Category Archives: Spear Family

Spear Land Deeds to the Rescue. . .Sort Of

I often find terrific bits of information in land deeds – information that isn’t to be found elsewhere.

One loose end I have on the Spear family is Thomas Spear who sold land to Levin Fletcher in 1764 in Somerset County. My biggest problem is that no Thomas Spear ever shows up on the Somerset County tax lists between 1723-1759. That seems very odd to me. I thus went digging into the land deeds.

Surprisingly, there are very few listings in the Somerset County grantor and grantee indexes. I also have to add here that I’ve never quite seen any book labeling system that comes close to that of Somerset County. Most counties either use letters – books A, B, C or numbers – books 1, 2, 3 – in some combination, but in consecutive order.

Take a look at the Somerset County books:

I’ve never seen a county organizational system quite like this, nor have I figured out the method for naming these volumes.. This mess continues for decades.

Aside from that, I did find the deed filed by Thomas Spear in 1764:

Thomas Spear to Levin Fletcher, 20 June 1764
Somerset County, Maryland DB C:222-223
Source: FamilySearch

It isn’t necessary to transcribe the entire land deed – I am focusing only on the chain of ownership of the tract of land called Donegal.

This indenture made the Twentieth day of June anno Domini One thousand Seven hundred and Sixty four Between Thomas Spear of Somerset County and Province of Maryland of the One part and Levin Fletcher of the Same place of the Other part . . . .did Grant unto Andrew Speers all that part of land called Dunegal. . . . .and seized in for of the Said Land at the time of his Death and dying intestate Henry the Eldest Son of the Said Andrew Became heir . . . . .and the Said Land not being devised to Any Person by the Said Henry Speers Last will and testament the Said land became the Right of Inheritance to the Said Thomas Speer he being the Eldest Son of the Eldest Son of the Said Henry. . . ..

Clear as mud, right? That is, unless one meticulously pored over the Somerset County tax lists. The lists are invaluable because a male becomes a dependent of the head of household at the age of sixteen.

I’ve previously discussed those tax lists in depth. Robert Spear is clearly the eldest son of Henry, at least the eldest to attain the age of 16 and show up on the tax list.

Robert was born c1717, as he first appears on the 1733 list. Further, Robert remains on the tax list only through 1745, when he is taxed as head of household. He most likely died in late 1745 or early 1746.

Thomas has to be his son, but never appears on those tax lists. Why? I think I have it figured out. The tax lists only go forward, at least online, to 1759.

I believe that Thomas took the opportunity to sell his inheritance as soon as he was of legal age – 21 years old.

Backtracking from that date, the land transaction was 20 June 1764. That would give Thomas a birth year of 1753. Why didn’t he show up on the 1759 tax list? He would have been 16 years old in 1759.

I think I have a viable answer to that conundrum. Tax lists were normally created in the spring – March, April and May. What if Thomas’s birthday was soon after the 1759 tax list was created? He would have still been 15 years old and would not appear as a dependent until 1760.

That fits the scenario perfectly and is quite plausible. If there was a 1760 list, I am confident Thomas would have appeared on it. Actually, I wish there was an extant list because Robert had obviously died and the tax list would have shown Thomas in another household – possibly that of a stepfather and I would then know who Robert’s widow next married.

The Somerset County land deeds did answer one other question I had – when did the Spears move en masse to Surry County, North Carolina? Andrew Spear is taxed in North Carolina in 1771. That is a wide gap from 1759 in Maryland to 1771 in North Carolina.

However, Andrew, Jacob and Aaron Spear all sold off land in a narrow space of time (January through March 1770) and recorded those deeds (Somerset County, Maryland DB E: 70, 82 and 107) by April 1770.

It seems evident that they sold off all their Maryland real estate by spring of 1770 and I believe they headed south when winter weather subsided.

This really is my last post about the Spear clan, at least for a while. I don’t like leaving loose ends and I wanted to clear up the mystery about Thomas.

I hope that my methodology – expanding my research into both land deeds and tax lists – has helped you to think outside the box in proving family relationships.


Descendants of Henry Spear, born c1686, Somerset County, Maryland

The Spears have captured my full attention for the past few weeks. I hadn’t planned to delve this deeply into the family, but I also can’t seem to let them go without seeing this project through to completion.

I’ve shared what I know about Andrew Spear Jr., born 1688, and know nothing about any possible grandchildren, so I’ve completed that branch of the Spear family tree.

Henry’s branch is much fuller, as I’ve identified his children and have bee able to add a fair amount to his grandchildren.

Yesterday, I discussed Henry’s wife, Jean/Jane, and listed his children, so I don’t want to repeat much of that. However, to document grandchildren, it’s helpful to be reminded of his children:

1. Robert, born c1717; likely died by 1744, when he disappears from the Somerset County, Maryland tax lists; married (1) Unknown (online info says she was Rebecca Estep, daughter of Richard Estep who died in Charles County, Maryland in 1766. I haven’t been able to prove this.)

My evidence for Robert marrying and having at least one child is that Robert was taxed as head of household by 1738 and last appeared in 1743, by which time he would have been 26 years old. Most colonial era men had married by their mid-20s. Next, one Thomas Spear sells part of the tract of land called Donnegal in 1764. Andrew Spear, the immigrant, died without a will, nor did he record a land deed passing ownership of the land on to an heir. His son Henry (born c1686), born 1686, automatically inherited it as the oldest son. Henry, in turn, devised part of the acreage to son Jacob on 16 March 1753. He may also have given part of it to Robert, his oldest son, which would explain how it came to be owned by Thomas if Thomas was Robert’s son. I have no proof that this Thomas ever migrated to North Carolina. The only Thomas I’ve documented there is a younger man, son of Henry (born c1750) and who died by 6 November 1797. Thomas’s father was his executor.

Further, while Robert disappears from the Maryland tax rolls after 1743, in 1745, John Spear is taxed as head of household with one dependent, Robert Spear, living with him. The dependent Robert Spear isn’t found on future tax rolls so I have no idea what happened to him. A dependent appearing in 1745 would have been born c1726, so Robert born c1717 is way too young to be the father of this Robert. So who is he? I have no idea.

2. John, born 15 February 1722/23, Somerset County, Maryland; died after 1745 tax list. John first appears in the Somerset County, Maryland tax rolls in 1739, as a dependent of Henry. He is again Henry’s dependent in 1739 and 1740. John is head of his own household in 1743 (1741 and 1742 lists are missing) and 1744. By 1745, he has one dependent, Robert Spear, who I can’t identify. However, John is not found on future Somerset County tax rolls and no probate has been found for him. He may be the John Speer taxed in 1782 in Surry County, North Carolina for 500 acres on Looney’s Branch. This John reportedly married Elizabeth (MNU).

John and Elizabeth Speer in Surry County, North Carolina were reportedly the parents of Levi and Levin Spear, both of whom appear on the 1782 tax list there. Levin Speer married Sarah (MNU), who survived him. On 8 August 1801, Sarah Speer, along with William W. Chandler, John Speer, James Gracey, George Speer, James Kelly and Sally Speer, heirs of Levin, sold land to Levin Jr. in Surry County.

3. Jacob, born 3 Mary 1724/25, Somerset County, Maryland; died before May 1802, when his will was proved in Surry County, North Carolina; married Elizabeth (MNU), but which I suspect might be Gwinn. Jacob and Elizabeth are my husband’s direct line and I’ve discussed their children in full.

4. Mary, born 27 May 1727, Somerset County, Maryland; no further information

5. Sarah, born 20 May 1729, Somerset County, Maryland; no further information

6. Andrew, born 3 December 1731, Somerset County, Maryland; died before May 1817, Shelby County, Kentucky; married Elizabeth (MNU, but said to be Gentry, unproven by me). He is on the 1782 list of Surry County, North Carolina, taxed on 440 acres on Forbush’s Creek. Andrew is listed in the DAR Patriot Index.

Andrew’s children include Robert Spear, born c1753; died 1781, Surry County, North Carolina; married Elizabeth (MNU) and Andrew, born c1769; died c1835, Kentucky; married Elizabeth Murphy, 29 July 1788, Surry County, North Carolina. Richard Speer is likely a son, as he and Andrew (Jr.?) sold land which they had been jointly granted by the State of North Carolina to Frederick Long in May 1795.

7. Moses, born 1 June 1733, Somerset County, Maryland; died after 1759, when he was head of house on the Somerset County tax list. No Moses Spear appears on the 1790 or 1800 census living in the South, nor has he been found in Surry County tax lists or land records. No further information.

8. Aaron, born 23 November 1734, Somerset County, Maryland; perhaps died between 1800, when Aaron and Aaron Jr. appear in the Surry County census and 1810, when only one Aaron is enumerated there; said to have married Sarah Kennerly, but I haven’t been able to document that and researchers may have attributed Sarah, the wife of Aaron Spear who died in 1816 to Aaron born 1734..

An Aaron Spear, who appears to be a younger man than Aaron born 1734, left a will written on 21 March 1816 and proved in November 1816. He named wife Elizabeth, and children: Sarah Dobbins, Elizabeth Patterson, Joshua K. Speer, Nancy Speer, James J. Speer, William H. Speer and Aquilla Speer.

The elder Aaron Speer, born 1734, appears on the 1790 census of Surry County, North Carolina and appears to have died before 1800.

9. Jean/Jane, died after 19 July 1758, when she is mentioned in her father’s will

There is still work to be done on the Spear family, but this concludes my work on the various family branches. A thorough study of the hundreds of Speer/Spear land deed in Somerset County, Maryland and Surry County, North Carolina will undoubtedly shed more light on some of the sparser branches of the this tree.


Henry Spear & Henry Spear on Somerset County, MD Tax Lists

At first thought, I wasn’t going to delve into the Henry Spears that I’ve uncovered in Somerset County, Maryland through the 1723-1759 tax lists. However, even though this isn’t my husband’s direct line, it seems that researchers have turned them into one person, the son of Henry Spear, born c1686.

Since many people don’t seem to do their own research, perhaps if I share my findings, from primary records (extant county tax lists), it will help future Spear researchers to sort out the members of this family.

I believe there is one Henry Speer, one born c1715  and that he is the son of Andrew Spear Jr., brother of Henry Spear, born c1686.

First, the 1723-1727 tax lists clearly show but two Spear households – that of Andrew and of Henry. It’s possible that this Andrew is Henry’s father, but even if it is, I believe that his son Andrew Jr. married and had at least two children.

Archives of Maryland Online

Note that Andrew and Henry were in adjoining households in Nanticoke Hundred, Somerset County, Maryland.

Andrew Sr., born c1645, would have been about 78 years old in 1723, if still living. I would think that would be considered elderly enough to be exempted. The 1727-1728 Somerset County Judicial Records for 1728-1728 include an entry for an Andrew Spear, TAX FREE. This could be an elderly Andrew Spear or it could be Andrew Jr., an infirm/sickly fairly young man, who was tax exempt because of health.

Whether or not these entries refer to Andrew Sr. or Andrew Jr., it appears that both were dead by 1728, as the name Andrew Spear doesn’t reappear on the tax rolls for two decades.

I didn’t find any Spears on the tax lists in 1728, but there are many men whose entries are noted as illegible. Only Henry is noted in 1729 and 1730 and no Spears in 1731. Again, these lists have a number of men transcribed as “illegible.”

There is no tax list for 1732, but the 1733 list includes Henry, taxed as head of household with Robert, dependent, in the same home.

Dependent males first appear on these lists at the age of 16, which means Robert would have been born c1717. Henry has births of children recorded in Somerset County in 1722/23, 1724/25, 1727, 1729, 1731, 1733 and late in 1734. He also names daughter Jean/Jane in his will, but her birth is not one of these noted. Jean/Jane is unmarried so she either was the youngest child, born c1736 or so, or was one of the oldest and didn’t marry.

In any case, that leaves places open for Henry to have children born in 1719, 1721 and even between 1712 and 1718, as he was seemingly not married when he confessed to fathering a child with widow Mrs. Margaret Buckley in 1711.

Henry, his namesake, had to have been born in one of those time periods. Keeping with the odd year births for continuity, we could be looking at 1713, 1715, 1719 and 1721 as possibilities.

We can eliminate 1713 as a birth year for Henry’s son, Henry, as Henry (born c1686) has no dependents listed in 1729:

Nor does Henry have any dependents in 1730:

Look who appears in 1731:

First we have Henry Spear, aged about 16 or so, a dependent of Philip Harris. Henry would have been born c1715.

We also have Henry Spear, head of household, with NO dependents in 1731.

There is no list for 1732.

1733 brings us Henry Spear with dependent son, Robert, presumably born c1717 and now 16 years of age, but still shows Philip Harris as head of household with a dependent Henry Spear.

1734 is a repeat of 1733 with adult Henry and dependent Henry, still with Philip Harris (Philip Harris died in 1744 in Somerset County, where the inventory of his estate was recorded.):

1735 brings a small change, but perhaps significant. Philip Harris is now living in Manokin Hundred, but Henry Spear is still his dependent:

The adult Henry, born c1686, is still in Nanticoke Hundred with Robert as his dependent:

In 1736, dependent Henry Spear is still living with Philip Harris:

Henry is taxed, but has no dependents. Robert, if born c1715, would be 21 years old in 1736:

1737 – Neither Henry Sr. nor Philip Harris and dependent Henry Spear are found on this list. There are many households transcribed as Illegible. Given the neighbors, though, this might be the elder Henry Spear:

1738 – Philip Harris and Henry Spear the younger are both in Manokin Hundred, while Henry Spear the elder and son Robert are both taxed in Nanticoke Hundred.

I could continue for quite a few more years of tax lists. However, the result would be the same. Henry Spear, the elder, never – ever – has a son Henry as a dependent in his home.

Why would that be if Henry the younger was his son? There is no reason that I can figure out. If Henry Sr. had a son named Henry, then he must have died as a young child, not reaching the age of 16. Every other son attributed to Henry appears as his dependent at some point in the tax process. Given the birth dates recorded for his children, they all show up as dependents at the age of 16.

I do NOT believe that Henry Spear, the dependent of Philip Harris, was Henry Sr.’s son. I believe he was his nephew and his father, Andrew Spear, son of Andrew the immigrant, died after the 1727 tax list and before the 1728 list. I further believe that Andrew’s widow married (2) Philip Harris OR that Andrew Spear’s wife was a Harris by birth and his uncle took him in when he was orphaned.

No other scenario makes any sense.

Further, Henry’s family migrated en masse to North Carolina while this younger Henry remained in Maryland. He reportedly married Sarah Shores and removed to Worcester County, Maryland, which borders Somerset.

The Shores family lived in Monie Hundred, Somerset County, Maryland. In 1743, they are in household #1. Look who is head of household #4:

This Henry died in 1771 and left a will.

Will of Henry Speer
Worcester County, Maryland WB 4:69-70
Source: FamilySearch

In the name of God Amen The day of one thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy one I Henry Speers Senr and in perfect Senses mind and memory lett Thanks be given therefore Calling unto mind the Mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die principally that is to Say and first of all I give my Soul unto the hands of God that gave it & for my body I leave it to the Earth to be Buried in a Christian like and desent manner according to the discretion of my Executors and as for all the worldly Good that it hath pleased Almighty god to bless me with I give and dispose of the Same in the following manner and form Imprimis  it is my will and I do hereby Constitute make and ordain my wife Sarah and my Son william to be my only and Sole Executors of this my last will and Testament.

Item I leave the (sic) and Services of my manner Plantation from the form the Cross fence with all fencing housing orchards He to the northernmost End with all the woodland on the same End for the use and Support of wife dureing her lifetime and widowhood and likewise for the said uses and Services of my three Daughters, Namely, Ailce Nancy & Mary during their Single life.

Item I give unto my Son John part of a tract of land Called Gillisses rich Island beginning at a Marked white oak Standing on the west side of my plantation runing from thence to a another marked white oak Standing on the Estermost Side of my Plantation and so Cross the said tract with a direct line and all to the Southward of the said division line — after my wifes decease or widowhood and my afforesaid three daughters Single life.

Item I give unto my Son Henry the remainder of my tract of land Called gillisses Rich Island from the afforesaid marked trees and to the north ward after my wifes decease or widowhood and after my three daughters afforesaid Single life to him the said Henry & his heirs for ever.

Item I give unto my Son William one tract of land Called Spearses Venture Containing fifty acres to him and his heirs forever.

Item I give unto my Daughter Jenny Walls Six pounds Current money to be paid out of my Estate.

Item I give unto my dearly beloved wife Sarah my negro wench Called Florah during her life and after my wifes decease the said Florah and her Increase to be Equally divided amongst my three Daughters Ailce Nancy & Mary and as for all the rest of my estate not yet legacied I give it to be Equally divided amongst my three Daughters or of them that is living at that time after my wifes decease or widowhood namely Ailce Nancy & Mary and I doe hereby utterly revok and disanull all other will or Wills – by me heretofore made or named and do Strengthen and Confirm this to be my last will & testament in witness whereof I have hereof Sett my hand and affixed by Seal the day and year above written.

Henry (his H mark) Spears Senr (Seal)

Signed Sealed and delivered in the presents of us
Schoolfield Parker
Jonathan Fookes
William Farlow

November 5th 1771 then came Schoolfield Parker Jonathan Fookes and William Farlow the Subscribing witnesses to the foregoing will and made oath on the holy avengalis of almighty God that they Saw Henry Spears the testator Sign Seal and heard him Publish Pronounce and declare the Same to be his last will and Testament and that at the time of his so doing he was to the best of their apprehension of a Sound disposing mind and memory and that they Subscribed their names as witnesses to the foregoing Will in the presence of the Testator and at his request.

Sworn Before Benton Harris Depty Comey of Worcester County

He would have been in his mid-50s when he died. Wife Sarah survived him along with sons John, Henry, William, married daughter Jenny Wells and three unmarried daughters, Ailce (Ailsey?), Nancy and Mary.

This Henry never lived with Henry Spear Sr. He lived in Manokin and Monie Hundreds and then removed to Worcester County, while Henry Spear Sr.’s family migrated to Surry County, North Carolina.

I absolutely believe that Henry Spear who died in 1771 in Worcester County, Maryland was the son of Andrew Spear and nephew of Henry Spear Sr.

Have I made my case?