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Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill, early settlers of Virginia and Carolina: Who they were and where they belong in your family tree

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Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill,
Early Settlers of Virginia and Carolina:
Who They Were and Where They Belong in Your Family Tree

Thomas Spivey: commonly stated as born c1676 or c1680 in Nansemond, Virginia
Mary Hill: commonly stated as born c1685 +/- or Unknown, birthplace Unknown
Added Mention: Tamer Spivey (Bass), birthplace Virginia


Numerous Spivey or Hill descendants researching their U. S. Southern Colonialist Roots eventually come across the seemingly ubiquitous couple, Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill.
  • Internet lore places the wedded couple into more than one Spivey line in the Province of Virginia and/or the Province of Carolina in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
  • Neither subject includes primary sources (or any) to support the claimed ancestries.
  • Their placement may appear very credible.
  • Or they are merely "hanging leaves" rustling among the time-worn branches of a larger, more fully sourced tree.
Since conflated versions of the couple are quite pervasive, research has proved daunting for many family chroniclers. Here's the breakdown.

Thomas Spivey (which one was he anyway?)

There are (generally) four unverified tree placements for Thomas Spivey:
  • Son of James Spivey. No sources.
  • Son of George Spivey, English colonist to Virginia. No sources.
  • Son of Matthew Spivey Sr and Judith Bowers of Norfolk, Virginia. Unverified. -or-
  • Son of Matthew Spivey Jr and Sarah Nichols of Nansemond, Virginia.
  • May have the middle name Benjamin, unsourced.
  • Ever-present wife ~ Mary Hill~ with an unsourced marriage date.
If "your" Thomas connects to any of these (or similar) iterations, it may need amending. Here's why:
Research Notes
Documents show Thomas Spivey lived in the Province of Carolina as did his biological son, Thomas Spivey.
  • Thomas Spivey has not been reliably linked to a James Spivey of Virginia.
  • No evidence indicates Thomas was a son of George Spivey who is generally ascribed as the father of Matthew Spivey of Norfolk, Virginia (d. aft 1683-bef. 1696).
  • In turn, Matthew Spivey of Norfolk (d. aft 1683-bef. 1696) either died intestate or, more likely, his will burned in one of the many fires that beset Virginia's courthouses before 1855. His only surviving children, Matthew Spivey (Jr) and Ann Spivey (Granbery), were identified in the 1697 will of Maj. John Nichols, their step-father. [1]
  • Matthew Spivey Jr of Nansemond, son of Matthew Spivey of Norfolk, made NO mention of an uncle or brother named Thomas in his will dtd 1718/9. [2]
What about Thomas, son of Matthew (Jr) of Nansemond?
  • As it turns out, this person was not named Thomas ~ "his" name was actually Tamer Spivey and Tamer was a female. [2][3]
What? Well, you see...
Documentation went awry for Thomas Spiveys in 1922 with the publication Brief abstracts of Norfolk County wills, 1710-1753 (Charles McIntosh, ed.), wherein the will of Matthew Spivey (Jr) was copied over from the original document; in the publication, however, Matthew's daughter's name "Tamer" was ill-transferred into print as "Thomas." [4]Thus, Tamer disappeared and her imposter, Thomas, was born into the early twentieth century.
Subsequently, Thomas Spivey, born of a recording error, made his way into some trees as a son of Matthew (Jr) of the Nansemond and Norfolk line, while other trees were spared. A second publication, Winslow's History of Perquimans County (1931), set the record straight nine years later. [5][6] But, the books reached different target markets and limited audiences, so variant data remained in circulation until the books went out of print.
Predictably, upon the rising of the internet age sixty+ years later, the name errors crept online and spread through family trees via the incredible invention known as "cut/copy-and-paste." This time-saving technology, plus the now-defunct adage, "if it's on the internet it must be true," set back internet-dependent Thomas Spivey researchers by over thirty years and inadvertently contorted countless family trees.
Admittedly, no one intended for this to happen. And errors might have been caught earlier but for renewed interest in the first book when a copy was scanned for the internet in the 1990s, refueling confusion among a broader audience than the print book ever reached in the 1920s; meanwhile, the second book languished on a dusty library shelf until digitized abt. 2014. Anyway... ...
When different online data sets were compared by tree builders, Thomas's name superbly fidgeted around --added, removed, ported betwixt generations, merged into Chowan lines, and extracted out-- until in time, several online iterations of Thomas Spivey were romping about Spivey branches and his ghosted counterpart, Tamer Spivey, fell out. So, there's that.
Since Thomas Spivey was never a son of Matthew Spivey and Judith Bowers nor a son of Matthew Spivey Jr, disentangling him from this line is imperative.
Other Supporting Research:
  • No land grants, deeds, or will exist in Thomas Spivey's name in Virginia.
  • He is not found as a signatory on documents related to the community with which the Spivey family of Norfolk was associated.
  • He is not found in Virginia Quaker records.
  • No Virginia-based birth or death records located.
Suggested Action(s): (for personal trees, WikiTree profiles are corrected)
  • Remove Thomas Spivey from all Matthew Spivey lines and re-direct to Thomas Spivey I of Chowan Precinct, Albemarle County, Province of Carolina.
  • In the case of "Thomas" who should be "Tamer," well - he's a she, so replace him with her.
  • If "your" Thomas is genealogically-defined as a son of George or James, great! Please share the data. Otherwise, consider the line faulty and double-down on research. To date, no proving documents have surfaced to show either man had sons named Thomas, but perhaps you will be the first to ferret out a reliable connection.

Mary Hill (was she really your #x-Great-Grandma?)

Drag-n-Drop Mary: Currently found on multiple family genealogy sites as the wife of Thomas Spivey of Chowan, his son Thomas Spivey II, or imposter Thomas, "son" of Matthew Spivey Jr., she is generally noted as...
Mary Hill: born c1685 +/-, or no birthdate listed.
Generally, no birthplace cited.
Parents: unknown
Died: c1750, unsourced.
If your line connects to Mary Hill ~ wife of Thomas Spivey, it definitely needs amending. Here's why:
Research Notes
Mary Hill has been moved around with varying versions of Thomas Spivey, her birth and death dates adjusted to meet expectations of whatever line she is dropped into.
  • For example, as the wife of Thomas Spivey of Chowan, she is said to have been born c1685 - died c1750; however, he was a widower when he died in 1729.
  • But, when married to his son Thomas Spivey II, she becomes Mary Hill b. 1695, d. unknown, no sources.
  • And, when married to un-Thomas, "son" of Matthew, her birthdate is missing. Makes a weird sort of sense in this case, since she was never married to a non-existent husband.
So, where did she come from? The answer may surprise you:
Mary Hill, it turns out, was not born a Hill at all ~she married one. Her surname at birth, to set the record straight, was Spivey.
Yes, "drag and drop" Mary, moved from tree to tree with nary a second glance, is the Spivey blood relative, not her husband.
A Spivey by birth, Mary Spivey (Hill) was the daughter of Thomas Spivey I and Mary UNKNOWN of Chowan, Carolina. Her husband was William Hill. This couple lived in Chowan. Mary Spivey (Hill) is documented in two wills.
Suggested Action(s): (for personal trees, WikiTree profiles are corrected)
  • De-conflate "Mary Hill" from her mother Mary Unknown, wife of Thomas Spivey I of Chowan, and properly attribute her as Mary Spivey (Hill), spouse of William Hill, and daughter of Thomas Spivey I of Chowan Precinct, Albemarle County, Province of Carolina.
  • Of course, leave Mary Unknown as her mother. This allows researchers to dig in and find reliable sources that might show her mother was also a Hill. So far, there is no evidence of this.

Tamer Spivey ("lost" child of Matthew Spivey Jr)

Tamer (alt: Tamar) Spivey, was inadvertently omitted from her line when her name was mistranscribed as "Thomas" in the 1922 publication Brief abstracts of Norfolk County wills, 1710-1753.
Tamer Spivey, third daughter of Matthew Spivey (Jr) and perhaps Sarah Nichols (inferred). Probably b. c1705-c1710. Still of minor age in 1720 when her guardian and grandmother Judith Nichols died.
  • She married Thomas Bass of Nansemond, Virginia. His 3x-great-grandmother was the daughter of a Nansemond Tribal chieftain. His 3x-great-grandfather was an English colonist and minister. Bass may have died in Chowan or Bertie, North Carolina. Tamer's death date and place are unknown.
  • Her birth year is wildly estimated on Bass family trees from c1685 to c1705.
Research Notes
Tamer has not been recovered to her line as a daughter of Matthew Spivey (Jr) by most e-trees or family publications.
  • Bass family members picked her up as the second wife of Thomas Bass of Nansemond, Virginia but had no informative way to find her pedigree.
Until now.
Suggested Action(s): (for personal trees, WikiTree profiles are corrected)
If you see Tamar is omitted from a tree elsewhere, help a sister out, won't you? Or a descendant... Please consider adding her back in. There is still much research missing on Tamer and her descendants.

And So It Goes

Thomas Spivey of Chowan
Mary Unknown, his wife
Mary Hill, his married daughter
Thomas Spivey Jr of Chowan, his son
Thomas Spivey of Nansemond never existed
Tamer Spivey did
While it is work to "prune" and re-graft branches to a family tree, as my own grandmother once said to me, "Our work is never really done." And so it goes for genealogy.


  1. See: Maj. John Nichols, 2nd husband of Judith Bowers, who left his wife's children Matthew Spivey (Jr) and Ann Spivey legacies in his will (dtd 1697), the will also witnessed by Matthew Spivey (Jr).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Will of Matthew Spivey (Jr) of Nansemond, filed Norfolk County, Virginia, 1719. Original wills. Library of Virginia Archives. In-library only: Deed Book, No. 10, 1718 - 1719 c, [2], fo. 1-76 (Deeds, 1718 - 1719); fo. 77-87 (Orders, 1719) and Orders, Appraisements & Wills, 1719-1722 (r46). Index
  3. See: Judith Bowers (Spivey) (Nichols), widow of Matthew Spivey Sr and mother of Matthew Spivey Jr, who made NO mention of a son or nephew named Thomas in her will (dtd 1720). As guardian of her son's orphans, she does name Tamer.
  4. Brief abstract of Lower Norfolk county and Norfolk county wills, 1637-1753. Vol. II. Charles Fleming McIntosh, compiler. Richmond: The Colonial dames of America in the state of Virginia, 1922. Family Search International, n.d. Matthew Spivey will transcribed,p78. (free, sign-in req'd) ~this vers. also found on (incorrect transcr. of dau's name)
  5. Winslow, Mrs. Watson aka Ellen Goode Rawlings. Matthew Spivey Will Abstract. History Of Perquimans County: As Compiled from Records Found There and Elsewhere. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Co., 1931. ECU Libraries. Online book repository. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, 2021. Booklink
  6. Surname Extractions from History of Perquimans County. Early Families of Perquimans County. Perquimans County, NCGenWeb, n.d. Alpha Lookup
See also:
  • The majority of sourced records and primary documents for the individuals herein can be found on individual WikiTree profile pages as interlinked.
  • Redirection to sourced WikiTree profiles may be obtained by selecting the inline interlinks (underlined names) which will open to the identified WikiTree profile page(s).
To add this reference page to a WikiTree profile as a resource: Use the fabulous copy-and-paste maneuver - on the following template.
It's okay, this time. Promise.
Ref: <span id=’Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill’>''[[Space:Thomas_Spivey_and_Mary_Hill%2C_early_settlers_of_Virginia_and_Carolina:_Who_they_were_and_where_they_belong_in_your_family_tree|Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill: Who They Were and Where They Belong In your Family Tree]]</span>
Results in a live linkback that looks similar to this (but underlined, no bold):
Ref: Thomas Spivey and Mary Hill: Who They Were and Where They Belong In your Family Tree
In the Wiki Tree spirit of collaboration, should reliable sources be provided to contradict these findings, please leave a comment or pm page manager to share data. Glad to amend.



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