Early VA Meachams -- New Data

17th century Virginia Meachams -- new data and, alas,
a more complicated picture

[Jan. 6, 1999]

Some current genealogies of southern Meachams attribute all bearers of the surname in Virginia from 1650-1700 and after to offspring of the immigrant "Jo. Machem,18" who arrived on the Paule in 1635. (The forename was previously read as "Joshua" but it is now clear, as per my previous post here, that "Jo." was a common abbreviation for John.) There are quite a number of difficulties with the current scenario, and with the lists of Burton Meacham and Clarence Mitcham. Sadly, it appears that all of the 17th century Virginia Meachams need to be re-confirmed against hard evidence. I have begun this process by asking someone to check the register of Christ Church, Middlesex Co. for the best documented line of Meachams in 17th century Virginia -- the children of John Micham/Machen and Michall/Micholl Blake (not "Macall Mitchell" as Burton had). These are:

This is the same as what Burton and Clarence had, except for Henry 1702, which could not be found. The IGI has Henry born 1709 son of John and his second wife Mary Atwood.

1. The first indication to me that something was gravely amiss in the earlier line-up came from a perusal of Burton's list of "the nine sons of Joshua":

There could be some mistaken identities and other confusions here. Are Edmund and Edward the same? Clarence seems to have thought so. Is Joseph so-called twin of Henry actually Joseph 1679 son of John? Is James 1682 the same as James 1685 son of John? These questions aside, taking the list at face value there are two distinct groups of births here, which could suggest that Jo. [John] had a second marriage and reproductive session at age 58-65. It seems much more likely however that the births in 1675-82 are "third generation" -- IF they are all related to John Machem. In theory, they could have been fathered by Joshua b. 1650, and/or Henry b. 1658, and/or another Meacham not yet identified.

We then have Joshua, John, Henry and perhaps Edmund as possible sons of John Machem. The main problem in trying to reconstruct the lines in this early phase is that most (all?) of the birth dates prior to 1679 seem to be estimates, without baptismal records. And there seems to be NO direct evidence that the father of ANY of them was the immigrant John Machem. As I posted in November, there is indirect evidence in the form of the 1704 mention of "John Meachen Junr," but it is not entirely clear at this stage who his father was. Also in the 1704 document is a "Thomas Mackhan" who owned land in Middlesex Co. He must have been born ca 1680 or earlier, and so could be second or third generation, or from another line altogether. Finally, I discovered a John Meekins, imported in 1654 according to Early Virginia Immigrants. He may have been aged 15-25 when imported, so his birth date can be estimated very roughly as 1630-40.

2. The second serious problem arose from a scrutiny of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) maintained by the Mormons. In addition to John Micham and his offspring, the IGI has the following for mid-17th century Virginia:

It should be recalled that the accuracy of the IGI varies; these entries appear to be extractions from original documents rather than relative's submissions, hence more reliable. Richard Meekins is presumably the Richard listed by Burton, following Clarence who calls him "Richard Meacham (Meekins)". But the IGI entry suggests he was born much earlier, say 1632-47, if we assume he was 20-35 years old at the birth of his daughter. John Macomb was refered to elsewhere as John Meacomb, but he and John Mecom are almost certainly different people. The Macon and Meekins lines may be largely outside of the Meacham one, but in the early 1700s we find "Meacon" and "Meekin," both of which are very close to Mecom/Mechan. Among their children, even perhaps among their siblings, there may have been cross-overs among Meacon, Meekin, Meacomb, and Mecom. Thomas Mitcham has not been mentioned, so far as I can find, in the standard Meacham genealogies. When the five from the IGI plus Thomas Mackhan and John Meekins are added to the four possible sons of John Machem, we have 11 males born in the period of say 1630-1675. Four of them are named John. We know that one (John Meekins) was imported. It is clear that the remaining ones could NOT all be the children of John Machem the immigrant and that some are thus unrelated to him. But if that is the case, there must be another immigrant Meacham ancestor unrecorded so far in early/mid-17th century Virginia.

3. This conclusion leads directly on to the third problem, which was posed by the discovery of another migrant to America -- "William Mecham, 20" on the Peter Bonaventure from London to Barbados in 1635 (see my post about the Barbados line on the Rootsweb Meacham query board. To complicate things even further, there was also a "James Makynn, 20" and an "Edward Mekins,18" on other passenger lists to Barbados in 1635. It is certainly possible that one of them came to Virginia sometime after 1635. And any of the 11 males mentioned above born 1630-75 (except for John Micham if he is the John Meachen Junr of 1704) could have been born in Barbados to one of these three settlers.

4. The fourth problem is that documents in London reveal a considerable Macham/Machen involvement with Virginia from an early stage. This might lead one to suppose (admittedly on little more than gut feeling) that there were others of that surname from England in the colony, besides the migration of a mere 18-year-old lad (John Machem on the Paule) who was apparently an indentured servant. In 1609, just two years after the founding of Jamestown, a tract was published by Samuel Macham in London entitled: "Nova Britania. Offering most excellent fruites by planting in Virginea." In 1660 a tradesman in Bristol named John Machen was involved in a commercial dispute with his Virginia partners. In 1668 William Wood, an apprentice in Bristol to Oliver Machen, was assigned to serve 7 years in Virginia. In 1672, a merchant named "William Meacomb" listed some goods shipped from Virginia. This seems to be more connection with Virginia than one might expect randomly for an unusual surname like Machen/Macham.

5. And finally, in the "King's Remembrancer class list of records II", under the title "Soldiers going abroad who took the oath of allegiance and licences to pass beyond the seas" are folios containing the licences of soldiers permitted to travel overseas for various reasons. One of them relates to an inhabitant of Virginia. It states:

"26 July 1631. Richard Macham, aged 30 resident in Virginia, was licensed to go to Rotterdam about certain of his affairs."

So there WAS indeed a Macham in Virginia prior to 1635! Richard Macham does not appear on the colony musters of 1623 and 1624, so he must have come over after that. We do not know if he took the trip to Rotterdam, and if so whether he returned to Virginia. We do not at this point know anything else about him. It is tempting to speculate that he might have been related to Samuel Macham who published the tract described above, and perhaps to John Machem as well, or that he might have been the father of Richard Meekins. All that can be said at the moment is that the mere fact of a Macham in Virginia before 1635 complicates the picture in one sense, but it was a picture already bursting at the seams with too many presumed descendants from a single founding ancestor.

Return to Contents Proceed to next article