Joseph Shipley, Jr., was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on April 12, 1795, the son of Quakers Joseph Shipley (1752-1832) and Mary Levis. His siblings were Samuel (1777-1844), Mary (d. 1844), Thomas (1780-1813), John (1782-1863), Rebecca, Anna, Elizabeth, Sarah (b. 1812), Margaret, and Hannah. He was involved in shipping and banking and spent most of his adult life in Liverpool, England, where he was a member of firms such as Joseph Shipley, Jr. & Company; Shipley, Welsh & Company; William & James Brown & Company; and Brown, Shipley & Company. He returned to Wilmington around 1850, where he built an estate, Rookwood, where he lived with two of his sisters until his death in May 1867.
Mary Shipley married John Dixon, and their children included Joseph. Sarah Shipley married Edward Bringhurst (1809-1884), the son of Joseph Bringhurst (1767-1834) and Deborah Ferris (1773-1844). Their surviving children were Edward (b. 1835) and Ferris (1837-1871).