Early VA Meachams -- Immigrants



17th Century Virginia Meachams (II) -- the Immigrants

[Sept. 12, 1999]

In January of this year, I published an article entitled "17th century Virginia Meachams -- new data and, alas, a more complicated picture" which examined some data on early inhabitants of Virginia with similar surnames (Machen, Mechen, Mecom, Micham, etc). I was especially interested to relate this data to the ancestry of the "southern Meacham" line, which has traditionally been attributed to the passenger "Jo. Machem" on the Paule from London in 1635. In another article in May it was demonstrated that "Jo." was universally known at that time as an abbreviation for John, and could not stand for Joshua.

Recently I had the opportunity to carry out some research in the Library of Virginia, which by the way is a magnificent facility. The data that I found re-enforces very dramatically the initial conclusions of the first article, that of "a picture already bursting at the seams with too many presumed descendants from a single founding ancestor." Included in the new data are several previously uncited land patents which have an important bearing on southern Meacham genealogy. Ironically, it now appears unlikely that John Machem of the Paule is the ancestor of anyone! I was brought to this rather surprising conclusion by the new data, outlined briefly below, and by two well documented considerations:

1. There were more than 100,000 people transported from the British Isles to Virginia during the 17th century, most as indentured servants.

2. Approximately half of the indentured servants during first half of the 17th century perished during the period of their indenture (normally 5-7 years), due to malnutrition, disease, accident, violence, etc.

It is quite possible then that John Machem died during his indenture. If he survived it, he may not have married; if he married he may not have had children; if he had children they might not have survived, or they might all have been female. Nothing is known about him after his arrival in Virginia, except for one item I found (see below), and in these circumstances all one can say is that he is unlikely to have been the ancestor of any line of Meachams.

Clarence Mitcham and others since have cited the 1652 headright claim for a John Michem, made by Nicholas Morris of Northumberland County, as probably referring to the Paule passenger. This would appear to be incorrect. The John Machem of the Paule is almost certainly the person named in the following land patent:

"Christopher Branche -- 250 acres, Henricoe Co., 8 Dec. 1635. 50 acres for self and 200 for transporting of 4 persons: John Gibson, John Macham, Wm. Butler, Wm. Possell."

It is noteworthy that the year is the same as the Paule's arrival, and other passengers are probably Wm. Postell and John Gibbs. It is quite common to find clusters of Paule passengers in the headright claims [with a variation in the spelling of the name], e.g. Dorothy Bradlie [Bradly], John Coop__ [Jon. Cooper], Wm. East , and Richard Hughes [Hewes] claimed by John Fludd in 1638; Alice Fuller, Francis Lattner [Latner] and John Cooke by Theodore Moyser in 1637; Ann Emmerton, Charles Ford, and John Mynter [Minter] by Edward Minter in 1635-38; etc. After the arrival of the Paule, John Machem/am presumably went to work on the land already held by Christopher Branche, who is listed in the 1623 colony muster for the settlement at Henrico. There is no further record of this new immigrant.

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It is however in the sheer numbers of other "Meacham" migrants to Virginia in the 17th century that the case of John Machem of the Paule is put in its proper perspective. What follows is what I have been able to document; there were undoubtedly others for whom the record of transport to Virginia does not survive. I have omitted Meeking(s), Macon, and Mitchener as a little too far removed from the core group of names; the Gideon Meacon that I discussed before was referred to as Gideon Macon in other documents. I did not find a Meekin or Mitchen variant.

From military records:
1631 -- Richard Macham, aged 30, resident of Virginia. He must have been transported to Virginia since he was born before the colony was founded.

From transport records:
1635 -- John Machem, on the "Paule" from London
1668 -- John Machen, on the "Richard" from Bristol
1668 -- John Machen, on the "Stephen" from Bristol
1697 -- John Mechum, arrival document.

From land patents:
[date headright was claimed -- name of importee, county where patentee resided]
1635 -- John Macham, Henricoe
1637 -- Henry Meshen, Charles River
1650 -- John Macom, James City [? or 1667 Surry]
1651 -- Thomas Machin, Northumberland
1652 -- John Michem, Northumberland
1652 -- Wm. Matham, Warwick
1653 -- John Maccome, York
1653 -- Thomas Mackin, York
1656 -- Edmund Machin, New Kent
1656 -- Dorrenum Machoone, Northampton
1664 -- John Machin, Northampton
1667 -- John Mechan, Gloucester
1680 -- John Mesam, New Kent
1691 -- Samuel Mechan, New Kent

As mentioned above, we can equate with some confidence the John Machem on the Paule with John Macham, 1635, Henricoe county. Since the John Mechum 1697 is only an arrival, we cannot exclude the possibility that he was transported to Virginia at an earlier date, left and returned. A similar consideration applies to the two John Machens of 1668. Eliminating those as uncertain, we have the following who were almost certainly transported from Britain or Ireland to Virginia: 7 Johns, 2 Thomases, and one Richard, William, Henry, Edmund, Samuel and Dorrenum. Even allowing that one of them might have been claimed twice by different patentees, we still have 14 males who might have survived their indenture (or military service in the case of Richard) and started a line that continued into the next century. Clearly most of them did not.

It would be very interesting indeed to know if anyone in North America today can trace their ancestry back to one of these early Meacham immigrants.


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