Origins of Robert Ivey

Exploring the Origins of Robert Ivey Sr.

The antecedents of Robert Ivey Sr. are a genuine mystery.  One reason for my efforts in identifying the descendants of the various Ivey immigrants was to identify those who might have been possible fathers.  Unfortunately, no obvious candidates were revealed by these efforts.  If he was descended from one of the immigrants, we are unable to identify a plausible line of decent.

An obvious possibility, for which there is some evidence, is that he was himself an immigrant.

Reviewing the Evidence

The earliest certain record of Robert Ivey Sr. is a deed from John Spann to Robert Ivey of Dobbs County for 440 acres on 30 April 1759.1    He was evidently a relatively young man at the time, for his first few children were apparently born beginning at about this time.  That would seem to place his year of birth somewhere in the 1720-35 timeframe.

He may have been in Granville County a year earlier.  A Robert “Ive” and John “Ive” were listed together as tithables in the 1758 tax list of Granville County.  Neither appeared in the previous tax lists, nor in later ones, and neither owned land in Granville.  This John Ivey may have been the same person who died in Pitt County in 1773 leaving a son Robert Ivey in Halifax County.

A Possible Spann Connection?

Coincidently, in 1734 a Robert Ivey of Edgecombe Precinct sold land in present Northampton County which had been patented in 1730 by John Spann Sr., thought to have been the father of the John Spann of the 1759 deed.  This Robert Ivey is also unidentified.  He may be Robert Ivey Sr., though that would make him considerably older than other evidence indicates.

An Irish Immigrant?

The family of Barna Ivey, eldest son of Robert Ivey Jr., believed that the Iveys were Irish.   An 1893 biography of Barna Ivey’s eldest son Malachi states that Barna Ivey’s “father was named Robert Ivey and was a native of North Carolina, of Irish descent.”2   The 1892 biography of his brother James Washington Ivey says “his great-grandfather [Robert Ivey Sr.] emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, at an early day.3

Family legends are rarely entirely accurate.  However, we can’t ignore the possibility that either Robert Ivey Sr. or his father immigrated from Ireland.  Both of these men were presumably were repeating what they had been told by their father or grandfather.

I will note, however, that at least one member of the family had an entirely different legend.  An 1888 biography of William Henry Denson, a grandson of Barna Ivey, states that “The Ivey family… came originally from Wales in the person of Barna Ivey.4

  1. A deed filed in the NC Archives as PC 1828.1, from a manila folder of 18 loose original papers, mostly deeds.  This collection was apparently in the possession of the family of Richard Ivey, as it contains his original will.  Richard Ivey was a son of John Ivey, who was the son of this Robert Ivey. []
  2. Memorial Record of Alabama (Brant & Fuller, Madison, Wisconsin, 1893), Vol. 1, p553-4, a sketch of Malachi Ivey. []
  3. Indian Territory, its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men, H. F. & E. S. O’Beirne (1892), pp440.  This is an interesting account of James Ivey and his wife, but elements appear to be exaggerated.   I would note that James Ivey shown with 9 slaves on the 1860 slave schedule, not the 110 claimed by this article, and that I can find no record that he rose above the rank of private in the 28th Infantry, much less was a Colonel. []
  4. Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical (Smith & Deland, Birmingham, 1888), p357. []