Gayers of Devon


The Gayers of Devon originated with Reginald Gayer and Alice Courtenay of Cornwall

The descendants of Reginald and Alice are documented in The Visitations of Cornwall, 1530, 1537 and 1620. by Vivian. The Gayer family tree, in Vivian's publication was supplemented by A.E Gayer in 1870 . Those Gayers documented by the Visitation are shown in italics, other names were taken from the Memoirs of the Family of Gayer by A.E Gayer, in 1870.  There are errors in both.

Visitations of Cornwall

The Devon Gayers descended from John the eldest son of Reginald Gayer and Alice Courtenay who was born in Liskeard, Cornwall.  He married [possibly Elinora?]and had three sons: Reginald, Otis (or Otys), and Stephen.  

  • Reginald Gayer, the eldest son of John Gayer of Liskeard established himself in Plymouth. Perhaps his wife was from Plymouth. It was common for a groom to move to his wife’s parish; He is known to have had one son, William whose daughter Mary married Samuel Spry of Cutcrew.
  • Stephen Gayer, youngest son of John Gayer of Liskeard married (before 1532) Jane Trenbrace and had two sons: John Gayer who married Sybill Treffry, and a son Henry who did not appear to marry. Stephen Gayer remained in Cornwall.
    • John Gayer and Sybill (Treffry) Gayer, (married about 1555) had at least 7 children: John/Thomas*, the eldest son, Michael, Edward, Christian  (married Henry Pomeroy), Constance, Alice and Lora.  John Gayer was an M.P. for Liskeard (1553), Launceston (1553), Liskeard (1558), Penryn (1559) and Helston (1571)   The eldest son was John not Thomas as was identified in the Visitations of Cornwall
 John was Mayor Plymouth 1588-1589 (Ref: Calender of Plymouth Municipal Records) After John's death, Margaret Gayer (widow) married George Baron in 1594. 

                                         Children of John and Margaret (Trelawney) Gayer :

          • John Gayer (1584-1649) became a merchant in London, he was a member of the Fishmongers' Company, a Director of the East India Company, Sheriff of London in 1635, was knighted at Hampton Court 3 December 1641, and was  also Lord Mayor of London 1646-1647. He married Katherine Hopkins of Coventry. Will dated 19th December 1648. He was pre-deceased by his wife and several children. His children included
            • John Gayer,
            • Robert Gayer,
            • Katherine (Gayer) Abdy,
            • Mary, (Gayer) Henley
            • Sara (Gayer) Parkhurst
            • Elizabeth (Gayer) Godolphin.
          • Christian Gayer (buried 1585)
          • Margaret Gayer (1586)
          • Richard Gayer (b. 1587) Richard was mayor of Plymouth in 1615. In Phillimore Marriages there is a record of Elizabeth (a.k.a Isabelle) Amades marrying Richard Geare in St Andrews, Plymouth in 1620.
An additional confirmation comes from a quotation in "The Western Antiquary: Or, Devon and Cornwall Notebook, Vol. 7"
As written, this note could be interpreted to mean that Humphrey was the son of Richard. However, the marriages of Richard and Humphrey Gayer were in 1620 and 1628 so I take the quotation to mean that both Richard and Humphrey were sons of John and Margaret Gayer.

Richard and Isabell/Elizabeth and had two daughters:
            • Mary Gayer (b. 1625-1656) - married 1649 Arthur Spry
            • Margaret Gayer (b. 1622),
Both daughters are mentioned in the will of their uncle Sir John. Their baptisms are registered in Plymouth, Devon. The Visitations of Cornwall indicates that there were two sons but does not name them. I could not find a record of these two sons in the same parish registers as Mary and Margaret so (without proof) I am sceptical that they existed.

          • Hugh Gayer (1589-1633) married Jane Fones, daughter of Thomas Fones and Prudence Nicholls.  They located in Plymouth, Devon where Hugh was a "barber-surgeon" and where their children's baptisms were registered:
            • John Gayer (1621),
            • Margaret Gayer (1624),
            • Joane Gayer (1625),
            • Prudence Gayer (1627)
            • Robert Gayer (1631).
                                                    Either Margaret or Joane married Lewis Teight/Tight.
          • Grace Gayer 1590-1591
          • Humphrey Gayer (1592) a merchant in Plymouth and also mayor Plymouth in 1632. He married Deborah Sparke (daughter of John Sparke, Esq.) in March 1627/28. He died in 1646, she died in 1644. They had daughters:
            •  ElizabethGayer (b. 1631, Plymouth, Devon). Married Shilston Calmady. Children: Honor (m. John Ceely), Elizabeth (or Mary) m. Hugh Piper, (1671-1754), Shilston, John (m. Elizabeth Hutchings) and Josias (m. Jane Rolt).
            • Margaret Gayer, 
            • Alice Gayer, married 1663 Edward Gould. Children: Walter, Humphrey, William, John, Edward and Joan
            • Mary Gayer
            • Anne Gayer, (Lipford?). Sons Thomas and Jonathan
            • John Gayer. Did not marry. His will of 1693, mentions many nephews, nieces and cousins. Written in a script that is difficult to read, some names are indecipherable. However, he clearly names "Sister Anne Lipford and nephews Thomas and Jonathan Lipford; nephew Josias Calmady, Esq of Langford, nephew John Calmady and niece, Elizabeth Calmady; Niece Elizabeth Squire; Nephews John, Walter and William Gould and niece Joan Gould; Nephew Hugh Piper; Cousin Sir Robert Gayer; Cousin Thomas Gayer; Cousin William Gayer; Cousin Mary Gayer; Cousin Katheren Gayer; Cousin Sir John Molesworth; Cousin William Sparks.  John Gayer was a contemporary of Shilston Calmady (who married Elizabeth Gayer) and of  Jonathan Sparke (son of John Sparke who died in 1639 who’s will was witnessed by Humphrey Gayer).

From: Marriage Licenses Diocese of Exeter  p99 

Burial DG
Burial of Debora Gayer 1644
          • Robert  Gayer - (1593-1649), the youngest son. He was a merchant and fishmonger in London. His will mentions only his brothers and his nieces and nephews so I have assumed that he did not marry or have children:
Mentioned in his will:
  • Nephew John, son of Sir John of London;
  • Nephew Robert, son of Sir John of London;
  • Nieces Katherine Abdy, Mary, Sara and Elizabeth Gayer all daughters of Sir John Gayer
  • Nieces Margaret and Mary, daughters of brother Richard Gayer
  • Niece  ___ Teight, and Prudence Gayer daughters of brother Hugh Gayer
  • Nephew John Gayer son of Humphrey Gayer
  • Nieces Elizabeth, Margaret, Alice, Mary and Anne Gayer, daughters of Humphrey


The information above was obtained from various sources:

1) the wills of: Sir John Gayer, alderman of London (1649); Robert Gayer, merchant and fishmonger of London (1649); Humphrey Gayer, merchant of Plymouth (1647); Hugh Gayer of Plymouth (1633). These wills are available on-line at Marine Lives

2) from the journal of  the Plymouth Institution which listed weddings, burials and baptisms of St Andrews' church relating to John and Margaret Gayer (Gayre/ Geare) of Liskeard and Trenbrace. Annual Reports and Transactions, Volume 9 

3) Extracted Church of England Records (for Devon), from and from

4) Vivian's - Visitations of Cornwall (1530). Note: some information in this publication were provided by A.E. Gayer and were not from the Visitation and have since been proven to be inaccurate.

5) Marriage Licences of the Diocese of Exeter from the Bishop's Register



Other records from the Paris Registers found on Ancestry. and,
of Gayers in Devon in the early 1600s.

In addition to the marriage of John Gayer and Margaret Trewlawny in 1583 Richard and Elizabeth/Amades 1620 there were three other marriage records for Gayers (spelling variant - Gayre, Geare, Gerrey and Guyer) found in the Devon registers (Parish unspecified). However, I have no idea who they are. 

  • Marriages: William Geare and Jane Werrye, Jul 1618; Thomas Gerrey and Thomasine Howe Apr 1635; and William Geare and Joan Lane 1637
  • Plymouth Baptismal records, in addition to those I abstracted for the children of Richard, Hugh and Humphrey:
    • Children of George Gayer: Isac Geare, May 1629; Mary Gayer, Nov 1630; George Feb1632
    • Children of William Geare: John Geare, Nov 1620; Ambrose Geare, 1622; and Jane Geare Jan 1625. (Probably  children of William Geare and Jane Werrye)
    • Children of Michael Geare: Debora, Dec 1629
  •  From other Devon Parish records (unspecified) are:
    • Baptism of George, son of John and Mary Geare, Jun 1639
    • Baptism of Nathaniell and Richard, Dec 1652, sons of Richard Gerrye -  Barnstaple
    • Debora, wife of Richard Guyer Mar 1663 (probably a burial)
    • Thomas, son of Richard and Debora Guyer Apr 1663 (baptism held after the burial of Debra, the mother)

Sir John Gayer, Governor of Bombay and William Gayer of Nantucket
There are many references to William Gayer of Nantucket and Sir John Gayer, Governor of Bombay being sons of Humphrey Gayer and Deborah or Jane Sparkes of Plymouth, Devon.  Their mother's name was Jane (abt 1605-1725, Plymouth, England) not Deborah evidenced by a letter from William's mother, dated 1694.  Having reviewed both their wills as well as the will of John Gayer (the  proven son of Humphrey and Deborah) No connection can be found between William Gayer of Nantucket or Sir John Gayer of Bombay and the Gayer family of Plymouth described above.
  • William Gayer of Nantucket born about 1647 in Devon. He married Dorcas Starbuck about 1672 and with her had three children:
    • Damaris, b. 24 Oct 1673;
    • Dorcas, b. 29 Aug 1675; and
    • William, Jr., b. 3 Jun 1677.
His second wife was Mary Gard (or Guard), a widow from Boston. He died in 1710, aged about 58. The Will of William Gayer of Nantucket does not mention any English siblings
  • John Gayer, born about 1650. Became the Govenor of Bombay in 1692. He married his first wife, Priscilla Harper in 1782 in London.  He made his will in Bombay Castle, India in Oct. 1710 and died there, probably in the following year (Probate Act Book, P. C. C. 1712, f. 64).  His will was proved at London by his second wife, Mary, on 17 April 1712 (registered in P. C. C. 70, Barnes). (Ref: Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900). The will of Sir John Gayer of Bombay mentions his eldest sister Jane Lee; Sister Joan Hooper; Sister Elizabeth Mathews; Niece Elizabeth Gayer.
Abstracts of these wills can be found in the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register: Volume 31 1877. p. 297