John Morry Sr. & Jr.

John Morry (1776-1807)

and his son

John Foale Morry (1799-1837)

Not a great deal is known about John Morry (1776-1807). This is a great pity because, from what little is known, he lead an exciting and fascinating, if brief, life.

One thing that is known is that he was the eldest son of Matthew Morry, the immigrant, and as far as we can tell, he was not associated with his father in business and never came to Newfoundland.

His Christening is recorded in the register at St. Saviours Church in Dartmouth on January 1, 1776. He was among the second generation of the Morry family to be born in that parish, earlier generations before his father’s having lived in Stoke Gabriel. We can take it from the limited historical information on the family at the time of his birth that they were still members of the working class. It seems most likely that at that time his father was an employee of Arthur Holdsworth, the Governor of Dartmouth Castle, and was actively engaged in the seasonal Newfoundland cod fishery on behalf of his employer.

What little we do know about John comes from a variety of documents: his christening and marriage records at St. Petrox and St. Saviour’s Churches in Dartmouth respectively, newspaper articles concerning the sale of the proceeds from his privateering activity, two Consolidated £3 per Cent Annuity Shares representing investments made with the profits from his spoils, and his Final Will and Testament. John died at only 31 years of age (possibly a victim of his violent profession) and hence there is little other documentation on his life.

On May 11, 1797, John married Mary Foale Luke at St. Saviour’s Church in Dartmouth. Witnesses were John’s sister Mary and Henry White, possibly a business associate. Henry also witnessed John’s will the following year (see below). He was only 21 at the time of his marriage. His wife is believed to have been several years his senior.


John Morry’s Occupation and the Source of his Wealth

John was apparently not satisfied to be involved in such parochial pursuits and became involved in privateering as a captain (and owner?) of the private ship of war Alexander and possibly other vessels before that. Privateers were not pirates — at least not exactly. In those days, a man could obtain letters of patent or marque from the King to carry on the business of privateering so long as he only attacked vessels owned by enemies of the Crown, and of course submitted appropriate quantities of gold and other tribute to the Crown.

By the time he was old enough to be engaged in this enterprise, the enemies considered fair game were largely the traders from the old Hanseatic league nations in northern Europe including Prussia, the Dutch (a hold over from the three earlier Anglo-Dutch wars) and Scandinavia (Sweden in particular), who threatened British markets. The Spanish had long since diminished in wealth and interest to the British Crown. This was a form of economic warfare in effect.


Records of sales from John Morry’s conquests as a privateer

It isn’t clear if John sailed from the port of Plymouth, but it was to that port that he delivered his prizes and at which the cargo from those prizes was auctioned. following the issuance of “commissions of appraisement and sale by the high court of admiralty of England. Records of these auctions appeared regularly in Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post and the Cornish Advertiser (Exeter, England). It seems that this may have been normal protocol, though it is possible that notices were published in other regional and national newspapers at the same time. Below are a number of examples of such advertisements. It should be noted that one of the brokers responsible for these auctions was Thomas Dunsterville. That surname appears again in the Morry family tree. Thomasine Dunsterville Pyne married James Howe Carter at St. Saviour’s in Dartmouth on February 5, 1828. Her mother, Thomasine Dunsterville, was from Plymouth and was most likely the sister of Thomas Dunsterville.



The wealth that flowed from just the three years of privateering represented by the above newspaper announcements had to be safely invested to meet future needs. In those days the safest form of investment was the Consolidated  £3 per Cent Annuity, which was essentially the Bank of England’s version of the Canada Savings Bond. Guaranteed by the government, but yielding only modest interest. The two Annuities certificates that still exist were taken out by John as a form of safekeeping for his growing fortune in 1805 and 1807.

John Morry’s Consolidated £3 per Cent. Annuity Shares

The importance of these two pieces of paper lies not in the actual value of the investment they represent, but rather in the very pale calculations found on one of them. The figures are a calculation of total investments to date and add up to almost £1500. If this is an accurate estimate of John’s net worth at the time, in today’s money it would make him a millionaire several times over.

John died young. He was only 31 when he died in 1807 or 1808, shortly after purchasing the second of these two Annuities. There is no account of the cause of his death. It may be that he died in battle or drowned. The precise date of death is unknown. There is no record of burial. It was previously assumed that he died sometime before June 15, 1807 because that was when his Will was first proved. Wills are proved by the court only after the death. However, this seems to contradict the timing of the last auction of spoils from his privateering as indicated above. That sale took place in March 1808. The answer to this may lie in the lengthy delays that would have been associated with obtaining a “Commission of Appraisement and Sale” from the high court of the Admiralty. It is quite possible that his spoils were only sold after his death. His name would nonetheless have appeared as the Commander of the vessel responsible for the capture of those goods.


John Morry’s Will and the Inheritance left to his Widow and only Son.

Whatever the cause of John’s death, his Will is a matter of public record and is found in the Public Records Office of the National Archives in Kew.

The last Will and Testament of John Morry of Dartmouth, Mariner


Transcript of the Last Will and Testament of John Morry (1776-1807)  

Transcribed from a digital copy of the official Will transcript record [1]

on file at the Public Record Office – The National Archives

This transcription is a combined collaborative effort of

Kevin Reddigan , Enid O’Brien and Chris Morry

August, 2003


NB: Handwritten note in margin very difficult to read:

John Morry

Admon [2] /With Will/annex’d

Pass’d March 1809


In the Name of God

Amen.       I John Morry of Dartmouth in the County of Devon Mariner being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding but mindful of my mortality do this twenty fourth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight make and publish this my last will and testament in the manner and form following (that is to say) I give and bequeath unto my wife Mary Foale Morry all my household goods and furniture linen china plate and wearing apparel whatsoever to and for her own use and benefit also I give and bequeath unto my said wife Mary Foale Morry all my ready money Debts dues wages and sundries whatsoever that I may be possessed of at the time of my decease and I do herby make ordain constitute and appoint my said wife whole and sole executrix of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former and other wills and testaments by me at any time heretofore made in witness whereof I have hereunto set and subscribed my hand and seal at day and year first above written

John Morry (LS) [3]

Executed in the presence of

Hy White   Mary Luke


This Will was proved at London on the fifteenth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seven before the Right Honourable Sir William Wynne, Knight Doctor of Laws Master Keeper or the Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by the oath of Mary Foale Morry widow and ? Relict of the deceased and the sole executrix named in the said will to whom administration was granted of all and singular the goods chattels and credits of the said deceased having been first sworn by Commission duly to administer.

NB: Handwritten note in margin very difficult to read:

On the 30th March 1809

Admon / with the Will annexed of the Goods Chattels & Credits of John Morry late of Dartmouth in the County of Devon deceased left unadmd by Mary Foale Morry Widow dec’d whilst living the Relict sole Executrix and Universal legatee sworn admin on this said Will was granted to Matthew Morry the Admon of the Goods of the said Mary Foale Morry for the use and benefit of John Morry a minor & until he shall attain the age of 21 years having been first sworn

Duly Granted (?)

NB: Last 2 words not clear

[1] Note that this is not a digital image of the Will itself but rather the official transcript of the Will entered into the record books at the Public Record Office when the Will was first probated. We do not have a copy of the Will itself. It may no longer exist. Fortunately the Public Record Office copy has been preserved. But there is a risk that this copy contains transcription errors in copying down the original language and it may also be an abbreviated version of the Will itself.

[2] Glossary of Probate Terms

Administration, Letters of (usually abbreviated to Admon.): A grant to the next-of-kin (or some other person or persons) who applied to administer the property of an intestate

[3] LS stands for Legal Seal. This was notation on transcripts used to distinguish when a document was signed (or marked with an X) versus sealed.



Unfortunately, as the above addendum indicates, John’s widow also died young, only two years after his death in 1809, thus leaving their only son, John Junior, an orphan at the tender age of only 10 (He was christened at St. Saviour’s on January 22, 1800 but is believed to have been born sometime late in 1799). His grandfather, Matthew Morry, stepped in and took responsibility for raising the boy. But unfortunately for John Junior, Matthew also took financial responsibility for his inheritance, as indicated above. As a result, the Annuities and the other cash and disposable income left to him were taken by Matthew and his partner, Walter Prideaux and William Cholwich Hunt, and used for their business purposes. It was only through court action a decade later that John Junior was able to recover some portion of the inheritance left to him by his father and mother.

This sad story may have had a happy ending because later on documents show that John Junior and Matthew Morry Junior, Matthew’s son, were involved in a number of business transactions in Newfoundland. When he too died at an early age, John Junior left the remainder of his fortune to one of Matthew Junior’s sons. He is remembered on the same memorial as his grandfather in the old Protestant cemetery in Ferryland where they are both buried.

The inscription reads: “Matthew Morry, merchant, a native of Dartmouth, Devon, England died 19 June 1836 age 86 yrs. Also, John Morry, merchant of Dartmouth, Devon, grandson of the above Matthew Morry. Died 16 June 1837 aged 37 years”

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You are visiting the website of the Morry family of Newfoundland, ex Devon

Our Purpose

We hope that this site will serve as a link and a gathering place for the scattered remnants of the Morry Family, whose ancestor, Matthew Morry, came from Stoke Gabriel via Dartmouth Devon, England, to Newfoundland to make a living in the fishing trade some time before Sept. 1784. At that time we know he was granted land for a fishing room in Caplin Bay (now Calvert) near Ferryland, a tiny fishing village on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore that we, his descendants, think of as our family seat.

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