James Spratling’s Earmark

Livestock owners in the Colony of Virginia protected their rights to their livestock with earmarks, shapes cut into the animal’s ears. Earmarks were preferred there in the 17th century over branding. [1]

These earmarks were recorded in the county court to help in the return of stray livestock, or litigation over stolen livestock.

Our James Spratling recorded his earmark with the County Court of Lunenburg County, Colony of Virginia, on 4 Nov 1760. [2]

James Spratling’s earmark, 1760.

His earmark is described as “a Crop and Slit in the Right Ear, and a Swallow fork in the Left.”

These same earmarks are still in use today. [3]

James removed from Lunenburg County to Henry County, Virgina, before 1777. On 25 Nov 1779, he recorded a different earmark with the Court there [4]—it is difficult to read, but appears to say: “Under Kut in each Earr.”

James Spratling (1742–1812) is 6th great-grandfather of MKS in the Spratlin branch.

[1] Virginia DeJohn Anderson, “Animals into the Wilderness: The Development of Livestock Husbandry in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake,” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 2, 2002, pp377–408; digital images, JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/stable/3491742).
[2] County Court, Lunenburg County, Virginia, County Court order books, 1746-1865, Order books, 1759-1762; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS42-T9J3-6?i=235&cat=398428), image 236, verso.
[3] Arizona Department of Agriculture, Registered Brands, 2021, p5; digital images (http://searchagriculture.az.gov/docs/brandbook.pdf).
[4} Henry County, Virginia, Order and Minute Books, 1777-1904, General Indexes, 1777–1904, Order Books, v. 1-6 1777–1797; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS42-PXSG?cat=400740), image 61, recto.