeffrey himself was from Leicestershire. In fact, the Feriers manor house in Leicestershire was at Groby and it was lost to the Feriers family around 1483 when it was inherited through the Grey family (the ancestors of Lady Jane Grey). See the “Groby, Leicestershire Timeline” and “The Origins of Jeffrey Ferris” on the Geni Sources tab.

Feriers family descendants can be found in many places throughout England into the early 17th century when Jeffrey Ferris was born. Some family descendants became barristers or clergy, a few held positions in the Royal court, several were Members of Parliament and several became Merchant Adventurers and helped finance the English exploration and colonization of America.

When searching for Jeffrey Ferris and his ancestors in England, it would be a mistake to search only for the surname “Ferris.” Even contemporaneous records made about Jeffrey while he was still alive spelled his name as Firries, ffereies and fferrys. The surname Ferris has been spelled many different ways over the centuries, including: Ferrers, Ferries, Ferreris, Ferreis, Feries, Fereies, Feris, Ferres, Feres, Feiris, Ferreys, Ferryes, Ferys, Ferrys, Feryes, Firries, Farries, Farris, Faris and Ferrars. See “The Origins of Jeffrey Ferris” on the Geni Sources tab.

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last updated 2019-04-02