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Revisiting Old Assumptions: Thomas GRAVES (d bef 5 Jan 1636), Ancient Planter of Accomack, VA

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Revisiting Old Assumptions: Thomas GRAVES (d bef 5 Jan 1636), Ancient Planter of Accomack, VA

William A. Roper (View posts)
Posted: 1102751509000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Graves, Greaves, Graues, Gray, Grey, Graie, Graye
Captain Thomas GRAVES (d bef 5 Jan 1636), "ancient planter", of Virginia, is generally recognized to be the earliest GRAVES in America. He is identified as arriving in Virginia in October of 1608, coming from England in the ship "Mary and Margaret" with Captain Christopher Newport's second supply. (See )

My interest in Thomas GRAVES primarily relates to his relationship with Katherine GRAVES and Captain William ROPER, of Accomack, who seems to have married a Katherine GRAVES about 1636. For many decades, most ROPER and GRAVES family historians have identified this Katherine GRAVES as a daughter of Captain Thomas GRAVES. It now appears to me from an examination of extant original records that both the GRAVES and ROPER families have been getting this WRONG for many decades.

This Post is intended to sketch out the primary evidence in support of an alternative construction of both the relationship of this Katherine GRAVES to Thomas GRAVES, as well as the various marriages of Captain Thomas GRAVES. Hopefully, this information will prove to be helpful to other GRAVES researchers studying the English origins of Captain Thomas GRAVES.

First, I want to explain that I have to date found no PRIMARY RECORDS which would tend to support the asserted ascription of Katherine GRAVES as Thomas GRAVES' daughter. To the contrary, I am able to find NO EVIDENCE that such a daughter was either born in America or transported to America UNLESS she is the unidentified wife of William ROPER shown in the Accomack records reading:

"1 Aug 1637 Whereas Lieftenante William Roper hath made it appeare unto this Courte that there is one hundred acres of Land due unto him Itt is thereupon thought fitt and soe ordered that the said land bee granted and confirmed unto the said Roper beinge due for the transportation of his wife and servante viz. William Sterlinge."

[County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, VA 1633-1640, Susie M. Ames, at page 81]

This is certainly NOT inconsistent with Katherine GRAVES being transported directly from England by Captain William ROPER sometime within a few years prior to 1 Aug 1637.

It WOULD appear that the wife alluded to in this grant must have come over some time AFTER Captain William ROPER, as Captain William ROPER's Patent 06 Sep 1636 provided for a grant of 150 acres at Platation Creek on the Eastern Shore at Accomack for the transportation of three persons: Himself, William YATES, and George COLLINGTON (COLLETON).

It would seem likely that if he had transported a wife at the SAME TIME of within a short time thereafter, that the WIFE would have been mentioned in the original Patent of 06 Sep 1636 and the grant enlarged accordingly.

The first evidence of Captain William ROPER's appearance at Accomack is an entry in the Accomack Court records showing:

"20 Sep 1633 William Roper doth acknowledge to owe unto our soveraigne lord king Charles tow hundred and fifty pounds of Corrent monies of England to be levied upon his goods and Chattles." [at page 5]

The arrival of the persons transported by Captain William ROPER may be further fixed by the extant court record indicating:

"At a court held in June, 1635, it was certified to the Govr. And Council that Walter Scott for adventuring six persons into this country have land. Wm. Drew brought 3, Wm. Roper 2, ..."

[See "Colonial Life as Revealed by the Court Records in One of the Original Shires of Virginia", by E. T. Crowson, at p. 4. Please NOTE that I have NOT seen the original of this record, but see below.]

And within the transcription of the Accomack Court records by Susie Ames, we have this more precise account:

"16 Jun 1635 Whereas mr. William Roper doth make appeere by testymony to Court that there is dew unto him land for tow persons wee the commissioners do certifie the same for a truth unto the governor and counsell under the titill of our court."

[County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, VA 1633-1640, Susie M. Ames, at page 36]

It is unclear whether the transportation of William YATES and George COLLINGTON (COLLETON) was concurrent with Captain William ROPER's arrival or some time later. But it would seem likely that Captain WIlliam ROPER arrived BEFORE 20 Sep 1633, and that William YATES and George COLLINGTON either arrived at the SAME TIME or at some point before the 16 June 1635 and that Captain ROPER's unidentified WIFE arrived possibly along with William STERLINGE somewhat after YATES and COLLINGTON, but certainly BEFORE 01 Aug 1637.

One reason that I have doubts about the unidentified wife of Captain William ROPER being Katherine GRAVES is my belief that this Captain William ROPER may have been the SAME William ROPER who married a Hannah HALLAM on 19 JAN 1629 at Saint Gregory By Saint Paul, London, London, England. And there is a record of a Hannah ROPER, age 23, is shown amongst the passengers aboard the ship the "Paul" which departed London on April 3, 1635, for St. Christopher. (See )

This is rather precisely the CORRECT interval for the transportation of Captain William ROPER's wife and I suspect that this was the unnamed wife identified in the 1637 Accomack Court records.


Turning to GRAVES records bearing upon the identity of Katherine GRAVES it is probably first helpful to review the best established accounts. From the GRAVES Family History web site we learn:

"Captain Thomas Graves died between November 1635 when he was witness to a deed and 5 Jan. 1636 when suit was entered against a servant to Mrs. Graves (Adventurers of Purse and Person, pp. 188-189). His birth date is not known, but is believed to be about 1580. That would have made him only about 55 years of age at his death.

Very little is known about Katherine, wife of Capt. Thomas Graves. Her maiden name may have been Croshaw. (There was a Raleigh Chroshaw, Gent., who arrived with the second supply with Thomas Graves.) Just when she came to Virginia is not recorded. She and her children are not included in the 1625 census of the Eastern Shore, although Capt. Thomas Graves is. The patent granted to John Graves (son of Capt. Thomas Graves) on Aug. 9, 1637 states that the 600 acres granted to him in Elizabeth City was "due in right of descent from his father Thomas Graves, who transported at his own cost himself, Katherine Graves his wife, John Graves the patentee, and Thomas Graves, Jr., and 8 persons." (Cavaliers and Pioneers, Nugent.) The 50 acres assigned for each person transported shows they came after 1616. The other 8 persons transported did not include any members of Capt. Graves' family. The girls, Ann, Verlinda, and Katherine obviously came later, and Francis was born in Virginia. The last reference to Mrs. Graves shows her living at the Old Plantation, Accomac, as of May 20, 1636."



Now for generations, ROPER family historians and other secondary sources have Captain William ROPER marrying Katherine GRAVES in 1636 or 1637, so this marriage happens at PRECISELY the time that widow Katherine GRAVES has becomes a widow.

Absent any actual primary evvidence in support of the existence of a daughter of Thomas GRAVES named Katherine, a much more reasonable hypothesis would seem to be that Captain William ROPER married Thomas GRAVES WIDOW rather than his daughter.

Now no doubt one of the reasons that genealogists were ready to ascribe this Katherine GRAVES as a daughter rather than a widow was her AGE. Katherine Graves Roper Sprigg is believed to have died on 4 July 1668 at , "Northampton Manor" in Prince Georges County, Maryland. It is believed that she died in childbirth, bearing a son, Thomas Sprigg (b ca 1668 - "Northampton Manor", Prince George's, MD; d 1726 - MD).

Given that she seems to have died in childbirth, let us hypothesize that her age at her date of death in 1668 was NOT more than fifty (50), putting her year of birth at some time after 1618. This makes her much TOO YOUNG to have been the mother to the elder children of Thomas GRAVES, but NOT too young to be a subsequent young wife.

I would present for GRAVES family consideration the following primary evidence:

Thomas GRAIES, ancient planter, Patented 200 acres of land on the Eastern shore adjacent to Henry FLEETE on 14 Mar 1628. This land was apparently in consideration of payment of 25 pounds. No persons are shown as having been "transported" by Thomas GRAVES in exchange for this Patent.

Please NOTE that the name shown on this Patent is GRAIES, NOT GRAVES.

This MUST BE the SAME Thomas GRAVES shown already residing on the Eastern Shore in the Muster of 16 Feb 1623/4 (See ). But it is also noteworthy that no wife or children are shown to be already residing in Virginia at the date of that Muster.

But there IS a Thomas GRAYE with WIFE, and seemingly children Jone and William residing in James Citie in the 16 Feb 1623/4 Muster (See ). There is also a George GRAVES and his wife at James Citie in that Muster. It is UNCLEAR whether this Thomas GRAYE is the SAME indiividual shown as Thomas GRAVES on the Eastern Shore, but it IS clear that the name GRAIE was used interchangeably with GRAVE/GRAVES as the land Patent shows.


Looking to the Muster of 24 Jan 1624/5 we find a Captain Thomas GRAVES again residing at the Eastern Shore (see ) and a George GRAVES residing with wife Elinor and son John GRAVES, age 10, at James Cities. Again there is a Thomas GRAYE with wife Margarett GRAYE and their children William GRAYE, age 3, and Jone GRAYE, age 6. (See )

If Thomas GRAVES is duplicately entered at both Accomack on the Eastern Shore and at James Citie, the entry was doubled BOTH in the 1623/4 and 1624/5 Musters.


The further evidence from consider the primary evidence from John GRAVES' Patent of 09 Aug 1637 is already well known to GRAVES researchers:

"The said six hundred acres of Land being due unto him the said John GRAVES in Right of Descent from his father Thomas GRAVES whoe transported at his owne xpen cost and Charges himselfe Katherine GRAVES his wife John GRAVES the Patentee and Thomas GRAVES Junr and eight psons whose names are in the Recorde mentioned under this Pattent. ...
Jone PARKETT???"

But possibly less familiar is the Patent of Thomas GRAY dated 21 July 1635 which was for 550 acres in the County of James... On the South side of the main river ever against James City. "... the said five hundred and fiftie acres of Land --- owing due unto him the said Thomas GRAY as followeth one hundred acres thereof due unto him as being an ancient planter at or before the line of Sr Thomas DALE his Governor? according to a Charter of orders of the late Treasurer and Companie bearing date the 18th day of November 1618 and fiftie acres for the psonall Adventure of Anis GRAY his first wife into this Colony and fiftie acres more for the psonall Adventure of Rebecca GRAY his now wife into this Colony and the other three hundred & fiftie acres of the said five hundred and fiftie acres of land being due unto the said Thomas GRAY by and for the transportation at his own expense cost and charges of his [three stricken out] two sonnes and five servants into this Colony whose names are in the Recorde mentioned after this Patent. ...
Tho: GRAY Anis GRAY his first wife Rebecca GRAY his 2d wife Wm GRAY
Tho GRAY Jon BISHOPP Robt -----

[Note there was a John BISHOP, age 23, aboard the "Paul" departing London 2 Jul 1635.]

The record reflects that Thomas GRAY was an "ancient planter". Given that we have no arrival information for Thomas GRAYE of James Citie, we cannot be certain that this record doesn't apply to him. But the mention of Sir Thomas DALE is noteworthy as he was in control of the Colony n Virginia from 1611 to 1615, after which he returned to England. This would seem to me to indicate the man we think of as Thomas GRAVES, of the Eastern Shore.

The record shows that this Thomas GRAVES probably had at least three sons who were transported to America, but only two of which were transported at the expense of Thomas GRAYE/GRAVES. And these two sons bore the names Thomas and William. We also know that Thomas GRAVES had a son named Thomas who is believed to have been born about 1616. I haven't gotten any traction yet on the servants. They certainly did NOT appear with Thomas GRAVES in the Muster of 1623/4 or 1624/5.

But this record is perhaps as interesting for what it does NOT say as for what it DOES say. Thomas GRAYE of James Citie has a wife named Margaret and children named William and Jone. While the son named WIlliam WOULD match the Patent, the wife named Margaret does NOT MATCH what the Patent says. And the daughter "Jone" or "Joan" is unmentioned in the Patent. One would be inclined to think that she would be named for an additional fifty acres, as well, if this Patent relates to Thomas GRAYE of James Citie.

Now it is also true that the John GRAVES Patent of 09 Aug 1637 claims Thomas GRAVES and Thomas GRAVES Jr., each of which would have been claimed TWICE if the Thomas GRAY Patent is actually for Thomas GRAVES.

Still, on balance, I am inclined to believe that Thomas GRAVES, of Accomack, is the SAME Thomas GRAY shown in the Patent of 21 July 1635. Bear also in mind that Thomas GRAVES is known to have died in 1636 BEFORE his son John GRAVES prepared the later Patent. So it is certainly possible that John GRAVES was unaware that the land Patented in 1635 included a portion for the transportation of Thomas GRAVES and Thomas GRAVES Jr.

I would suggest that GRAVES genealogists seriously consider the possibility that Thomas GRAVES was married three times and that his wives were:

1. Anne
2. Rebecca
3. Katherine

Finally, I would suggest the consideration of the possibility that Thomas GRAVES married Katherine GRAYGOOSE on 29 JAN 1627 at Saint Gregory By Saint Paul, London, London, England, precisely the SAME church where William ROPER married Hannah HALLAM on 19 JAN 1629. Katherine Graygoose GRAVES and Hannah Hallam ROPER were possibly FRIENDS in London prior to their arrival in Accomack. Hannah ROPER may have died in childbirth sometime after her arrival in the Americas on the Paul in 1635. When Thomas GRAVES died, William ROPER married his young widow.

I would suggest that a careful study be made of not only GRAVES/GRAUE marriages, but also of those of GRAY/GREY/GRAIE to ascertain the best candidates for the marriage of Thomas GRAVES to Anne and to Rebecca.

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
William A. Roper 1102751509000 
William A. Roper, Jr. 1102789397000 
William A. Roper, Jr. 1102791936000 
tyanite2002 1370983631000 
waroper 1374219834000 
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