The surname Sparrell is fairly rare. To my knowledge, all the current living Sparrells in the US are descended from James Newton Sparrell (~1740-1770). When researching, I occasionally run across records of people with Sparrell as their first or middle name and was curious as to the origin; and to see if I was related. The records are mainly in the South (particularly confederate soldiers) whereas most surname Sparrells are from New England or can trace back to there. I did find a reference (which unfortunately I did not record and would like help finding again) that the governor of Virginia adopted a girl with surname Sparrell because her father had been lost at sea. This is at approximately the same time that James Newton Sparrell was a sea captain between North Carolina and Massachusetts; and family lore has it that two brothers were sea captains who immigrated from England.

I would appreciate any information anyone comes across on this adopted daughter:

  • records of her parents
  • records of her adoption
  • records of her marriage and children

I would like to use this to confirm my hypothesis the first and middle names in the South are family names descended from her.

2 Answers 2


Google is your friend (Other search engines are available): I used Mary Sparrell 1747 as the search terms but suspect Mary Spyrel might also have yielded useful results. (You may wish to investigate other alternate spellings).

This site mentions what I think is the Mary Sparrell you're searching for, marrying Peter Hyde Saunders: http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/campbell/history/chronicles-families-watts.txt

This one says she was sister to Judge Fleming Saunders of Flat Creek, Campell: http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/campbell/history/chronicles-families-hairston.txt

At least one family tree on Ancestry has her as the ward of Governor William Branch Giles of Virginia.

Also mentioned here: http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/View/index.cfm?doc=ResearchReports\RR1609.xml

And here: http://archive.org/stream/williamandmaryc04marygoog/williamandmaryc04marygoog_djvu.txt

There are lots of other references to her as sister to Judge Fleming Saunders and ward of Governor William Giles, although no sources were cited in anything I've found.

  • Thank you! How did you know to start with Mary Sparrell 1747?
    – Duncan
    Nov 2, 2012 at 13:13
  • @Duncan, I first searched on Ancestry and found a number of (unsourced) trees that suggested a birth 0f 1747. Incidentally, have you seen:www26.us.archive.org/stream/southsidevirgini111993/…
    – user104
    Nov 2, 2012 at 13:31

You may find that the convention of using maternal maiden names as given names may be involved Duncan. My own father has a given name that was his grandmother's maiden name, and a middle name that was his mother's maiden name. It resulted in a combination that might appear unusual to someone outside of the family who didn't understand the reason.

There are less than a dozen references to Sparrell in the England & Wales civil registration index, and there's no obvious geographical relationship between them. Definitely a rare surname.

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