Category Archives: Spear Family

Releasing Ned: 1794 in Surry County, NC

While researching Spear family lines in North Carolina, I came across this bill of sale in the probates and inventories of Surry County. Since all parties were living, I’m not sure why it was filed there, but it might be of interest to other Spear researchers.

It’s always disheartening to come across these documents, but it’s even sadder that the enslaved was a young eleven year old boy and the sale was finalized on Christmas Eve.

Henry Spear was likely the brother of my husband’s ancestor, Benjamin Spear. If so, Henry was born around 1760.

Source: North Carolina Probate Records, Surry County
Accounts, Inventories, Sales 1784-1809, Pages 40-41

This Indenture made the 24th day of December in the year of our Lord One thousand Seven Hundred and Ninty-four, between Charles Hunt of the County of Surry and Stat of North Carolina of the one part and Henry Speer of the County & State aforesaid of the other part, witnesseth that the said Henry Speer hath this day bargained, sold, & delivered unto the said Charles Hunt a certain negro boy by the name of Ned about eleven years old for and in consideration of the sum of Eighty-two pounds ten Shillings current money of the State aforesaid in hand paid by the said Charley Hunt the receipt where of the said Henry Speer doth herby acknowledge to have and to hold free and clear from the lawful claim or claims of all persons whatsoever and further doth hereby warrant the said negro boy to be sound and well and free frm any impediment whatever for the true and faithful performance of the above. I hereby (bing?) myself, my Heirs, Executors, Administrators and Assigns to the Charles Hunt his Heirs and Assigns. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above within. H. Speer (seal)

Done before,
H. Yong
J. Hunt

North Carolina Surry County February Term 1795
The within Bill of Sale from Henry Speer to Charles Hunt was proved by the oath of John Hunt a Subscribing Witness thereto and ordered to be recorded at large.
Recorded accordingly by P. Jo Williams CC


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.