VOL.  I. NO. 4  DECEMBER, 1953
  NO. 4a

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[NOTE:  Here appears a map, beneath which is the following caption:]

(Map from OLD VIRGINIA AND HER NEIGHBORS, by John Fiske, Houghten-Mifflin Co., 1900)

(View Map)

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E A R L Y   S P A R K S   I M M I G R A N T S   T O   A M E R I C A


 by William Perry Johnson

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, ten 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 beadrights. 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. 1, 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 Virgna since Aprill 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 about 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. WFJ)

I. Ann. Spark - 1635 Capt. Adam Thorowgood ----- Co. (land “upon Chesopean Bay”.)

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

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

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

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. Michaell Sparkes - l657 - 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 - l661-l664: 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] - l645-l.720 - 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)



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)


An open letter From the officers of THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION to the members.

This issue of The Sparks Quarterly completes Volume I of our publication devoted to the history of the SPARKS family in America. We now have 163 members in some thirty states, and have every reason to look forward to continued growth. We feel certain, however, that there are hundreds of other Sparks relatives in the United States, who would be interested in the ASSOCIATION and the Quarterly if they only knew of their existence. 0ur difficulty is that of learning their whereabouts. We hope that members will continue to send us the names and addresses of relatives and friends who might be interested in joining, so that we may send them a sample copy of the Quarterly. The great majority of our new members have been contacted in this manner.

When the ASSOCIATION was founded nearly a year ago, we could not foretell whether or not enough Sparks relatives would be interested in joining to make it financially possible to continue publishing the Quarterly. We are happy to announce that not only will be able to continue publishing Sparks history, but that we plan to add an extra page to each 1954 issue. Whether we continue financially solvent, however, depends upon whether our 163 members renew their membership for 1954. The active membership dues will still be only one dollar per year, although we hope that a number of you will feel able to continue or to become sustaining members, and send more than the minimum $1.00.

As officers of THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION, we fee! that the membership should be aware of the present financial status of the organization. Following are those figures as of December 6, 1953:

                                    Receipts from April 1, 1953, to December 6, 1953:

Dues from 131 active members $131.00
Dues from 32 sustaining members $105.00
Contributions $     1.00
Total Receipts $237.00

                                    Disbursements from April 1, 1953, to December 6, 1953:

Cost of publishing Quarterly $119.40
Postage $  30.40
Membership cards $    3.50
Total Expenditures $153.30

Balance on Hand December 6, 1953 $83.70

We feel that the ASSOCIATION is very fortunate to be able to enter the new year with a balance of $83.70, but sincerely hope that all members will renew their membership immediately so we can continue to publish and expand the Quarterly. A stamped envelope addressed to the editor is provided for your convenience. Please remember to enclose the names of any prospective members you may know.



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