Jacob William Wheeler Ashley was born on March 18, 1833 at Laverton, Somerset, England the eldest son of James Ashley and Joanna Wheeler. The family moved to Hemington where younger brother James was born and the family are to be found in the 1841 and 1851 census returns.
Edward Ashley was born at Road Hill, Wiltshire, on September 12, 1853, the son of Jacob William Wheeler Ashley and Charlotte Watts, both of whom passed a large part of their lives in England, coming to this country and settling in Michigan in 1872. While in England they were communicants of the established church, in whose faith they reared their children. His father having been a sawyer by vocation.