According to the Shirley Family Association, all Shirley's in the United States can be traced to the same Shirley families in England. Not all lineage connections have been found and proven, so this is just conjecture. Researchers have only proven my line of the Shirleys to Richard Shirley born in 1748 in the United States and we are still working on his ancestry links to England. But working on that assumption, here is a story of how one Sherley (Shirley) ancestor helped to create the United States.
(This story is an excerpt from the Shirley Association - http://www.shirleyassociation.com).
James Sherley, Goldsmith, Citizen of London, christened on 2 October 1587 at St. Magnus Martyr parish in the City of London. James Sherley, son of Robert Sherly, Goldsmith of London was apprenticed for 10 years to his father on 14 September 1604. In 1612, James Sherley, son of Robert Sherley was granted his freedom in the Goldsmith's Company 'by servitude' by his master (father) Robert Sherley. He inherited land in Limpsfield in his father's 1612 will. Some, or all of this land desribed as a 'moiety of a messuage and 3 parcels of land formerly bought of Richard Killick, in Limpsfield' was sold by James and his widowed mother in 1615 to Henry Jordan, of Limpsfield, gent. Sherley was by age 33 the treasurer of the the New England Company, a group of mostly London merchant adventurers who financially supported Puritan immigrants who left Holland in 1620 on the Mayflower. He and his wife Mary purchased land on the Island of Mersea Essex by deed of ffeoffment dated 4 August 1623 from William Mott, Samuel Mott and Robert Mott. Sherley was identified as an investor in the the famous East India Company in 1624.
High Court of Admiralty Examinations - Deposition: James Sherley, goldsmith and citizen of London, treasurer of the New England Company who deposes (testifies), 20 November 1624, aged 33 years, "was borne upon London Bridge, within the parish of St.Magnus, and hath for fourteen years kept house and family in the parish of St. Michaels, Crooked Lane, and borne all offices there". He is now Renter-Warden of the goldsmith's Company.
In 1624, Sherley sent out a ship load of passengers to Plymouth in the Charity. Two years later in 1626, he and 3 other adventurers assumed exclusive financing of the Plymouth Colony in return for a six year monoploy on the fur trade. There were numerous fights and spats between the American settlers and their investors in England, especially when the debts began to pile up. Sherley's mother Mary Holman Sherley died in 1626 and left a will saying that James and brother John would inherit all of her movable property in her house in London if they agreed to give their eldest brother Robert Sherley 1/3 portion of land in Godstone Surrey purchased by their father Robert Sherley in the name of his two sons John and James.
In 1627, Sherley, 3 other English financiers, William Bradford and other Plymouth settlers agreed to 'undertake' the resolution of the large debt incurred since the origin of the adventure. The adventurers imported beaver furs from New England and sold them in London, where the merchants then purchased goods needed by the new colonists in America. Later Beauchamp and a 3rd partner named Richard Andrews sued Sherley for importing L12,000 of furs and not providing a proper accounting, thus short-changing them. The suit was heard in Chancery and Sherley prevailed. He and fellow adventurer John Beauchamp jointly leased property in Clapham Surrey in 1634. Extant letters written by Sherley indicate he weathered the plague during the 1636 outbrake at Clapham. In 1637, he granted the freedom of his Goldsmiths Company servant Dudley Lovell. In 1641, James Sherley, of Clapham was still listed by the London Goldsmiths Company in their rolls as a member.
Sherley and the other London partners concluded their business with the Plymouth Colony in 1642. Sherley wrote to John Atwood of Plymouth Colony announcing his release on 14 June 1642.
"...And now for peace sake, and to conclude as we began, lovingly and friendly, and to pass by all failings of all, the conclude is accepted of..."
There is little evidence that Sherley shared in the religious beliefs of the Puritans, but certain letters from Sherley to Gov. William Bradford do show a sympathetic view by Sherley. See Sherley Letters
Sherley appears in the Calendar of State Papers when in 1655 the government ordered certain forts including one on Mersea Island Essex to all be demolished. Sherley owned the property under order on Mersea Island and refused it. This land was later instructed to be sold by his son James Shirley of Earls Coln Essex in his will.
James Sherley died in August 1657 and was buried. 16 Aug 1657 at Clapham, Surrey. The ledger of the New England Company records Sherley's passing, naming a successor for his position in the company.
Ledger of the New England Company 1650-1660. 26 Aug 1657 - "That Mr John Rolfe bee chosen in the roome and place of Mr. james Sherley deceased"
Administration of estate of James Sherley 1657 to James Sherley, the right and lawful son of James Sherley of Clapham in the county of Surrey.
The book "Governor William Bradford's Letter Book" published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants published in 1906 contains several letters signed by James Sherley and his associates.
Visit the Shirley Association website for more genealogy on this line and others in the Shirley lineage. And join the Association!