Show ContentsGreaves 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.) [2]

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. [3]

"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." [4]

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. [3]

Early History of 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, 1604, 1612, 1676, 1602, 1652, 1608, 1680, 1605, 1673, 1677, 1729, 1677, 1715 and 1804 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 (fl. 1604), English musical composer and lutenist to Sir Henry Pierrepont, belonging probably to the Derbyshire family of Greaves; Thomas Greaves (1612-1676), an English Orientalist, a contributor to the London Polyglot; John Greaves (1602-1652), an English mathematician, astronomer and antiquary, eldest son. of the Rev. John Greaves, rector of Colemore, near Alresford in Hampshire; Sir Edward Greaves, 1st Baronet (1608-1680), an English physician...
Another 72 words (5 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Greaves Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Greaves Ranking

In the United States, the name Greaves is the 6,364th most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [5] However, in the United Kingdom, the name Greaves is ranked the 573rd most popular surname with an estimated 11,380 people with that name. [6]

Ireland 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.

United States 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
  • Mr. Henry T. Greaves, (b. 1810), aged 58, Barbadian farmer traveling aboard the ship "Brigantine Rival" from New York in 1868 [7]
  • Mrs. Maria Greaves, (b. 1814), aged 54, Barbadian farmer traveling aboard the ship "Brigantine Rival" from New York in 1868 [7]

Australia 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
  • Mr. Joseph Greaves, English convict who was convicted in Nottingham, England for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 16th January 1816, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. Thomas Greaves, English convict who was convicted in Chester, Cheshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 16th January 1816, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. Stephen Greaves, English convict who was convicted in Warwick, Warwickshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Dromedary" on 11th September 1819, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • Thomas Greaves, English convict from Bristol, who was transported aboard the "Andromeda" on October 16, 1826, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [10]
  • Mr. George Greaves, (b. 1811), aged 18, Welsh convict who was convicted in Flint, Flintshire, Wales for life for house breaking, transported aboard the "Bussorah Merchant" on 1st October 1829, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land), he died in 1854 [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand 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 [12]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Greaves (post 1700) +

  • William Greaves (b. 1926), American four-time Emmy Award nominated filmaker
  • 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)
  • 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 [13]
  • Harry B. Greaves, American Democratic Party politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Oklahoma, 1948 [13]
  • Harry Greaves, American politician, Mayor of West Linn, Oregon, 1921-22 [13]
  • Charles D. Greaves, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Arkansas 2nd District, 1896; Delegate to Republican National Convention from Arkansas, 1900 [13]
  • Charles C. Greaves, American politician, U.S. Consular Agent in Nevis, 1897-1905 [13]
  • ... (Another 30 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

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 [14]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. John Richard Greaves, British Painter 4th Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse (1941) and died in the sinking [15]
Winter Quarters coal mine
  • Mr. Joesph N. Greaves (b. 1875), American mine worker from Winter Quarters, Utah who worked in the Winter Quarters coal mine on 1st May 1900, when 10 of the 25lb kegs of black powder exploded; he died in the explosion [16]

The Greaves Motto +

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.

  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. Testa de Nevill or "Liber Feodorum" or "Book of Fees," thought to have been written by Ralph de Nevill, for King John (1199–1216)
  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. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  6. "UK surname ranking." UK Surname map,
  7. Barbados archives retrieved 27th October 2021 from
  8. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from
  9. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th July 2021). Retrieved from
  10. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Andromeda voyage to Van Diemen's Land, Australia in 1826 with 147 passengers. Retrieved from
  11. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 10th November 2020). Retrieved from
  12. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  13. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 11) . Retrieved from
  14. HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from
  15. HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from
  16. Miners killed in Winter Quarters (retrieved 28th July 2021). Retrieved from on Facebook