James Spence (1702-1753) and Elizabeth Greaves/Graves (1707-1755)


My sixth-great grandfather, James Spence, was born about 1702 in Pasquotank, North Carolina. He was the youngest son of James Spence (1674-1740) and Esther Booth (1674-1715). In all likelihood, James had the same restless nature as his predecessors. His grandfather, David Spence, left Scotland for America and traveled back and forth between his original home in Northumberland County, Virginia and his final home in Somerset County, Maryland. His father, James Spence, David’s youngest son, traveled back and forth between North Carolina and Somerset County, Maryland. It appears as though these early Spences were constantly on the move. Young James was no exception.

When he was thirteen years old, James Spence’s mother (Esther Booth) died in 1715. His father married Sarah Elizabeth Truman (1673-1740). As noted in previous articles, she was a daughter of John Truman, who died in Somerset County, Maryland in 1686, and a sister of Dorothy Truman (1672-1734)—wife of Alexander Spence (1669-1735)—and Catherine (Cathron) Truman (1665-1726)—wife of John Spence (1672-1736). Sarah’s full name was Sarah Elizabeth Truman. She was known by her middle name when her father was alive. However, after his death in 1686 and after she moved into the John Booth household, she began using her first name Sarah. The Booths already had a daughter named Elizabeth or Eliza. By using her first name, Sarah avoided confusion. Sarah Elizabeth Truman and Esther Booth were raised together; to them, they were like sisters!

It is not known when Esther and Sarah moved to North Carolina. James Spence married Esther Booth about 1696. Their daughter Bridget was born in Somerset County, Maryland in 1698. James Spence was in Pasquotank with his two brothers by 1697. As suggested in an earlier article, he probably kept his family in Maryland, and traveled back and forth between North Carolina and Maryland until 1699 or 1700. By then, he moved his family to Pasquotank. His son, Alexander, was born in Pasquotank in 1700. And young James Spence, the subject here, was born in Pasquotank in 1702. Sarah Elizabeth became a close companion to Esther and when the James Spence family moved to North Carolina, Sarah moved along with them. James Spence continued traveling back and forth between the two colonies until his mother’s death in 1711, so he was absent much of the time. Young James grew up in a traveling environment and undoubtedly inherited that restless spirit.

The first reference to young James Spence is in his father’s will, per the following abstract:

“James Spence, Pasquotank Precinct, Will date: 20 Mar 1739; Probate: Oct 1740
Sons: Alexander, David and James. Daughters: Bridget Spence and Betty Mardrum. Wife and Executrix: Sarah. Witnesses: John Jones, Berd Banger, Elizabeth Perishe. Clerk of the Court: James Craven” (1)

[Note: Supposedly, James Spence, Sr. and his second wife Sarah Truman had a son named David Spence (1717-1775). As noted in an earlier article, I could find no information about this David. He either did not exist, or else he left the area early. They also appear to have had a daughter named Sarah Spence (1721-1739. She would have died before her father drew up his will.]

It is unknown when young James Spence traveled up through Virginia. He may have known family members who lived in the area. One of his jaunts took him to Spotsylvania County where the Greaves family lived, and where young James met his future wife: Elizabeth Greaves.

The Greaves Family

My encounter with the Greaves family has taken me on a wild escapade of my own. No one knew anything about her beyond her name Elizabeth, her approximate year of birth—1707—and her death which occurred after February 3, 1755. One Ancestry member suggested her father’s name was James Greaves. His name appeared on the Ancestry chart as just a name with no dates or locations. While checking available records, I found a James Greaves in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, but he lived there in 1769—long after the deaths of James Spence and Elizabeth Greaves. He may have been a family member, but he was not Elizabeth’s father. My discovery led me back to the drawing board once again.

So where did this Greaves family originate?

My search took me away from Ancestry to other search engines. And when I typed in the phrase Colonial Greaves Family of North Carolina, I made a remarkable discovery. One branch of the Greaves family later settled in Randolph County, North Carolina—the same location where a son of James and Elizabeth Greaves Spence also settled and about the same period of time! That discovery also led me to discovery of other Greaves family members in various North Carolina locations—all with apparent ties to a Spotsylvania, Virginia family headed by John Greaves/Graves, Sr. (1665-1747)

The John Greaves/Graves story is interesting. For a long time, researchers presumed John was a son of Capt. Thomas Greaves and Mary Perrin of Jamestown. All of that proved not to be true when DNA testing showed there was no connection. According to Gravesfa.org:

“John Graves Sr/Greaves (1) was born about 1665 and died after 1737. His wife’s name is not known. He had 3 sons including John Graves Jr b 1685 (married to Frances), Thomas (above) born 1691, and Joseph Graves b 1715. It is believed that he was an immigrant to Virginia from Northamptonshire, England (based on DNA testing, and the Bible record of Solomon Graves in the Appendix), and his surname may have been spelled Greaves in England (since all other proven relatives of his in England spelled their name as Greaves)” (2)

An abstract of John Greaves’ will follows:

“GRAVES, JOHN, St. George’s Parish, d. Mar. 30, 1747, p. June 2, 1747. Wit. Joseph Holloday, Benjamin Holloday, B. Lewis, William Webb. Ex. wife Susanna, Joseph Peterson, John Wigglesworth. Leg. wife Susanna, 140 acres of land which I had of Nicholas Randolph; son Thomas Graves, 140 acrss of land next his brother Edward; daughter Rebecca, 140 acrss of land next her brother Thomas; son Isaac, 140 acres of land next his sister Rebecca; son John, 140 acrss of land next his brother Isaac; daughter Jemima, 140 acres of land next her brother John. (Page 444)” (3)

In the records I have seen, John had one wife, identified as Susanna in his will. Some people call her Rebecca Susanna. Others believe she was Rebecca Susanna Harwood while others refer to her as Rebecca Susanna Dickens. Still others combine these names: Rebecca Susanna Harwood Dickens, some even adding the name Virginia! Susanna is the only name I can verify at this point. I do not know how the other names came into being.

The children identified in John’s will are Thomas, Edward, Rebecca, Isaac, Jemima and John. Elizabeth’s name is not mentioned. On the other hand, other records indicate he had a daughter named Elizabeth. This discovery led me to another problem. Some people believe John’s Elizabeth was born in 1697, died in 1729, and married Edward Randolph I in London in 1718. This belief was probably stimulated by the reference in John’s will to a tract of land he acquired from Nicholas Randolph. After further research, I have concluded that this Elizabeth is not the daughter of John Greaves. Elizabeth (Randolph) was born about 1697 in Bristol, Somerset, England. She married Edward Randolph in London, England December 15, 1718, and she died in Henrico County, Virginia about 1729. The Millennium File at Ancestry.com identifies her as Elizabeth Grosvenor, born 1688 in Bristol, England (4). No parents are identified, although some people believe her father’s name was Edward Grosvenor.

So who was Elizabeth Greaves?

Based upon available records, the children of John Greaves/Graves and his wife Susanna follow:
1. John Greaves/Graves, Jr. (1685-1757). John is presumed to have been John and Susanna’s oldest child. He had two marriages. His first wife was Hannah Smith (1690-1719) and his second wife was Frances Coleman (1702-1765), by whom he had his children. Their children were:
a. Ann Graves (1719-1798)
b. Elizabeth “Betty” Graves (1720-1826)
c. James Graves (1722-1781)
d. Thomas Graves (1724-1792)
e. John Graves (1725-1798)
f. Joseph Thomas Graves (1725-1785)
g. Frances Ann Graves (1742-1820)
2. Thomas Greaves/Graves (1691-1767). Thomas also had two marriages. His first wife was Mary Perkins (1692-1720). Their children were:
a. Eleanor Graves (1713-1777)
b. John Graves (1715-1792)
c. Louisa Graves (b. 1717)
d. Mary Graves (b. 1718)
His second wife was Ann Davenport (1696-1782). Their children were:
a. Thomas Graves (1721-1801)
b. Solomon Graves (1723-1785)
c. Capt. William Graves (1724-1790)
d. Richard Graves (1725-1788)
e. Rice Graves (1729-1814)
f. David Graves (1730-1808)
g. Susannah Graves (1730-1802)
h. Katherine Graves (1731-1772)
i. Robert Graves (1733-1771)
j. Nancy Catherine Graves (1734-1809)
k. ROSANNA GRAVES (1735-1782). Rosanna is an important connection and supports my argument about Elizabeth Greaves. Rosanna married John Spencer (1732-1789). Their son was Sharp Spencer (1770-1834). Sharp was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, and he died in Putnam County, Indiana. He had two wives: Margaret Elizabeth Crenshaw (1772-1809) and Jenny Trigger Crady (1790-1844). Their son, William Spencer (1817-1888), later moved to Jasper County, Missouri, where he became associated with the sons of my third great grandfather, Samuel Perry Spence (1800-1859)—Samuel, a direct descendant of James Spence and Elizabeth Greaves of this study. I had always believed there was a family connection somewhere concerning William Spencer, but could not find it until now. (There are two earlier articles about William Spencer on my website: “Who Killed John Bass Jones: Part One” (5) and “Who Killed John Bass Jones: Part Two—The Odyssey of Mrs. Ady” (6).
l. Catherine Graves (1737-1830). [I’m not certain whether she is another daughter named Catherine or whether this is an error. More research is needed.]
3. Edward Graves (1693-1763). No additional information
4. Jemima Graves (1699-1764). No additional information
5. Rebecca Graves (1702-1814). No additional information
6. Robert Graves (b. 1702). No additional information. Rebecca’s twin.
7. Isaac Graves (1705-1790). No additional information.
8. ELIZABETH GRAVES (1707-1755). The subject under discussion here.
9. Mary Graves (b. 1707). Elizabeth’s twin who did not survive.
10. Joseph Graves (1715-1774). Joseph relocated to North Carolina. He probably settled first in Rowan County. That part of Rowan later became Surry County. Joseph’s wife was Sarah Bunyard (1721-1774). They had one daughter—Mary Graves (1738-1800). Her husband was Col. Benjamin Cleveland (1738-1806) of Revolutionary War fame.

The three sons specifically tied to John Greaves/Graves through DNA testing are John Graves, Thomas Graves and Joseph Graves (7).

So, what about Elizabeth?

When I first became aware of Elizabeth Greaves, I was reluctant to include her on my tree as a child of John Greaves/Graves and his wife Susanna. Finally, I decided to include her. After all, I would receive no DNA matches if she was not his daughter. On the other hand, I would receive a DNA confirmation if the relationship was correct.

That evening, I received my first confirmation.

Since then, I’ve had at least a dozen matches with John Greaves/Graves as the common ancestor. The confirmations extend from John through three of his sons: John, Thomas and Joseph down to the sender on the one hand and from John through Elizabeth down through my Spence line to me on the other! In addition to all of this, the names William, Edward, and Robert were Greaves/Graves names. They frequently appear among James Spence and Elizabeth Greaves’ descendants. John Greaves’ father’s name has been suggested as William. That would explain the origin of the name.

I am satisfied that Elizabeth Greaves (wife of James Spence) was John Greaves/Graves’ Elizabeth!

James Spence and Elizabeth Greaves were married in Virginia about 1721. They left for Pasquotank shortly after the wedding. No doubt John and Susanna sent them off with their blessing and with Susanna’s portion of her inheritance. This would explain why Elizabeth is not mentioned in her father’s will.

The children of James Spence and Elizabeth Greaves follow:
1. William Edward Spence (1722-1785). [My fifth great grandfather]

2. Isaac Spence (1722-1806)–William’s twin. For an update on him, click HERE
3. James Spence (1730-1804)
4. Letisha Spence (1734-1786)
5. David Spence (1735-1790)
6. Greaves Spence (1742-1803)

I will be writing individual articles about William and James. Letisha, David and Greaves will be combined in a separate article. [Note: Isaac Spence was discovered September 2015. For Isaac’s update, click HERE.]

(1) North Carolina Will Abstracts, 1660-1790, about James Spence. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 6 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com
(2) John Graves of Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Originally posted at Gravesa.org. Copy posted at Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date accessed: 6 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com
(3) John Graves Will Abstract, Virginia County Records Spotsylvania County 1721-1800
Wills, Will Book A 1722-1749 page 8. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date accessed: 6 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com
(4) Millennium File about Elizabeth Grosvenor (b. 1688). Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date accessed: 6 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com
(5) “Who Killed John Bass Jones, Part One.” Historical Footprints 2010 website. Story written 2010. Date accessed: 3 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.historical-footprints-2010.com/john_bass_jones_1.html
(6) “Who Killed John Bass Jones, Part Two.” Historical Footprints 2010 website. Story written 2010. Date accessed: 3 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.historical-footprints-2010.com/ady_odyssey.html
(7) John Graves/Greaves of Northamptonshire, England. Original website address: http://www.gravesfa.org/gen270.htm. Copy at Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date accessed: 6 Jan 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

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