March 23, 2021

Pages 19-23
Whole Number 4


by William Perry Johnson

On page 19 of the original Sparks Quarterly appears a map of Tidewater Virginia and the following caption:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Historian-Genealogist has prepared for publication in The Sparks Quarterly a series of articles on the early Sparks immigrants to the thirteen original colonies. This series will begin with the state of Virginia, not only because Virginia is the oldest colony, but also because she has furnished a large portion of the settlers of the other Southern States and of the Northwest Territory-for these reasons Virginia is often referred to as the "Mother of States."

First, it would be well to distinguish between the terms emigrant and immigrant. The dictionary defines emigrant as "one who migrates," and to migrate is "to move from one country or place of abode to another, with a view to residence." An immigrant is "one who immigrates," and to immigrate is "to come into a country of which one is not a native, for permanent residence." Both terms, emigrant and immigrant, refer to the same person, and refer to his leaving one country and settling in another, but he leaves his old country as an emigrant, and arrives in his new country as an immigrant. A man is, for example, an emigrant FROM England, and, at the same time, is an immigrant TO America. Therefore, when speaking of persons from other countries who come TO America to settle, one should designate them as immigrants, not emigrants. These two terms are often confused, and as a consequence are frequently misused.

The first permanent English speaking settlement in America was made at Jamestown, Virginia, in the year 1607; the state having been so named in honor of the English Queen Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen." But there is no point in reiterating the early history of Virginia, which is so well known to us all. In connection with the settlement of colonial America, it is interesting to note that in the early 1600’s the immigrants spoke not of going "to America," but "to Virginia," or "to the wilds of Virginia." In fact, for several years the name Virginia was commonly applied to all the English settlements on the East coast, from New England down to the Carolinas. Thus, in those days, saying that one was going to Virginia was synonymous with saying that one was going to America. My maternal great-grandfather came to Indiana from England in the year 1849 and his English relatives spoke of him as "having gone into the wilds of America. " There is no question but what Virginia was very much of a wilderness in the 1600’s, and it is evident that two and one half centuries later England still considered America a pretty wild place in which to live.

Many of the early settlers in Virginia were probably not too happy in their new home during the first years of the Colony. Much of the land was low and contained fever- ridden swamps; the woods were full of Indians and wild animals. The privations and hardships of founding a colony did not appeal to the general populace of England, and in order to induce large numbers of immigrants to leave their homes and relatives for an uncertain future in the "New World," the English Government saw to it that life in Virginia was depicted in glowing terms, and various inducements were offered. England knew that if the new colony were not settled in sufficient numbers, she stood a good chance of losing it to a rival power.

"For the purpose of stimulating immigration and the settlement of the Colony, the London Company ordained that any person who paid his own way to Virginia should be assigned 50 acres of land ‘for his owne personal adventure,’ and if he transported ‘at his owne cost’ one or more persons, he should, for each person whose passage he paid, be awarded fifty acres of land..... Among the headrights are found persons of all social classes, nobility and gentry, yeomanry, indentured servants (some of good family and connection in England), and negroes." (Rev. 1, p. xxiv.)

On the subject of these so-called headrights, another authority says: "Immigrants who paid their own way to the southern states were each given fifty acres of land. This was called his headright. And if he paid the passage of a number of others he could collect the headright for each of them. Men who paid their own passage could sell their headright, and if they wanted some more land they could buy headlights. Persons of all grades of society were mixed in the headright business and it was no indication that a person was of low social standing when he sold his headright." (Ref. 2, p. 184.)

"It is not to be assumed that the claim for land in consequence of a person transported was made immediately after the arrival of the ‘headright’ in the Colony.

There is, for instance, record of a patentee awarded land for the transportation of three wives, who, it Is safe to conclude, were successive. The headrights may have arrived in the Colony long before the patentee had entered claim for land thereby due. Nor is it to be assumed that the headright is necessarily an immigrant. Even men of prominence in the Colony, through a voyage or repeated voyages to England and return, appear as ‘headrights’ of friends or relatives, who acquitted the cost of the passage in order to obtain the consequent land." (Rev., p. xxv)

Hotten’s famous book, commonly called Hotten’s List of Emigrants, actually has a title so descriptive, and so pertinent, that I shall quote it in full: The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles; Political Rebels Serving Men Sold For a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; And Others Who Went From Great Britain to The American Plantations 1600-1700. (Ref. 3)

Unfortunately, very, very few of the old passenger lists have been preserved. If the truth were known, it is probable that in many instances passenger lists were never compiled in the first place, except, for example, when the ship’s captain claimed his passengers as headrights to enable him to collect their land as pay for their passage. Many of the sea captains of the 17th and 18th Centuries could more properly be termed pirates than anything else. The countless number of men, women and children that were stolen, kidnapped and sold as servants In America, will never be known. In the early 1700’s two of my ancestors were kidnapped as children in Scotland and were brought to America, where they were sold as servants by an unscrupulous sea captain.

As mentioned above, many a sea captain filled his ship with immigrants, many too poor to pay their own way, and agreed to bring them to America if they would sign their headrights over to him, to pay the cost of their passage. Thus, many a sea—going man did a thriving business, trading and selling the land he had thus acquired. And, as could be expected, many a passenger list was "padded" by an ambitious and enterprising captain. Therefore, one cannot rely completely upon the authenticity of the old passenger lists or lists of headrights. Many names are given of people that never lived, and many of the living were listed more than once! Oftimes the original lists are very difficult to read, and by the time the list appears in print, many of the names bear little or no resemblance to what they actually were to begin with. For example, Fowler might well end up as Towles, or even Pomlen, or worse! All this by way of saying that while all passenger lists are of interest and value, and the majority are no doubt reliable, they must be used advisedly.

I find several persons named Sparks in Virginia in the 1600’s, without the slightest clue as to just where they came from, or just when they came over. Hotten’s List of Immigrants mentioned above gives the earliest record found so far of Sparkses in Virginia:

"A list of Names; of the Living in Virginia February the 16 1623 At ye Plantacon over agt James Cittie" (Among whom was "George Sparke." WPJ) (Ref. 3, page 180)

"A List of the names of the Dead in Virginia since April last February 16: 1623 At Elizabeth Cittie" (Among whom was "John Sparks." WPJ) (Ref. 3, page 195)

"Musters of the Inhabitants in Virginia 1624/5. mr Treasurors Plant. The Muster of M’ Georg Sands’ Esquire in’ Georg Sandis Esquire Treasure’ &c came in the George, 1621. Servants." (Among those servants coming to America in the George, 1621, was "John Spark’s." WPJ) (Ref. 3, page 234)

"Musters of the Inhabitants of Virginia 1624/5. The Eastern Shore. A MUSTER of the Inhabitance of the Eastern Shore over the Baye.

William Bibbie his MUSTER

William Bibbie age 22 in the Swan 1621 (not quite clear may be 1620, blotted-sic WPJ)

Thomas Sparkes age 24 in the Susan 1616 (Ref 3, page 264)

Among those who embarked ca. 1635 in the Assurance, bound for Virginia, was a James Spark’s, aged 57.

Sometime between the years 1663 and 1679, one William Sparks sailed from Bristol, England, bound for Virginia. (Ref. 10) One of my ancestors is known to have come over during the same period (appearing in the same lists in which the foregoing William Sparks was found), and his destination was given as Nevis, a small island in the West Indies, However, a short time later he appears in North Carolina. Apparently, many of the early immigrants traveled about considerably before they chose a permanent home.

Nugent's Cavaliers and Pioneers (Ref. I) lists the earliest land patents and grants in Virginia, from 1623 to 1800. This work is of special interest and value to genealogists, because it gives the names of thousands of immigrants, most of them listed as headrights by the person (or persons) who transported them. There are twenty-one Sparkses given between the years 1635 and 1664, They are listed below, The date is the date the patent or grant was issued to the patentee, or grantee, and is not to be taken as the date of immigration. Ten years, twenty, or even a longer period elapsed, in many instances, before a man claimed the land due him for the transportation of his headrights, even if it included himself and his family. In most cases the name of the county is also given, but it may or may not be the county in which the patentee originally settled, or the one in which he resided at the time the patent was issued. As to the headrights transported, they no doubt scattered throughout the various counties of Virginia, and a few went to Maryland and the Carolinas, Also, these lists of headrights of persons transported into Virginia-----are subject to the same possibilities of fraud, defective spelling, etc., as the passenger lists discussed earlier. (The following are listed alphabetically by given name, and numbered, for the sake of easy reference. WPJ)

1. Ann Spark - 1635 Capt. Adam Thorowgood ----- Co. (land "upon Chesopean Bay".)

2. Cutbert Sparkes — 1650 - Wm. Clapham - ---- Co. (land on "S side Rappahannock River.)

3. Elizabeth Sparkes - 1650 - Henry Lee and Its., Clapham - --- Co. (land "on Corotoman River a branch of Rappahannock River".)

4. Francis Sparks - 1638 - John Robins - James City.

5. Gartred Sparkes - 1661 — Wm, Drummond Westmoreland Co.

6. Grace Sparkes -- 1635 John Sparkes - (Isle of Wight Co. WPJ — see later.)

7. John Sparkes - 1635 John Sparkes - (Isle of Wight Co. WPJ - see later.)

8. John Sparkes — 1635 - William Wyatt Gloucester Co.

9. John Sparke - 1658 Col. Robert Abrall New Kent Co.

10. John Sparkes - 1664 - Nathaniel Bradford — Accomack Co.

11. John Sparkes 1664 - John Brucerton - Westmoreland Co.

12. John Sparke - 1664 - William Vaughan - Westmoreland Co.

13. Jon Sparkes — 1635 - William Gany Accomack Co.

14. Jon. Sparkes — 1635 — William Pierce — (Surry Co.? WPJ)

15. Mary Sparkes — 1635 — John Sparkes - (Isle of Wight Co. WPJ — see later.)

16. Michael Sparkes - 165~### - Capt. John English — Northumberland Co.

17. Phill. Sparkes — 1664 — John Beauchamp & Rich’d Cocke, Sr. — Henrico Co.

18. Samll. Sparke — 1664 - Ric’d Webley, Robt Davis, Thomas Freswater -"Rappahannock & Northumberland" Cos.

19. Sarah Sparke — 1654 Robert Yoe - Westmoreland. Co.

20. Thomas Sparks - 1638 Edmund Scarhorough Accomack Co.

21. Wm. Sparkes 1651 Joseph Croshaw - Yorke Co.

In 1652, 1663, and 1661 the land of John Sparkes in Isle of Wight Co. is mentioned, and the 750 acres granted 3 June 1635 as specified. Since this John Sparkes is the only Sparks on record as having transported, not only himself and his family, but also twelve other people into Virginia, his grant is given below, in more detail:

John Sparkes - 750 acres - 3 June 1635 - page 239 At the head of Pagan point Cr.,butting Nly. upon land of Mr. Jones, Sly. upon the white marsh, W, upon the river & Ely, into the woods a mile, Transportation of 15 persons: John Sparkes, Grace Sparkes, Ellin Perkins, John Clarke, Robert Hopkins, Jon. Grandy, Wm. Pierce, Wm., Hurdis, Roht. Dugg, Stephen Banister, Christopher Tennant, Rich. Cole, Wm. Gallopin, Henry Taylor, Mary Sparkes. (Ref. 4, page 27)

In connection with these Virginia patents and grants, Nugent points out that they are incomplete, many of the early ones having been lost.. Also, many of copies of the originals, made at a much later date, the originals having in the meantime been lost. Research seems rather hopeless, from a genealogical standpoint, and, as a matter of fact, it is. But when a person actually appears on the early state and county records of Virginia, it is a bit more encouraging. However, the records of nearly one fourth of the Virginia counties have been destroyed, usually by fire, before, during, or after the War Between the States -- including several of the oldest counties in the state, Here are a few items gleaned from some of the 17th Century records of Virginia:

"Charles City Co. Court Orders" 1661-1664: At a court held at Westover, 22 October 1663 page 413 - John Stith hath confest in open Co’rt that James Sparkes lately his servt hath faithfully performed his full time of service whereby his certificate of freedom may be granted to him According to Act, /s/ John Stith, Test: Jno, Holmwood." (Ref. 5, Vol. 12)

"Northumbria Collection [Northumberland Co. WPJ] - 1645-1.72O - M to Z - Wm. Sparkes, Deposition, age not shown. Date also not shown but. recorded latter part of 1664. (15,135). Wm. Sparks, Servant, to Tho. Hobson to serve extra time for running away. 10 March 1668/9, (3.58)." (Ref. 1, Vol. 20) "York Co. 1646-1648 - p. 331. Joseph Croshaw hath made sufficient. proof that there is due him 750 acres "for Transporting several persons." [In the list is the name of "Wm. Sparkes"- -but the complier of this data as not sure of the spelling. WPJ] (Ref. 5, Vol, 26)

Pages 27-29
Whole Number 5

(Note: On page 22 of the Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 4, reference is made to "Nugent’s Cavaliers and Pioneers (Ref. 1)" which "lists the earliest land patents and grants in Virginia, from 1623 to 1800." Actually, this book covers only from 1623 to 1666, and was designated as Volume One, and was published several years ago. If a second volume is forthcoming, I have not heard of it. Therefore data on the Sparks immigrants to Virginia after 1666 must be obtained directly from the Land Patent and Land Grant books on file in the Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia. I have gone through the Index to Patents and Grants from 1623 to 1776, for Virginia, and have found but two Sparkses listed as having been granted land. One was the John Sparks who obtained 750 acres in 1635 (see the Sparks Quarterly, page 23), and the other was a James Sparks who obtained 1,000 acres in 1729 (details below). It would be a tedious and time consuming task to ascertain the number of Sparkses brought into Virginia from 1666 to 1776 as headrights, a task that could be accomplished only by reading the voluminous land patent and land grant records page by page. Someday I hope to be able to do this needed research. William Perry Johnson.)

(The article EARLY SPARKS IMMIGRANTS TO AMERICA -- Part One: Virginia -- now continues with a few more items from the records of 17th Century Virginia.)

"King and Queen Co. Patents. Book 9, page 209. William Jones, junr. 6 June 1699. 700 acres in King and Queen Co. Boundary begins at corner red oak of Robinsons land on a brow in sight of Spark’s house on the lower side of his plantation. Adjoins run of Dragon Swamp, the land of Margaret Todd and Frances Todd orphans to Mr. Mm. Todd, the mouth of mirey meadow, etc. Due for importing 16 persons." (Ref. 5, Vol. 27)

"Ages of Lower Norfolk Co. People - 1666-1675. John Sparks aged 30 years 1671. (Ref. 6)

"Anne, widow of John Stradder, was granted 1. c. on his estate with John Sparkes and Henry Asbury as her sec. Westmoreland County, January 11, 1687/8." (Ref. 7)

"Minutes of Council and General Court. 1622-1629. John Sparke, gentleman, sworn and exam’d sayeth that he was a Wittnes did set his hande to Mr. Mansteeds Will butt did not see Mr. Mansteed signe seal and deliver the same but, yt the Will was brought brought (sic) by Mr. Bruster to have his hande thereto. Robert Dennys also being sworne and exam’d as a Wittness affirmeth as much as Mr. Sparkes hath done. (Footnote: In the census of 1625 John Sparks who came in the GEORGE in 1621 is included among the ‘servants’ of George Sandys.)" (Ref. 8, Vol. 23, page 15)

"Minutes of Council and General Court. At cort of James Citty, 9th of February 1632. Mr. Thomas Harwood desired the Cort to take Notice that he is readie on the behalf of Mr. Edward Hurt to satisfie unto Thomas Sparkes such Clothes and other things As are due unto him by Covenant." (Ref. 8, Vol. 31, page 294)

There was a Rent Roll of Virginia taken in the years 1704 and 1705. The twenty-five counties at that time were: Accomack, Charles City, Elizabeth City, Essex, Gloucester, Henrico, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King William,Lancaster, Middlesex, Nansemond, New Kent, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, Prince George, Princess Ann, Richmond, Stafford, Surry, Warwick, Westmoreland, and York. All of this Rent Roll has been preserved with the exception of the following five counties, whose Rent Roll was sent direct to England, and has apparently not been preserved: Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, Stafford and Westmoreland. These five were vital counties, and the loss is great. Sparks families are known to have been in at least two of the five. However, it is very significant that in the twenty counties remaining on the Rent Roll, there was but ONE SPARKS LANDOWNER! He was JOHN SPARKS, in King and Queen Co., Va., 1704, with 200 acres of land. (Ref. 4) This is rather startling, in view of the fact that we have record of so many of the name immigrating to and settling in Virginia in the 1600s. One might expect there to be literally hundreds of the name by 1708/5, scattered throughout the entire colony. Even three or four generations later (the 1790 Census of Virginia compiled from Tax Lists taken in the 1780s--see the Quarterly, Whole No. 2, p. 11) the name Sparks is comparatively rare in Virginia. There can be but one explanation, and that is that the early Sparkses in Virginia were not very prolific, at least not as far as sons were concerned. The name Sparks very nearly died out, or, as one genealogist so aptly expressed it, the name almost "daughtered" out!

Shortly after 1700 the name Sparks begins to occur more frequently in the records of Virginia. On the 27th of September 1729, James Sparkes of St. Georges Parish, Spotsylvania Co., Virginia, was granted 1,000 acres of land on the North side of Rappidan River. (Land Patent and Grant Book No. 13, page 414, Va. State Library, Richmond, Va.) This was no doubt the James Sparks who died intestate (i.e. without leaving a will) in 1758 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

Torrence, in his Virginia Wills and Administrations, 1632-1800, (Ref. ll), lists all the wills on record in Virginia up to 1800, as well as all the administrations. Of course, this record is far from complete, but this is no fault of Mr. Torrence, for the court records of many of the oldest counties in Virginia have been forever lost or destroyed.

There are ten Sparks wills on record in Virginia up to 1800, two administrations, and one inventory, making a total of 13 Sparkses who died in Virginia before 1800- -but there is no way of ascertaining the extent of the loss of Sparks wills and administrations, inventories, etc., due to the destruction of court records as mentioned above.

Surely there were dozens of Sparkses who died in Virginia in the 1600s and 1700s.

The 13 Sparkses listed by Torrence are:

Culpeper County, Virginia:

1. Henry Sparkes - 1770 - will
2. Thos. Sparks - 1787 - will
3. Wm. Sparks - 1781 - will

Essex County, Virginia:

4. John Sparks - 1786 - will

Fairfax County, Virginia:

5. Jeremiah Sparks - 1750 - administration

Prince William County, Virginia:

6. John Spark - 1787 - inventory
7. Wm. Sparks - 1788 - will
8. Wm. Sparkes - 1735 - will

Spotsylvania County, Virginia:

9. James Sparks - 1758 - administration

Westmoreland County, Virginia:

10. Alex. Sparks - 1783 - will
11. Wm. Sparks - 1767 - will
12. Wm. Sparks - 1767 - will

York County, Virginia:

13. Nimrod Spark - 1795 - will

Note that the earliest extant Sparks will is dated 1735 and is for a William Sparkes of Prince William Co., Va. The various Sparks families of Virginia will be taken up in subsequent articles in the Quarterly. These families will be grouped more or less according to locations (counties), and the above Sparks wills of Virginia will be included and in more detail.


1. Nugent, Neil Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants :1623-1800.

2. Everton, Walter M, The Handy Book for Genealogists, Herald-Journal Printing Co., Logan, Utah, 1949.

3. Hotten, John Camden, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants Religious Exiles; Political Rebels; Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went From Great Britain to the American Plantations (1600-1700), Chatte & Windus, Pub.; London, Eng., 1874.

4. Wertenbaker, The Planters of Colonial Virginia, Princeton Univ. Press, 1922.

5. Fleet, Beverly, Virginia Colonial Abstracts.

6. William and Mary College Quarterly, First Series.

7. William and Mary College Quarterly, Second Series.

8. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

9. First Gentlemen of Virginia, Louis B. Wright, 1940.

10. Bristol and America; A Record of the First Settlers in the Colonies of America, 1654-1685, London, Sydney, n.d. (Part II: Servants to Foreign Plantations)

11. Torrence, Virginia Wills and Administrations, 1632-1800.