Greaves History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Greaves is an ancient Anglo-Saxon name that 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 Greaves also referred to manager or overseer as an occupational surname.

Alternatively, the name could have originally been a Norman name descending from Walter de Grava (De la Grave) which was found in Normandy before the Conquest and still there as late as 1198. [1]

Early Origins of the Greaves family

The surname Greaves was first found in Gloucestershire where Osbert de Grava or De la Grave was found in 1203. From this first entry, the Graveses of Mickleton, Gloucester, ancestors of the gallant admiral Lord Graves, and the Baronets Graves-Saule descend. [1]

The source "Testa de Nevill, sive Liber Feodorum" lists Geoffrey de la Grave, Gloucestershire, ( temp. Henry III-Edward I) and the "Placita de Quo Warranto" lists Sibilla de la Grave, Gloucestershire, 20 Edward I (during the 20th year of Edward I's reign.)

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 included the following early listings of the family: Edith de la Grava, Oxfordshire; Henry de la Grave, Oxfordshire; Hugh de la Grave, Somerset; and John de la Grave, Wiltshire. [2]

"Greaves, which is a characteristic name of the midland counties, has long been a Worcestershire name. The old family of Greves held some position in the county." [3]

The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 listed the following as holding lands there at that time: Johannes Grave; Adam Grayf; Johanna Grayf; and Robertus Grayff. [2]

Important Dates for the Greaves family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Greaves research. Another 138 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1200, 1669, 1784, 1600, 1600, 1607, 1612, 1676, 1602, 1652, 1608, 1680, 1605 and 1673 are included under the topic Early Greaves History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Greaves Spelling Variations

Greaves has been spelled many different ways. Before English spelling became standardized over the last few hundred years, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. As the English language changed in the Middle Ages, absorbing pieces of Latin and French, as well as other languages, the spelling of people's names also changed considerably, even over a single lifetime. Many variations of the name Greaves have been found, including Grieves, Grieve, Greve, Greves, Greeves, Greaves, Greave, Griveson, Greaveson, Greavson and many more.

Early Notables of the Greaves family (pre 1700)

Notables of the family at this time include Thomas Greaves (1612-1676), an English orientalist, a contributor to the London Polyglot; John Greaves (1602-1652), an English mathematician, astronomer and antiquary; Sir Edward Greaves, 1st Baronet (1608-1680)...
Another 34 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Greaves Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Greaves family to Ireland

Some of the Greaves 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 and printed products wherever possible.

Greaves migration to the United States

In an attempt to escape the chaos experienced in England, many English families boarded overcrowded and diseased ships sailing for the shores of North America and other British colonies. Those families hardy enough, and lucky enough, to make the passage intact were rewarded with land and a social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families became important contributors to the young colonies in which they settled. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Greavess to arrive on North American shores:

Greaves Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Admiral Greaves, who settled in Savannah, Georgia in 1823

Greaves migration to Australia

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Greaves Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Greaves, English convict from Bristol, who was transported aboard the "Andromeda" on October 16, 1826, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [4]
  • Mr. William Greaves, British convict who was convicted in West Riding, Yorkshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Henry Tanner" on 27th June 1834, settling in New South Wales, Australia [5]
  • Richard Greaves, aged 21, a farmer, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Trafalgar" [6]
  • Richard Greaves, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1849 [6]
  • Henry Greaves, aged 20, a farm labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Tantivy"

Greaves migration to New Zealand

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Greaves Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Greaves, aged 23, a labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Arab" in 1841
  • Mary Greaves, aged 22, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Arab" in 1841
  • Joseph Greaves, aged 29, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Mary Ann" in 1842
  • Joseph Greaves, who landed in Nelson, New Zealand in 1842
  • Mr. William Greaves, Cornish settler travelling from Launceston aboard the ship "Thomas Lord" arriving in New Zealand in 1849 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Greaves (post 1700)

  • Sandra Greaves (1963-1987), Canadian gold medalist judoka at the 1987 Pan American Games, first female judoka to represent Canada at the Olympics
  • Johnny Greaves (b. 1966), professional American off-road racing racetruck driver
  • Percy L. Greaves Jr. (1906-1984), American free-market economist and historian, Research Director for the Republican National Committee (1943-1945)
  • William Greaves (b. 1926), African-American four-time Emmy Award nominated filmaker
  • Ronald Bertram Aloysius "R. B." Greaves III (1943-2012), American singer, best known for his 1969 pop single "Take a Letter Maria"
  • Joseph A. Greaves, American politician, Member of New Jersey State House of Assembly from Passaic County, 1882 [8]
  • Harry B. Greaves, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Oklahoma, 1948 [8]
  • Harry Greaves, American politician, Mayor of West Linn, Oregon, 1921-22 [8]
  • Charles D. Greaves, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Arkansas 2nd District, 1896; Delegate to Republican National Convention from Arkansas, 1900 [8]
  • Charles C. Greaves, American politician, U.S. Consular Agent in Nevis, 1897-1905 [8]
  • ... (Another 24 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Historic Events for the Greaves family

HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. Sidney Greaves (1906-1941), Australian Able Seaman from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking [9]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. John Richard Greaves, British Painter 4th Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and died in the sinking [10]


  1. ^ The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  4. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Andromeda voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1826 with 147 passengers. Retrieved from
  5. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th January 2020). Retrieved from
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The TRAFALGAR 1849. Retrieved from
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 11) . Retrieved from
  9. ^ HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from
  10. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from
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