William Palgrave was born in Great Yarmouth, England, in 1745, the son of Thomas Palgrave and Mary Manning. He inherited an estate at Coltishall, England, from his uncle and resided there and in Great Yarmouth. Palgrave, a ship owner and corn merchant, was mayor of Great Yarmouth in 1782 and 1805. He married Elizabeth Thirkettle (d. 1805) on April 16, 1771, and they had three children: William (1771-1838), Thomas (1779-1859), and Robert (1780-1804). William Palgrave died on November 9, 1822. Robert Palgrave served as registrar of the court of admiralty at Gibraltar around the turn of the 19th century.
The younger William Palgrave was commissioned lieutenant of the Yarmouth Gentlemen of Yeomanry in 1798 and became customs collector at Great Yarmouth around 1805. He was elected mayor of Great Yarmouth in 1814, and became a customs collector in Dublin, Ireland, in 1826. Palgrave married Elizabeth Barker (d. 1863) on October 18, 1798, and they had ten surviving children: Elizabeth Matilda (1801-1869), William Barker (1802-1851), Thomas (b. 1804), Mary Elizabeth (b. 1805), Robert (1812-1841), John (1814-1868), Katharine (b. 1816), Charles George (b. 1818), Jane Ann (or Anne) (b. 1820), and Eleanor Turner.