Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Family Documents

Just visited this site,, where early LDS church documents have been found in Civil War pension papers and elsewhere, all deemed extremely valuable.

Our Free family documents include a deed signed by Brigham Young as well as invaluable materials concerning other family members. All will be available to all family members and all LDS researchers once this book is completed.

We have a few family letters, many items from County Courthouses all across the country as well as bits and pieces from others' histories. We have six boxes full of Free historical materials in the closet behind me as well as several boxes of the same filed away in the garage. Of course, everything in the history will be written from documents with the most primary documents given the most credence.

It is important that readers understand the relative value of documents, so when they read the history they can know which information bits are most true. Anything that is labelled a family tradition or begins with "Grandma [or anybody else] said this about so and so" should be taken with a grain of salt. Yet people tend to believe and stick with what someone said someone else said a hundred years ago. Those things are the least believable.

Recently I had a most interesting conversation with a scientist who insisted the information in a 60-year-old letter that began by saying some great ancestor had said thus and so about an event that took place more than 150 years earlier and had not been written down until the 1940s was more true than documents written at the time of the event by people not only living at that time but by people invested in the event.

As a scientist he should know better. In fact, I was sure he would know better. But he stuck to the family legend like glue because his grandfather said it was so, even though he was recording an event that took place 150 years earlier.

He would never [I hope] use the same measurement for his scientific experiments. Can you imagine him saying after viewing an experiment himself, "No, that study done 150 years ago with its primitive processes and equipment is the one I will base this medical experiment on, not the one I just witnessed with the latest tools and equipment and measurements. Why? Because my grandfather said my many-times great-grandfather said it was so." Would you submit to a medical procedure based on centuries old data?

Of course not. Well, neither should you base your pedigree on stories handed down over decades because stories [even though they make delightful and meaningful histories] change every time they are told. So in our Free history, look for the documents behind the stories as well as the documentation of the stories.

An example of the kind of thing you may find: My siblings and I were raised on the wonderful "Glass of Milk" story that involved a national post office workers convention including Senator Smoot from Utah. We never doubted the story. Even so, when I had the chance, I interviewed Dad's friend who Dad accompanied to the Chicago convention. Plus I have a photocopy of the program giving date and place and Senator Smoot's name.

The story has directed our lives: it is the key to many choices in our lives. But the program and interview assure us the event actually happened and give us dates and places. Believe, enjoy, be inspired by the story. But know you can believe, enjoy and be inspired because of the documentation.

That combination of story and primary documentation underlies everything in the Free history as far as possible. Some stories are pinned by less than primary documentation. Of those stories, you the reader must make judgements. And you can only make wise judgements if you understand that family legends are family legends, very unbelievable, and where other documents fall on the primary/secondary scale. Do a search for the word "primary" on this blog for more information.

Friday, October 21, 2011

William Sherrill the Fur Trader's origins HYPOTHESIS

William Sherrill the Fur Trader’s origins HYPOTHESIS 20 Oct 2011

Copyright LaRae Free Kerr.

Responses welcomed, needed, desired. Do not cut and paste this information without acknowledging that it is a hypothesis. And please give full credit where it is due. For more information go to and do a search for William Sherrill.

Step One: Any birth record for William Sherrill, Fur Trader, MUST meet certain requirements.

1702, Mar 10. He bought 150 acres of Price’s Forest on the Elk River in Cecil Co MD. He would almost certainly be 21 or older in order to do that. So his birth had to have occurred by 1780 or earlier.

1696, Dec 11. His son Adam was born in Cecil Co MD. Since he would almost certainly be 21 or older when this child was born, his birth year would be 1675 or earlier.

1693. But since he had older children whose oldest year of birth has been estimated at 1693, he would almost certainly have been born by 1671. And that is only if he were at least 21 when the above events occurred. The truth is that in the early Americas at that time, most men were considerably older when they married, had children and bought land. It just took time to earn the wherewithal to do those things. [See Albion’s Seed.]

So any birth that could be attributed to William Sherrill the Fur Trader would have to occurr by or before [and maybe long before] 1671.

Where was he born? The tax lists of Lancaster County clearly label him an Englishman.

What was the spelling of his name? The surname Sherrill is spelled so many ways – even in the same document – that a phonetic reading is essential. I believe I have a list of some of the variations I have seen myself on the blogspot referenced above.

Conclusion of Hypothesis One: William Sherrill the fur trader was born near or before 1671 in England [or of English parents in one of England’s colonies, though this is most unlikely due to the early time frame.]

Step Two: When did William Sherrill arrive in the Americas? If the information on his family is anywhere near correct, he would have arrived before 1693, at least as early as 1692 if his daughter Mary’s birth year of 1693 is approximately correct. If the conclusions of Step One are reasonably correct, he would have come to the Americas as a boy or young man, say between 1680 and 1692. Is this possible? Unfortunately it is. Some children were sent to the Americas as indentured servants and were actually called white slaves by some. English prisons were emptied by exportation. Further, especially in Devonshire, salesmen sold people on the wonders and opportunities in the Americas in an effort to get people to pay ship’s passage to travel. The salesmen then received a percentage of the fare.

Conclusion: William Sherrill the Fur Trader probably came to the Americas between 1680 and 1692. He probably came alone since we never find him with other Sherrills of the same age or old enough to be parents. Therefore, he probably did NOT pay his own way but came at the expense of someone else: a trafficker in indentured servants or at the crown’s expense.

Step Three: Are there extant immigration records for one or more William Sherrills of the approximate age and place of birth? There are, and I don’t have time to look up my list right now, so feel free to send your lists. But there is this record:

1686, Mar 1. William Sherwill of Modbury (ENG), weaver, was set down in MD.

Does this entry fit the requirements for William Sherrill? Yes, he arrived between 1680 and 1692 and was from England. Note that there may be other immigration records that fit these requirements. I don’t remember any off the top of my head and have an appointment in just a few minutes, so…

Further is there another William Sherrill in the Chesapeake area at this time that could be the William Sherrill who emigrated in 1686? NO. Haven’t found one. Have you?

Conclusion: The 1686 immigration record meets the requirements to be William Sherrill. [There may be other entries that also meet these requirements. Let me know.]

Step Four: Is there an “honorable” excuse for our William Sherrill the Fur Trader to be a prisoner? Is there any evidence our William Sherrill was a weaver? Or that he came from Devonshire?

In 1685 there was a civil war in England. Some of the folks on the wrong side were imprisoned and/or deported apparently. [The People’s Chronology and the history of Modbury] There will be more about this in the book I’m writing. Was William Sherrill a political prisoner? Or had he broken some law? Logic from 2011 would say that judging from the people deported with him, he had broken a law. But our times are definitely NOT those times. Nevertheless, he probably had committed some crime. I’ve attempted to find his record in England, but it is not available to me via Internet, or FHL.

Is there any evidence William Sherrill the Fur Trader knew the art of weaving? I haven’t found such a record so far, but if the William Sherrill who emigrated in 1686 was a prisoner, he would have served some kind of term in a prison or most likely as an indentured servant. His weaving skills could have been in high demand. I have not found anything indicating he came from Devonshire, let alone Modbury.

Could William Sherrill be from both Modbury and Ermington? Absolutely. One is a sub-political entity of the other.

Conclusion: No documents yet found connect the 1686 emigrant with weaving, prison or Modbury. And frankly, I don’t expect to find any. Many activities from that era were not recorded, or were lost or destroyed if they were recorded. I feel we are very lucky to have as many extant records for William Sherrill as we have. But will everyone keep looking?

Step Five: What are the requirements for the birth of William Sherrill who emigrated in 1686? First, he was probably more than a child since he had had time to be trained as a weaver. So he may have been as young as 15 but was probably older. Therefore he was born by or before 1671. He could also have been a much older man. Second, he was almost certainly born in England.

Conclusion: The William Sherrill of Modbury, weaver, was probably born by or before 1671 in England.


Step Six: Could the William Sherrill christened 17 Nov 1666 in Ermington be the man sent to America in 1686 from Modbury? Yes. He’s the right age: born before 1671 in England. In fact, his christening is registered in a church in Ermington. English registration districts are not like the straight-forward city, county, state districts here. Christenings are registered in churches then recorded in sub-districts, etc.

But more importantly, did the William Sherrill christened in 1666 either marry or die in or near Modbury/Ermington? There is one marriage at about the right time, but it occurred AFTER William Sherrill’s deportation. I considered it for a while, but it would have required William Sherrill to have returned to England just a few years after he arrived in the Americas. He may not have had the wherewithal to return then to pay two more passages back, plus a child. Let’s look closely at this. Of course, the real question is: were there two William Sherrill christenings in the right place at the right time? One for the mentioned marriage and one who disappears in the local Modbury records? The answer to that question seems to be yes there were two.

Conclusion: Yes, William Sherrill the prisoner could be William Sherrill christened 1666 in Ermington. No question about that. But is he?

Step Seven: Can all this information be put together to make a coherent whole? Look at the timeline. Suppositions are in blue.

AGE Place Event

1666 Ermington, Devon, Eng probably birth year and christening

1673-1683 Devon, Eng WS apprenticed as a weaver

1686 Maryland immigration as prisoner, weaver, of Modbury

1687-1694 Maryland/PA/DE WS works off his immigration fee as well as his prison sentence

which would almost certainly be seven years or more

1692 Cecil County Maryland WS marries and starts his family

1702 Lancaster Co PA buys 150 acres [both the small size of this purchase and the

Medium tax he pays for the next few years indicate he is not a

Wealthy man which is consistent with his origins]

Conclusion: The William Sherrill christened 1666 in Ermington, the William Sherrill exported in 1686, and the William Sherrill buying land in 1702 in Pennsylvania can indeed be the same person. This is more evidence than most pedigrees have.

Nevertheless, the genealogical rule is: If you can’t prove it is true then you must prove it isn’t. So I invite you to dig out your documents, do some additional research – you almost certainly have access to records I don’t – and prove the above hypothesis wrong.

Note that in each case there is only one William Sherrill in each area at that time, doing that particular thing. Nevertheless, please get busy and disprove this. Thanks, LFK

Monday, October 10, 2011

October already

For your information I am dealing with Addison's Disease - 35-years worth - and the side effects of hydrocortisone which seem to be taking most of any time and energy I have right now.
In addition on 4 Oct my email went capute. Am still trying to get it fixed. So please be patient. Things happen with the Free Family History as they happen. Prayers and help are welcome. I'd like to get this history written before I die, but I also want it to be as accurate as it can be in 2011. Thanks, LFK