Graves Surname Genealogy
– from the Middle English greyve and Low
German greve meaning “steward” or
“person in charge of property.”
serfs in the English manors usually elected one of their number
oversee their work for the lord. From
this official the surnames Reeve or Reaves were derived. In
the north of England he was called a Grave,
a name related to the German Graff, but which did not attain the higher
that it did in Germany. Sometimes an “s”
was added for phonetic reasons to make it Graves.
The name has nothing to do with places of burial.”
is a north of England surname, as is the like-sounding Greaves.
Greaves, however, came from a different root, the Old English word graefe meaning “grove.”
Graves Resources on
- Graves Family Association
- Narrative Genealogy of the Graves Family
Descendants of Johann Sebastian Graff.
- Graves DNA Project Graves
England. It is thought
that the Graves name had its origin in the southern part of Yorkshire
and in the northern parts of Lincolnshire, Derbyshre, and
Nottinghamshire. Lincolnshire and Yorkshire were leading counties
for Graves in
the 1881 census.
older Grave spelling was found in Yorkshire in the 15th and 16th
persisted in Cumbria until the 19th.
Henry Grave was a husbandman of Buttercrambe in Yorkshire who
1465. Robert Grave was a baker in Keswick in 1841 and a pencil
maker there in 1851. But the name was John Woodcock Graves,
born in Cumbria in 1795, who was the composer of the song D’ye Ken John Peel.
One Graves line began at Cleckheaton in west Yorkshire in the 1470’s (and possibly
John Graves moved to London and died there in 1616 at
the age of 103.
is a portrait of him by Cornelis Janson on a panel in Mickleton House,
painted when he was in his I02nd year, and an engraving of him also at
102 in Nash’s History of Worcestershire.”
It was his grandson Richard Graves who made a fortune in his law
practice and acquired Mickleton manor in
Gloucestershire in 1656. His cousin Sir Edward later became
physician to Charles II. By this time a branch of the family
had established themselves in Ireland. Later, some of this
Anglo-Irish family were to return to England:
- Thomas Graves, an Admiral in the British navy, who moved to
Thanckes in Cornwall in the early 1700’s. His son Thomas, another
Admiral, saw action in the American Revolutionary War, his fleet being
defeated by the French off Chesapeake Bay. He was, however,
elevated to the peerage as Baron Graves.
- and Alfred Perceval Graves, a Dublin-born school inspector and
Gaelic scholar, who moved to London in the 1890’s. His son Robert
Graves, the distinguished writer and poet, was born and grew up
name in Hornchurch, Lincolnshire dates back to the 1760’s. John George
Graves was born there in 1866. At the age
of 14 he moved to Sheffield and was apprenticed to a watchmaker. He started his own practice seven years later
and set up one of Britain’s first mail order businesses, selling first
then a wide range of goods. The company
employed at its peak 3,000 people in Sheffield. He
became one of Sheffield’s great benefactors.
Ireland at the time of Cromwell. Colonel William
Graves of the Mickleton Graves was granted land there in 1647 and later
two sons Henry and James in charge of properties in Limerick and
Ulster. Neither son had a great time of it.
the hostility of the Irish papists.’ In 1689 John, then
William II, was robbed of his regiment’s wages and murdered in his bed.”
But these Graves would become a notable Anglo-Irish family. John
Graves was the Sheriff of Limerick in 1720. From Dublin in the
19th century came Robert Graves the medical
innovator, his cousin
John Graves the lawyer and mathematician, and another cousin Charles
Graves the Anglican Bishop of Limerick.
long-time reference book for Graves in America has been the three
by General John Card Graves, Genealogy of
the Graves Family in America, published in 1896.
He himself was a descendant of the John Graves
who had come to Concord, Massachusetts in 1635.
Like all works of that time, it can be prone to error as it
research tools that are available today.
Early Graves arrivals in New England were:
Graves who came from Lincolnshire in
1630 and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Graves descendants were
still in Lynn
in the 19th century
was in Concord, Massachusetts by 1635. Among his descendants
were General John Card Graves of Buffalo, New
York and Henry
Graves, the New York banker who made millions from railroad investments
- Richard Graves, the pewterer,
who arrived on the Abigail also in 1635 and settled in
Graves, recorded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1645, who settled in
Massachusetts in 1661. Some of these
migrated to Rutland, Vermont in the early 1800’s. The
line was covered in Germont Graves’ 1911
book Graves Genealogy.
Thomas Graves arrived in Jamestown,
Virginia as early as 1608. He survived
the privations of the ensuing years and was recognized as one of the
planters” until his death in 1636. His
Graves descendants in Gloucester county are via his two sons John and
Francis Graves of Gloucester
county was not a descendant, according to DNA analysis.
Many more descendants are thought to have
come from him, including over the past hundred years Bibb Graves,
the Governor of Alabama in 1927, and Bill
Graves, the recent Governor of Kansas.
There have also been German Graves in America, from Graff or Greve
immigrants. The earliest was
Johann Sebastian Graff, a refugee from the German Palatinate who
1730. He was resident in Pennsylvania
for a while before moving with his family to South Carolina and later
Tennessee. “Old John,” as John Sebastian Graves was then
called, lived to be
number of Graves Loyalists crossed the border into Canada after the
of the Revolutionary War. Their numbers
Graves who left his
home in New Hampshire and was one of the first settlers in West
Quebec in 1796
- and George Graves who had
suffered imprisonment in Maryland and deportation
to England before his eventual arrival in Canada around 1797.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Graves was an eminent 19th century Irish doctor and professor
Graves’ disease took its name.
Robert Graves was a celebrated
English poet, writer and novelist of the first half of the 20th century.
Blind Roosevelt Graves was an
blues guitarist and singer of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Select Graves Today
- 9,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 29,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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