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This is not intended to be a final and definitive presentation of Graves/Greaves/Grieve/etc. migration, but a guide and a work in progress. Send your comments and additions to Ken Graves.

Within the British Isles

Studies need to be done and evidence needs to be gathered to prove whether there were many origins of the family name or just a few. It is not yet proven that the name variations of Graves, Greaves, Grave, Grieves, Grieve, Greve, and others were from a common origin.

However, the belief is presently that most, if not all, of the name variations are related, that there was only a handful of original ancestors, and that they were located in the southern Yorkshire, northern Derbyshire, northern Lincolnshire area of England. It is hoped that studies of ancient records, population distributions at various times, and DNA analysis will prove or disprove this theory.

The change in distribution of various spellings of the surname can be seen on a series of maps.

From European Countries

A comparatively large number of Graves/Grave/Greaves are on the lists of early settlers arriving from Europe. Most of these emigrated from England and settled in America, but some were from other countries, and some went to Australia or elsewhere. Most of the known immigrant Graves ancestors are listed below. In some cases it cannot be proven that the earliest known person in the family was the immigrant, but this is believed to be the case.

Most other ancestors and branches of the Graves families in America and elsewhere are believed to have descended from these ancestors. However, there are undoubtedly other lines, and some of the ancestors shown here are probably related, at least distantly.

It has long been believed by most people that all the Graves families in America descended from a very few immigrant ancestors. Although it may be true that a few immigrant ancestors account for most of the descendants in America, it is also evident from the following long list of families that there have been many, many immigrant Graves families.

The number in parentheses for each ancestor is the arbitrary identifying number assigned to each one.

Note that often there have been many immigrants of the same name during the same time period. For instance, there were at least 6 immigrants to America named Thomas Graves in the 1600's. So great care must be used to be sure the correct person is identified.

From the British Isles to America

Graves family members have gone from the British Isles to settle in America from the early 1600's until the present day. The first known family member was Capt. Thomas Graves of VA (169) who arrived in Jamestown, VA in Oct. 1608. Many others have arrived since then, settling in what is now the U.S. and Canada.

  • Parents of Adam Graves (43) migrated from England. Adam lived in MD, then moved to Canada with the Loyalist migration in the 1770's.
  • Constant Graves (130), b. 1751, said to have emigrated from Scotland or Ireland to New England about 1775.
  • Deacon George Graves (65), b.c. 1600 in England, and settled in Hartford, CT about 1636.
  • George Graves (255) was b. 1795 in Lincolnshire or Yorkshire, England, and moved to MA about 1813.
  • George Graves (64), b. 1775, lived in Plaistow, London, England. Two of his sons emigrated to the U.S. by 1870.
  • George Graves (272) of Sussex and Hampshire, England had a grandson who went to the U.S. in 1885.
  • Richard Greaves of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, England (70); descendants went to NY state in 1821.
  • James Graves of Cambridgeshire, England (139) had at least 1 child, James Graves, who emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1800's and settled in NE.
  • John Graves (166), b.c. 1605 in England, arrived in America in 1635 and settled in Concord, MA.
  • John Graves (116), possibly b.c. 1735, maybe in southern England, and settled in Frederick Co., VA by 1760 or before.
  • John Graves of Roxbury, MA (337), b.c. 1590-95, arrived in MA in 1633 from Nazing, Essex, England.
  • John Graves (254) lived in Lincolnshire, England. At least one of his daughters moved to the U.S. in 1846.
  • John Graves (277) emigrated from the London, England area to the U.S. in the mid-1800's.
  • Joseph Greaves (156), possibly b.c. 1710, probably in England.
  • Margaret Graves/Greaves (367) married William Morton in 1769 in Kilmore or Ardagh, Ireland. They migrated to the U.S. in 1789, settled in DE, then PA.
  • Mary Graves (267) married Patrick Cody in Wexford, Ireland, and they went to Quebec, Canada about 1834.
  • Richard Graves (117), b.c. 1612 in England, settled in Salem, MA in 1635.
  • Samuel Graves (83), b.c. 1595-1600 in England, settled in Lynn, MA about 1630.
  • Taylor Graves (253) was born in Ireland, moved to Liverpool, England, then moved to the southern U.S. in the 1850's.
  • Thomas Graves (287) emigrated from England to Quebec, Canada, perhaps in the early 1800's, and lived in VT.
  • Rear Admiral Thomas Graves (28), b. 1605, probably in Stepney, England, arrived in America about 1628 and settled in Charlestown, MA.
  • Thomas Graves (168), b. before 1585 in England, possibly arrived in Salem, MA in 1629, settled in Hartford, CT by 1645.
  • Thomas Graves (213), possibly b. early 1600's in England, was the first inhabitant of Nahant, MA in 1629 or 1635.
  • Thomas Graves of New Castle Co., DE (85) probably an original immigrant before 1700, was a Quaker, probably from northern Ireland.
  • Capt. Thomas Graves of VA (169), b.c. 1585 in England or Ireland, arrived in Jamestown, VA in 1608.
  • Thomas Graves (131), engineer, of Gravesend, England & MA, b.c. 1585, arrived in MA in 1629 and lived in Newtown (later Cambridge), MA.
  • William Graves (205), b. 1822 in Cambridgeshire, England, arrived in OH in 1851, settled in IA in 1853.
  • William Graves (266) lived in Yorkshire, England. His son, William Lawrence Graves, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada in 1905.
  • William Graves and Elizabeth York of Dover, NH (165), b. in England, perhaps about 1622.

From England to Australia & New Zealand

Migration to Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the British empire did not occur until the 1800's. Examples include:

  • John Greaves of Norfolk & Cambridgeshire, England (61). Descendants went to Australia and the U.S. in the late 1800's.
  • John Graves of Carlton, Yorkshire, England (113). Descendants went to Australia in 1857, and to the U.S.
  • William Greaves of Yorkshire, England (114). Descendants went to Australia in 1854.
  • William James Graves of London, England (164) had son, William Henry Graves, b.c. 1851, who went to Queensland, Australia in 1874.
  • Richard Grave of Wymondham, Norfolk, England (198) went to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in the 1850's.
  • William George Grave (199) was of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. His son of the same name went to Melbourne, Australia in the late 1800's.
  • Henry Graves of the Isle of Man (229). His grandson, Charles, went to Melbourne, Australia about 1847.
  • James Graves of Hertfordshire, England (230). Some of his descendants went to New Zealand and Canada in the early 1900's.

From Germany and German-speaking Areas of Europe to America

  • John Graves (Johann Sebastian Graff) (105), b.c. 1703 in the German Palatinate, arrived in America in 1730.
  • Ferdinand Graves (257) was born in Hanover, Germany, and moved to the U.S. in the mid-a800's.
  • Ludwig August Adolph Graeves of Germany & MD (670)
  • William Frederick Greve of Germany, NY & NJ (755)

Within the U.S.

Most early migration to what is now the United States of America went to the seaports on the east coast. As the nation expanded, most migration was to the west. Since most people depended on farming for their living, they tended to stay in the same climatic zones (similar to the growing zones shown on the back of seed packets), because crops and farming techniques would be similar.

The change in distribution of various spellings of the surname can be seen on a series of maps.

However, there was some north-south migration. Some of this was related to coastal trade by ship, some to the Revolutionary War and Civil War, and some was connected with economic, religious and political issues. The lure of free or inexpensive land was great, and escape from excessive government control was often a factor also. Some of the examples are below.

  • Samuel Graves of Lynn, MA (83). Sarah Graves who married Abraham Newton of MA & NC (genealogy 538) was probably a 5th generation descendant of Samuel Graves. Sarah, Abraham and 4 of their sons moved from MA to NC in the 1750's, lived in New Hanover Co. and then Duplin Co., NC.
  • Quaker family of Thomas Graves of New Castle Co., DE (85). Descendants moved from the vicinity of Philadelphia, PA to NC in the 1760's, but then many later moved to OH and IN, possibly because of the issue of slavery.
  • John Graves (Johann Sebastian Graff) (105) moved from near Philadelphia, PA to VA, NC, and then to eastern TN.
  • John Graves of Concord, MA (166). Abram Graves and his wife Zilpha Rose moved from Rupert, VT to Thomasville, GA in 1857. His son Cyrus Spencer Graves was a business owner and had probably moved for business reasons. His timing (right before the Civil War) was very poor.
  • Thomas Graves of Hartford, CT (168). Stephen Graves ended up in SC about 1783 after the Revolutionary War, and owned land in Blount Co., TN by 1800.
  • Capt. Thomas Graves of VA (169).
  • Ann Graves, daughter of Capt. Thomas Graves, m(2) Nathaniel Eaton. He had previously been head of Harvard College.
  • The Starnes family that married into this Graves family were in Lynn, MA in 1630, Tolland, CT about 1722-1725, Frederick Co., VA about 1754, and NC & SC 1755-1790. (See pages 22-24, 2001 Graves Family Newsletter.)
  • Lt. William Graves of MA & Nova Scotia, Canada (238). He moved to Nova Scotia in 1760 after having served in the French and Indian War.
  • Moses Graves and Sarah Baker of SC & GA (893). He may have been descended from Puritan settlers of Dorchester, MA in 1630, who went to Dorchester, SC in 1695, and then to Midway, Liberty Co., GA in 1752.

From U.S. to Canada, Brazil and Elsewhere

During and after the American Revolution, many Loyalists (those loyal to Great Britain) went to Canada, to England, and elsewhere.

During and after the American Civil War, many southerners left the U.S. and went to Brazil and elsewhere.

All wars have probably created migration. Most recently, protestors from the U.S. fled to Canada during the Viet Nam War.

Total Immigration to the U.S.

Total Graves immigration to the U.S. by year

Total Graves immigration to the U.S. by year (from 1851 though 1891) is shown on this chart. This is from the U.S. Immigration Collection of Ancestry.com.

To find more information on these families, go to the Alphabetical Ancestor Listing.