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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: English, French

Where did the English Graves family come from? What is the English Graves family crest and coat of arms? When did the Graves family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Graves family history?

The earliest origins of the name Graves date back to the time of the Anglo-Saxons. The name is derived from the baptismal name Reeve where as a surname it refers to son of Reeve. In Old English, patronyms were formed by adding a variety of suffixes to personal names, which changed over time and from place to place. For example, after the Norman Conquest, sunu and sune, which meant son, were the most common patronymic suffixes. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the most common patronymic names included the word filius, which meant son. By the 14th century, the suffix son had replaced these earlier versions. Surnames that were formed with filius or son were more common in the north of England and it was here that the number of individuals without surnames was greatest at this time. The surname Graves also referred to manager or overseer as an occupational surname.


Until quite recently, the English language has lacked a definite system of spelling rules. Consequently, Anglo-Saxon surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. Changes in Anglo-Saxon names were influenced by the evolution of the English language, as it incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other languages. Although Medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, so it is common to find one person referred to by several different spellings of his surname, even the most literate people varied the spelling of their own names. Variations of the name Graves include Grieves, Grieve, Greve, Greves, Greeves, Greaves, Greave, Griveson, Greaveson, Greavson and many more.

First found in Derbyshire where they held a family seat from very early times.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Graves research. Another 217 words(16 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1379, 1784, 1600, 1612, 1676, 1602, 1652, 1st , 1608, 1680, 1605 and 1673 are included under the topic Early Graves History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 121 words(9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Graves Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Graves family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 31 words(2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Graves or a variant listed above:

Graves Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Thomas Graves settled in Virginia in 1607
  • Captain Thomas Graves, who traveled on the first ship to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607
  • George Graves, who landed in Jamestown, Va in 1624
  • Richard Graves, aged 23, settled in New England in 1635
  • Samuel Graves, who arrived in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1635

Graves Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Ellinor Graves, who landed in Virginia in 1702
  • Ellmor Graves, who arrived in Virginia in 1702
  • William Graves, who arrived in Maryland in 1740
  • Matthew Graves, who arrived in New England in 1747
  • James Graves, who arrived in America in 1764

Graves Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Capt. Graves, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Thomas Graves, who landed in America in 1812
  • A. Graves, aged 50, settled in New York in 1820
  • Robert Graves, who landed in New York in 1825
  • Alexander Graves, who arrived in New York, NY in 1834


  • Morris Cole Graves (1910-2001), American expressionist painter
  • Denyce Graves (b. 1964), American opera singer
  • Peter Graves (1926-2010), born Peter Aurness, American film and television actor best known for his starring role in the television series Mission: Impossible
  • Major General William Sidney Graves (1865-1940), commander of American forces in Siberia during the Allied Intervention in Russia
  • Second Lieutenant Terrence Collinson Graves (1945-1968), United States Marine posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor
  • Gunnerís Mate 2nd Class Ora Graves (1896-1961), American sailor awarded the Medal of Honor
  • Brigadier-General Davis Dunbar Graves (1903-1945), American Commanding Officer Figther Wing, US North Africa Theater of Operations (1943-1944)
  • John Graves (1920-2013), American writer, best known for his book Goodbye to a River (1960) that was nominated for a National Book Award
  • John George Graves (1866-1945), English entrepreneur and public benefactor
  • Robert Ranke Graves (1895-1985), world renowned English author and poet



  • Benton-Graves Ancestry by Blanche Benton Heller.
  • Branching Out from Stephen Graves: (1759-1828) by Jessie Wagner Graves.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Spes mea in Deo
Motto Translation: My hope is in God.


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  1. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  3. Bardsley, C.W. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6).
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  5. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  6. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  7. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  8. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  9. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  10. Innes, Thomas and Learney. The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland 1st Edition. Edinburgh: W & A. K. Johnston Limited, 1938. Print.
  11. ...

The Graves Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Graves Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 6 October 2014 at 11:01.

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