Gray Family History

The information that follows was researched and kindly provided by Rodney W. Gray. If you have any information concerning any of these people, or if you have any questions, please e-mail Rodney Gray at "wyarg 'at' juno dot com".

This WWW page was copied from See also the Gray Family of Tiverton, RI.

REV 28 DEC 1995

From a Boston Transcript clipping in the Durfee film 804977, "Clarkes Genealogies" and "A History of Wales" by John Davies.

The name Gray is of local origin, or, it follows the name of a place in Bergundy, France. In the Department of Haute-Saone, there is now a town called Gray. The name was originally Croy. A Norman chief, whose name was Rolf, Rollo or Raoul (son of Rognwald, Jarl of Mori in Norway) invaded France in the 9th century with his Norwegian followers and established himself there. A descendant or member of the same family became Chamberlain to Robert, Duke of Normandy. He received from Robert the Castle and honor of Croy. From this his family assumed the name of DeCroy, which was later changed to DeGray and then to Gray.

Gray instead of Grey is almost universally used in the different branches in the United States. In England and Ireland Grey is still used, in Scotland it is Gray. This is detail between different branches of the same family all apparently descended from one parent stock and one origin.

The family of Gray or Grey, says Burke in his peerages, claims descent from Rollo (born 860 A.D.). John, Lord of Gray, whose son Anschetil de Gray was one of William the Conquerors companions in arms at the battle of Hastings, and was recorded in the Domesday Book (a record complied by a royal commission set up by William in 1085-86), as lord of many manors and lordships in the counties of Oxford and Buckingham. Anschetil de Gray had two sons, both named John. The elder John de Gray had a son, Henry de Gray, who was in high favor with King Richard I and King John.

Henry de Gray had several sons; (I) Robert of Rotherfield, (II) Richard de Gray, (III) John from whom the most illustrious branches of the house of Gray have sprung, (IV) William de Grey and (V) Henry de Grey. Descendants of John included John Lord Grey of Groby who married Elizabeth Wydville, afterward queen of Edward IV; Thomas Grey, created Marquis of Dorset in 1476; and Lady Jane Grey who was queen of England for a few days.

The Grays were in Wales by 1283 when King Edward created new Marcher Lordships. In that year he gave Rhuthun to Reginald de Grey. In 1402 Owain, a Welch leader, was having a dispute with another Reginald de Grey, and captured Reginald. Owain received 10,000 marks (L6,666) ransom for him. Not an insignificant sum!!

A Marcher Lordship passed from an Owain to son-in-law John Charleton. From the Charleton family it passed by marriage in 1421 to John Grey. It remained in the hands of the Grey family until the Marcher Lords were abolished in 1536. By 1509 an Edward Grey was one of only three remaining powerful Marcher Lords.

Among the names inscribed at Battle Abbey, after the Battle of Hastings, as being worthy to be remembered for valiant services rendered, was J. de Gray. According to Nesbits Heraldry: "In an old manuscript of Arms in the Reign of William the Conqueror, are the Amoreal bearings of Paganus de Gray, equitum signifer to King William". Also, it says, "Gray, Earl of Kent, Chief of the ancient and illustrious house of Gray, so dignified in the reign of Edward IV., from whom are descended and branched the Barons of Rotherfield, Codmore, Wilton, Rhuthun, Groby and Rugemont, the Viscount of Lisle, the Earl of Stamford, the Marquis of Dorset, and the Duke of Suffolk, all of that surname derived from the honor and Castle of Gray, (or Croy as some write), in Picardy, their patrimony before the Conquest."

Regarding the Grays of Scotland being of the same family, Nesbits says, "Gray Lord Gray in Scotland, same arms as My Lord Gray of Wark and Chillingham, England, Motto, Anchor Fast Anchor. The first of this line was a son of Gray in Chillingham, Northumberland, England, who came to Scotland in the reign of Alexander II, (about 1130), and gave his allegiance to that King, receiving possessions in Roufield shire of Roxburgh. His issue has continued in Scotland." His son, Sir Andrew Gray, joined King Robert Bruce when he ascended the throne. The Grays in Ireland, usually described as Scotch-Irish, are doubtless the descendants of that branch of the family.

The Grays were closely allied with the Royal house of England and were near the throne. Edward IV married Elizabeth Gray, the widow of Sir John Gray who was slain at the second battle of St. Albans, 1461. On the death of King Edward, her son the young Prince Consort, and her son Lord Gray, were both executed in 1483, by the notorious Richard III.

Burkes Peerage says: "The family of Gray is of great antiquity in Northumberland. Henry de Gray obtained from King Richard I (1190), the manor of Turoc in Essex. Sir John Gray, Knight of Berwick, 1372, was father of Sir Thomas of Berwick and Chillingham. Sir Edward de Gray married daughter and heiress of Henry heir apparent of William."

The union of the Grays with the royal line of Tudor was by the marriage of the duke of Suffolk, with Mary, daughter of Henry VII and the sister of Henry VIII. Mary was the widow of King Louis XII of France, who had died January 1, 1515. The tragic fate of their daughter, Lady Jane Gray, who reigned briefly as an unwilling Queen, has attracted the attention and enlisted the sympathies of the world. The story of her pure and beautiful life and of her heroic death will long illuminate the pages of one of the most eventful periods of English history. Her execution, 1554, was soon followed by that of her father, the Duke of Suffolk, and his brothers, Lord John and Lord Thomas Gray.

The Grays were not restored to their rights and court favor until the accession of James I, 1603. Since then they have repeatedly distinguished themselves in politics, literature, and the learned professions and still continue prominently represented among the titled nobility in England, Scotland and Ireland. In modern times they have contributed poets, statesmen and military commanders in the British realm.

A.P. Clarke in the "Clarkes Genealogies" quotes from the The Parish Registers of Stapleford Tawney, Essex Co., England, as printed at the private press of Frederick Arthur Crisp, Grove Park, Denmark Hill, London, S.E., 1892, states that John Gray of that place had the following children: Richard, baptized August 1608, buried October 9, 1613. Joshua, baptized November 25, 1610, buried January 20, 1621. John, baptized 1612. Sarah, baptized January 12, 1616, married Thomas Harding May 30, 1642. Rebecca, baptized 1615, married Thomas Perry May 28, 1650. Joan, buried February 12, 1621. Edward, baptized April 15, 1623 (no further mention). Thomas, baptized July 16, 1620 (no further mention). It is to be presumed that John Gray was not native to Stapleford Tawney, but was only a resident of that parish for some years.

A John Gray was buried May 28, 1658. This could have been either the father or the son. John Gray was married before going to Stapleford, and in Harrow-on-the-Hill church records there is a John Gray baptized February 2, 1589 and married on October 6, 1606 to Elizabeth Ward. These dates would correspond with John of Stapleford, as his eldest child was born in 1608.

It appears that the Gray family was from Harwich, Essex, as a John and Thomas Gray were living there in 1579. Six of the names in the John Gray family of Stapleford were similar to the names in Edward Grays family. They were John, Elizabeth, Edward, Sarah, Thomas and Rebecca.

It is believed that John Gray of Stapleford Tawney descended from the Dorset branch of the Gray family. The Dorset Grays are of great antiquity, and were for many generations in high favor with the English kings. Members of this family were for centuries seated in Westminster and in other sections in and about London.

Edward Gray, son of John of Stapleford, the progenitor of this branch of the family was in Plymouth in 1643. Family legend says that he and brother Thomas were sent to America by relatives who were scheming for the property that Edward and Thomas were to inherit. Edward was a leading citizen and merchant in Plymouth. When he died in June, 1681, he left the largest estate up to that time in Plymouth. His holdings included nine thirtieths of the land company which eventually formed Tiverton and Little Compton, RI. as described in what is called the Grand Deed. Thomas died in Plymouth June 7, 1654.

Edward, son of Edward of Plymouth, went on to be a founder of Tiverton, Rhode Island. This Edward was a farmer and active in civic affairs. Edward of Tiverton had a son William whose son Robert was the discoverer of the Columbia river in Washington state. Robert also had a commission issued by George Washington as a privateer during the Revolutionary War.

David Gray of Tiverton was captured by the British during the war and taken to England where he was imprisioned. He escaped and, by traveling at night, was able to get to the coast and over to France where he got money from Benjamin Franklin for passage home.

Another Tiverton Gray, Pardon Gray was active during the war also. He was too old to go to war, but he used his extensive farm and fortune to support the effort with food, money and work in recruiting and organization. Pardon was a grandson of Edward of Tiverton add very active in town government as town clerk and in other capacities.

Samuel Gray, son of Edward of Tiverton, moved to Boston and could be considered the first casualty of the Revolutionary War. He was the second man shot, but the first to die at the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. If John Tebbel is correct in his book "Turning The World Upside Down", Sam helped precipitate the Massacre itself. It seems that a British soldier came to the rope makers shop where Sam worked and asked for a job. Sam told him what kind of work he could do "in language that can't be repeated in mixed company." The soldier took offense and went at Sam but found "himself bruished and bloody on the ground." The soldier left and came back later with some help, but Sams friends came to his aid and the brawl that developed ended in a draw. This altercation was one of a series of incidents that brought about the Boston Massacre later that day. Sam is supposed to be buried at the old Granery Burying Ground near Park Street Congregational Church, Boston.

Many Grays of this line were sailors, ship owners, ship captains and worldwide traders. There were farmers, fishermen and tradesmen. They eventually left Tiverton to settle all across the country. They served their country in time of war and helped build it in peacetime. There are those like Captain Robert and Pardon who left a record for all to see. There are a few like William, son of Ellery, who were obscure, possibly intentionally leaving no trace to follow. Most leave the usual trail. Birth, marriage and death records. Census records every ten years and an occasional mention in a town report or directory are about all there is.

The Gray family in America is numerous, widespread and consists of many diverse branches. They were among the Pilgrims of New England, the Quakers of Pennsylvania and the early settlers of Virginia and other southern states. Within the first century, between 1620 and 1720, research indicates that there were at least twenty different families of Grays, or different branches of the same family, which had emigrated to this country and made their homes in the New World. As early as 1622, two brothers, Thomas and John Gray, had become proprietors of the island of Nantasket in Boston Harbor by purchase from the Indians. At an early period there were also Grays at Salem, Boston, Plymouth and Yarmouth and in the provinces of Connecticut and Maine. Abraham Gray is mentioned as among the Pilgrim refugees at Leyden, Holland, in 1622. There were apparently no Grays on the Mayflower.

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