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This page will contain challenging genealogical puzzles that need to be solved. If answers are found, they will be included also. If you have an especially difficult, unusual, or interesting research problem you would like us to consider featuring in the future, send it to Ken Graves.

All the links below take you to the specific puzzle of interest further down the page. To get back to this list scroll back up to the top of the page.

Who was William Greaves (1852-1938) who was a Yorkshire painter?
(Posted May 2007)


William Greaves was a painter who lived in England, probably in North Yorkshire, from 1852 to 1938. He painted scenes of areas in the Scottish lowlands near Edinburgh and in the North country of England near Leeds. Who were his parents and what is his ancestry? For some examples of his paintings, click on this link.

Answer: Thanks to help from Bryan Avery, William Greaves has been found in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses of Leeds, Yorkshire, with wife Mary Eliza ------ and children Charles Robert, Joseph Walter, Clarence Willie, Percy, and Gertrude. He may have been a son of George Greaves and Mary Houle, and a grandson of Benjamin Greaves and Nellie ------, but that ancestry still needs to be substantiated. Can you help find more information?

Who was John Grave who left a 1692 will in Isle of Wight Co., Virginia?
(Posted March 2007)


This puzzle started out with an interesting will dated 24 September 1692 that was recently found by Karen Beverly (descended from gen. 169) in the Prerogative Count of Canterbury (England) for a "John Grave of Virginia, North America". The will was difficult to read and it was thought that once it was transcribed, it might be for someone descended from Capt. Thomas Graves (genealogy 169). Most of the will has now been transcribed by Karen Beverly, along with another record that shows that John Grave was a Quaker and probably lived in Isle of Wight Co., VA. Can you complete the missing pieces of the transcription and help find what family he was part of?

As explained in the commentary on the will, it appears that John Grave may have been a fabric merchant (a draper). Two nephews, Peter Grave and Walter Potter, are mentioned in his will, but no wife or children are mentioned. It is interesting that his will seems to differentiate between the surname Grave and Grieves, but no mention is made of the spelling Graves.

What is the ancestry of Josh Graves, American bluegrass musician?
(Posted Jan. 2007)


Josh Graves (born Sept. 27, 1927, died Sept. 30, 2006 in Nashville, TN) was an American bluegrass musician. Born Burkett K. Graves, at Tellico Plains, Monroe County, Tennessee, his birthdate has also been variously published as 1925, or September 27, 1928. (His name was given as Burkett Howard Graves in an Associated Press article published in the Dallas Morning News.) Also known by the nicknames "Buck," and "Uncle Josh," he is credited with introducing the dobro into bluegrass music shortly after joining Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1955. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1997.

He is on the Famous Family Members page of the GFA website. The Country Music News website, in its obituary, states that his parents were Elizabeth and Troy Graves. Survivors include his wife of 61 years Evelyn Graves; daughters Linda Howell and Bambi Lynn Broersma; sons Burkett (Josh) Graves, Jr., Billy Troy Graves, and Raymond Bryan Graves; sister Jewel Key; brother Harold R. Graves; 18 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held October 3 at the Chapel of Madison Funeral Home, with interment in Hendersonville Memory Gardens.

The puzzle is that neither he nor his parents have yet been positively identified in the 1930 census. It is possible that he is the Howard Graves, age 2 years and 8 months, in the 1930 census for Maryville, Blount Co. (next to Monroe Co.), TN, with parents Traues (or Tranes) Graves, 27, NC, and Lizzie, 25, TN, and brother Richard, 8, TN. But, if this is his family, why can't his father be found in earlier census records? If his middle name was really Howard, why is his middle initial given as K by most sources? Can anyone help find his family and ancestry?

Answer: It does appear that the 1930 census record in Maryville, Blount Co., TN, for Tranes Graves and Lizzie, with sons Richard and Howard, is for this family. Troy Graves has now been found in the 1910 census for Benton Co., TN, age 14, with parents Simon Graves, b.c. 1867 in IL, and M. A., born about 1867 in TN. The 1880 census for Polk, Pope Co., IL, lists Simon Graves, 12, adopted, living in the family of Burton Barger. The 1870 census for Pope Co., IL, shows Simon Graves, 2, with his parents James and Mary Graves. The 1850 census for Pope Co., IL, shows James and Mary Graves with their oldest son John, living next to Barger families. James Graves was born about 1827 or 1830 in TN, and Mary was born about 1830 in IL. So it appears that the parents of Josh Graves were Troy and Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Graves, his grandparents were Simon and M. A. Graves, and his great-grandparents were James and Mary Graves. He may have been descended from genealogy 105 (John Graves/Johann Sebastian Graff).

As of Jan. 2009, it appears that the preceding speculation is not quite correct, and that Josh Graves was descended from John Graves and Susan ------ of SC & Carter Co., TN (genealogy 92). According to Charlie Purvis, Josh was a son of Troy Graves 8 March 1902-30 Nov. 1958) and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Thomas. Troy was a son of Amanda Graves (b. 9 Feb. 1860, never married) and her consort Napoleon Bryson. Amanda Graves was a daughter of Harrison Graves (1825-2 Oct. 1883) and Mary Emery. Harrison Graves was a son of Millie Graves (never married), who was a daughter of Benjamin Graves and Rachel Asher.

How are the Graves families of Caroline Co. and Halifax Co., VA connected, and what is their ancestry?


DNA testing has allowed us to find a group of families that are all related to John Graves of Halifax Co., VA (born about 1735, genealogy 145), and probably all descended from an ancestor in Caroline Co. and Halifax Co., Virginia. These families apparently migrated from Virginia to SC, TN, Pike Co., AL, and elsewhere. We have not yet found a related family in England, but that discovery is probably only a matter of time.

If you go to the Graves Family Association website and click on the link in the DNA Study section for Charts, and then scroll down to the section for Graves Families of Caroline Co. & Halifax Co., VA, you will see all the family segments that are presently believed to be part of this family. Note especially the family of Richard Graves and Jane Fielding presently included in genealogy 169. The DNA results make it clear that the descendants of this couple do not belong as descendants of Capt. Thomas Graves (gen. 169). Since the DNA result of a descendant of Richard Graves and Millie Murrell matched other descendants of this part of genealogy 169, it is apparent that there were two different men named Richard Graves, and the same Richard Graves did not marry Millie Murrell and then Jane Fielding.

A DNA test result has now been received for a descendant of William Lynch Graves (genealogy 84). This result exactly agrees with that for the descendants of Richard Graves and Jane Fielding. It has been believed that this Richard Graves and William Lynch Graves were brothers and sons of a John Graves, possibly the one shown in genealogy 169 as their father.

The summary chart (link on the charts page) shows how the families are probably connected.

To begin to answer the questions about this family, the portions of genealogy 169 that are part of this family need to be identified and separated out.
(1) The lines of Richard and James Graves (the other sons of Richard Graves and Jane Fielding) should be DNA tested.
(2) The parents of Richard Graves were John Graves and Lucy Adams. Some of the other lines from this John Graves should be DNA tested also, since some of the evidence is not as good as it should be. In addition to Richard Graves, sons of John Graves were John m. Lucy Turner, Thomas m. J. Turner, and William Lynch Graves m. Sarah H. Turner. Since it has already been shown that William Lynch Graves was part of the Caroline Co. family, it seems likely that his brothers who married Turner women were also.
(3) More traditional research is needed to gather more documentary evidence of the relationships. It looks as if Critzer-Drumheller Ancestors and other sources for this part of genealogy 169 were wrong.

In addition, we need to find the connections between these family segments by a combination of more DNA testing and traditional research, and we need to locate related families in England by DNA testing.

Was Jerry Haden Graves descended from Thomas Graves (b.c. 1780) rather than from William Graves (b.c. 1775)?


Genealogy 152 is for Thomas Graves of Lunenburg Co. & Mecklenburg Co., VA. DNA test results have now been received for 6 descendants of this family. All test results confirm descent from Thomas Graves. However, the results for Jerry Haden Graves indicate a possibility that his line belongs in the part of the family descended from Thomas's son Thomas (b.c. 1780) rather than from his son William (b.c. 1775). (See the DNA chart for this family.) Should this part of the genealogy be changed and, if so, where is the error?

On the DNA chart for genealogy 152, all 6 of the test results have a mutation of 18 at position 33. However, samples 1343 and 30217 have an additional mutation of 39 at position 35. When something like that happens, it usually occurs in one man and then is passed down to all his male descendants. The odd thing is that, although sample 1343 is descended from Thomas (b.c. 1780), the other sample (30217) is supposedly descended from William (b.c. 1775). Since there are test results from 4 samples indicating that William did not have that mutation at marker 35, that means it would have had to occur twice (once for each sample showing it). That would be unusual. It seems much more likely that the line of 30217 really belongs as a descendant of Thomas (b.c. 1780). If so, there must be an error in the genealogy and the question is where.

Other possibilities are: (1) one of the sons from the line of Thomas (b.c. 1780) was adopted or raised by a family in the line of William (b.c. 1775), (2) a son in the descent from William was fathered by a man descended from Thomas. Neither of these explanations seems likely. A third possibility is that the descent of sample 1343 is wrong and part of that line actually belongs close to the lineage of 30217. Testing other descendants of both 1343 and 30217 should show which line (if either) is wrong.

Another part of this same research problem is that the DNA test results for samples 1343 and 30217 are a 37 of 37 match with those for genealogy 56 (John Graves of VA & Orange Co., NC) and genealogy 94 (Thomas Sims Graves of VA & KY). Since it looks unlikely that gen. 56 and 94 are descended from gen. 152, it may be that the ancestor of all three of these parts of the family had a value of 39 at marker 35, and the mutation was from 39 to 40 for the other 4 samples of genealogy 152. That doesn't explain the possible incorrect placement of the 1343 or 30217 line, but does better account for the relationship between genealogies 56, 94 and 152.

Was George Watson Graves the father of Charles Elliott Graves of TX?


Genealogy 503 is for Charles Elliott Graves and Susan Adaline Fisher of TX. Much evidence indicates that Charles (born 1863) was a son of George Watson Graves (born 1827), and a grandson of James Alexander Graves, ninth generation descendant of Capt. Thomas Graves of VA (genealogy 169). The mysterious aspect of this is that George and his wife Mary are in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses for Smith Co., TX, with no children living with them, and Charles has not been found anywhere in those censuses. However, Charles, his wife Susan, and their children, are in the 1900 census for Joaquin, Shelby Co., TX, with his father George W. Graves living with them. Where was Charles in the earlier censuses and how can we prove that George in those earlier censuses was his father?

According to the unpublished manuscript of John Card Graves (a Graves genealogist of about 100 years ago), James Alexander Graves was born 25 April 1807 in Fayette Co., KY. His oldest son was Rev. George Watson Graves, born 2 Oct. 1827 in KY, and married Mary E. Been (or Bean) on 10 Aug. 1852. No descendants were given by John Card Graves. According to descendants of Charles Elliott Graves, he was born in Smith Co., TX. The only people with the Graves surname in Smith Co. in 1860-1880 are George W. Graves (b.c. 1828 in KY) and his wife Mary E. Graves (b.c. 1835 in TN). In the 1900 census, Charles E. Graves reported that his father was born in KY and his mother in TX, and that agrees with the 1860-1880 census records. George Watson Graves had a brother named Charles E. Graves, who died in 1862. Charles Elliott Graves named a son James Alexander Graves. Everything seems to fit perfectly except for there being no children reported in the household of George and Mary. Is it possible that Charles Elliott Graves was in his parents' household in the various censuses but wasn't reported?