Shearers of Palmer, Mass.

James Shearer was born in County Antrim, 1678. He emigrated from Antrim, Ireland.  He settled first in Union, CT. In 1726-7 he came to Palmer, Mass. for100 acres in a land grant. He was an original land owner near the village of Three Rivers. He divided his property among his children (John, James, William).  Palmer cemetery records show Jan. 21, 1745, 67 yrs, Ireland, thus making his birth date c. 1679.
His three sons were born in Ireland.

James’s wife, Jennet, born c. 1686 in Derry, Ireland. She died 7 Jul 1759, age 73.

Antrim County was one of the major sources of the “Great Wave” of Scotch-Irish emigration to America. James’ departure would have been part of the “First Wave.” For more information on why these Scotch-Irish came to America, go to

John born in Ireland 1706 died 1802. Married Jane King. Children: Joseph, John, William, David, Jonathan, Noah, Jane, Betsy. Revolutionary War veteran.
Noah’s son Joseph was born April 13, 1824 in Palmer, Mass. moved to Wyoming Co. NY in 1855 and then to East Aurora, Niagara County (?). NY in 1864.
James Jr.
William. Information uncertain. William Shearer was a witness for a will dated 1775 and executed in 1784 (in Dutchess Co., NY?).  He appeared in 1790 & 1800 censuses for Hebron, Washington Co. NY and moved to Homer, Cortland Co NY in 1807.
Grandchildren in Palmer are Jonathan Shearer who was an early physician in town practicing early as 1800 and Daniel Shearer who was the first lawyer in town.

History of Connecticut Valley, Hampton Co., Mass.
Cortland Co. NY Pioneer History
History of Niagara Co.
Cornell University Making of America website.

New York Shearers information came from Douglas Shearer (with thanks to him).


Shearers in Palmer, Mass., cemetery

Catty, wife of David, b: Aug. 23, 1774, D:, Oct. 20, 1825, 51 yrs
Columbus, s/o, David & Catty, 34 yrs
Daniel, s/o Daniel, May 25, 1836, 22 yrs
Doctor Jonathan, Sept 1, 1828, 67 yrs
Elizabeth, d/o James & Jennet, Aril 15, 1744
Hannah, wife of Dr. Jonathan, Nov. 27, 1811, 39 yrs
Hellen A., Aug.22, 6 mo
Infant son, Mar. 9, 1846, 2days
Infant son, Oct. 17, 1841, 6 mos
James, Jan. 21, 1745, 67yrs, Ireland
Jane, d/o, David & Catty, b:, July 2, 1802, d:, October 1825, 23 yrs
Jane, wife of John, Aug. 2, 1793, 70 yrs
Jennet, wife of James, July 7, 1759, 73yrs, county of Derry Ireland
Jenny, wife of John, Oct. 12, 1876, 63 yrs
John, July 22, 182-, 2 yrs
John, Dec. 18, 72 yrs
Marcia, Oct. 1849, 48 yrs
Marcus M., June 25, 1854, 61 yrs
Margary M, Sept. 30, 1831, 6 mos
Martha M., Nov. 6, 1826, 11 mo
Martha B., d/o Jonathan & Nancy, Aug. 28, 1814, 11 mos
Minerva, d/o, Noah & Tirza, July 6, 1813, 21 yrs
Nancy, wife of Dr. Jonathan, Oct. 9, 1818, 31 yrs
Tirza, wife of Noah, Oct. 10, 1820, 51 yrs
Unnamed, Jan. 19. 1840, 2 yr

Shearer — What’s in a Name?

There are numerous Shearer lines in America, not to mention Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia . . .   There are also German Shearer families in America, most of whom descended from colonial settlers in Pennsylvania.

Many American Shearer families originated in Scotland or in northern Ireland, where numerous Scots located before their descendants moved to the British colonies on the west side of the Atlantic.

The many variant spellings of the Shearer name include, among others, Sherer, Shirer, Sherror, Sharror, and Sherrow.  It is an occupational name, like Smith, Baker, or Farmer.   However, there is some disagreement as to what a “shearer” did. Shearers may have sheared sheep, but some name authorities state that shearers used scissors to “shear off” or finish off rough tweed cloth, an important manufacture in Scotland several centuries ago.

Is there a clan Shearer, or is the name Shearer a “sept,” or allied family?

Some sources show Shearer as a family allied with Clan MacDuff. Others show a link to Fife and Aberdeen in the 14th Century, or from Aberdeenshire in general.  Some American colonists named Shearer emigrated from northern Ireland as well.

There is also a (probably modern) tartan for the surname Shearer (Shearer of Alva). It is shown on the Scottish Register of Tartans:

Finally, here is what one member of the Shearer family provides on

From: “John Shearer” <email suppressed>Subject: [SHEARER] Tartan

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 22:03:55 -0000

Hello Clan,

The surname Shearer has an occupational origin and is derived from the word ‘Scerare’ meaning one who dresses the pile of cloth.  The English equivalent of our name is Sherman, from Shearman.

The earliest record of the name in Scotland is from 1316, when William Shearer was a Baillie of Berwick.   In 1399 John Shearer was a Bailiff and Burgess of Aberdeen.  In 1405 another John Shearer was Chaplain of the Order of St Ninian.  A William Shearer was a Burgess of Aberdeen in 1451.  John Shearer was Archdeacon of Ross in 1503.

The Shearers I am descended from moved to Glasgow from Thurso before the Battle  of Waterloo.

The name is common in Caithness and in the Orkney Islands.

I am sorry to disappoint you all but I don’t think we have ever had a tartan and in case this disappoints any of you too much please bear in mind that most tartans were invented a couple of hundred years ago or less.Our famous people include Moira Shearer the famous ballerina, Norma Shearer the famous actress and Allan Shearer the last Captain of England’s football team and current captain of Newcastle.

John Shearer

(I hope John doesn’t mind our quoting him fully.)