Mead Surname Genealogy

The most likely origin of the
surname Mead is that it is topographical, describing someone who lived
near a
mead or meadow.  The origin of the word
was the medieval mede, meaning a
meadow or flat piece of land.  However, the
surname Mead may also have described a brewer or seller of mead, a
brew from honey that was popular in the Middle Ages.
The early spelling was
Mede.  The principal spellings today are Mead, Meade, and Meads.  Mead is the main English spelling.  Meads crops up in the Midlands.
Meade has been the usual spelling in Ireland.

Mead Resources on

Mead Ancestry

Early references of the
surname are John ate Mede in Essex in 1248, William atte Mede in
in 1293, and Norman atte Mede in Somerset in 1307.
Mede here is thought to be the English
version of the Norman de Prato
the meadow”) name that existed around the year 1200.

SW England.  Some sources have the Mead
name originating
in Somerset.  Two Bristol merchants held
public office in the 15th century – Thomas Mede Sheriff in 1453 and
Philip Mede
three times Mayor in 1458, 1461 and 1468.
And a Thomas Meade was born in Wedmore, Somerset in 1489.  But the larger numbers have been and are in
Essex in SE England.

SE England.  Thomas
Mede of Elmdon appears to have been the first of the Essex Meads.  He willed his lands in Essex and
Cambridgeshire to his two sons Thomas and Reginald in 1557.  This Thomas became a Justice of the Common
Pleas in 1577 and was knighted.  Later
Meads of his family made their home at Wendon Lofts which Justice
Thomas had
acquired.  John
, the last male of the line, died there in 1715.

It is thought that the Meads of Buckinghamshire
may have been related to these Essex Meads.
Richard Mede of Soulbury was first mentioned in the
musters of 1522.  His line extended to
Matthew Mead, a nonconformist minister of the mid/late 1600’s, and his
child Richard who became a famous physician.
By 1714 he was recognized as the leader in his profession and in
1727 he
was appointed physician to George II.

In Hertfordshire, the Mede or Mead name
was to be found in Bishops Stortford, Ware and Watford from the early
1500’s.  In Watford the Meads were known
as “mealmen,” that is millers of grain.
George Mead was a yeoman farmer in nearby Sawbridgeworth a
century or so

Midlands.  The Meads
spelling cropped up in the
Midlands, primarily in Nottinghamshire and in villages there such as
Oxton and
Calverton.  Meads were employed there in
the hosiery trade in the 19th century.
Nathan Meads, a Mormon convert, departed this area for Utah in
1861.  Joseph Meads was a gardener at
Potter Newton Hall
near Leeds in Yorkshire in 1841.  A year
later he emigrated with his wife Ann to New Zealand.

Ireland.  The origins of the Meagh family in Ireland are
unclear.  However, they were among the
leading families of county Cork by the beginning of the 14th century.  Their Cork stronghold was Meaghstown
castle.  By the 1600’s their name had
become Meade.  However, their estates were
forfeit in 1645 with Cromwell, regained in 1661 with the Restoration,
and then
lost again in 1691.

The line from Sir John Meade of Ballintubber near
Kinsale in Cork led to a later Sir John Meade, an Irish judge who was
a baronet in 1703.  His descendants
became the Earls of Clanwilliam.
The first of these Earls ended up having to sell his family
estate in the 1780’s because of debauchery and reckless spending.  Large sums had been dissipated on
horseracing, gambling, and mistresses.

“In 1779 Horace
Walpole repeated a rumor, almost certainly exaggerated, that
Clanwilliam had
arranged for the murder of one of his romantic rivals.”

A measure of respectability
returned with Richard the fourth Earl, a Royal Navy officer who ended
up as
Admiral of the Fleet in the late 1800’s.

In Ireland the Meade name continued at
Ballintubber and Inishannon in county Cork and at Burrenwood in county
Down.  The Rev. John Meade had acquired
the Ballintubber estate from his cousin the Earl in 1787.

America.  William
Mead from Watford in Hertfordshire came to America with his family on
the Elizabeth in 1835 and first made his
home in Stamford, Connecticut.  His son
Joseph was the ancestor of the Fairfield county Meads, his other son
John that
of the Greenwich Meads.  Spencer P. Mead
wrote one genealogical account of the family in his 1901 book History and Genealogy of the Mead family of
Fairfield County

William Mead Line.
William Mead has a large number of descendants in America:

  • Joseph’s
    line spread out to New
    York, Ohio, Indiana, and points further west   
  • while
    John’s went to New York, Pennsylvania (Meadville) and

line from John led to Amos
Mead, a surgeon in the French and Indian wars of the 1750’s.  A descendant Seaman Mead of Greenwich,
Connecticut, possessed his flintlock pistol and powder horn inscribed
follows:“Amos Mead, surgeon of the 3rd Connecticut Regiment,
Ticonderoga 1759.”  John Mead IV meanwhile
was a Major General in
the Revolutionary War.

After the war three Mead brothers – Benjamin,
Ralph and Staat Mead
– left Greenwich for New York City
where they made their mark as merchants.
George Mead left Ridgefield for Kingston, New York and
built Mead’s Mountain House
in the

Much later came Dr. Elwood Mead, born in 1858 in Indiana.
As Director of the Department of the
Interior, he oversaw in the 1920’s and the 1930’s the construction of
Hoover and Grand Coulee dams in the West.
Lake Mead on the Colorado river was named in his honor.

William Mead Line.  This William Mead
came from Buckinghamshire sometime in the early 1700’s.
Quaker records have him in Cecil county,
Maryland by this time.  His descendants
had moved to Loudoun and Bedford counties in Virginia in the 1750’s and
onto Kentucky. 

Cowles Mead relocated to Mississippi in
the early 1800’s and ran a
tavern before becoming a planter.  He
served as Acting Governor of Mississippi in 1806, but was unsuccessful
in being
elected its Governor in 1825.  Even so,
he was said to have been a spell-binding orator.

He was the first to introduce Bermuda grass
at his plantation home Greenwood in Clinton,
Hinds county.  Greenwood
fell victim to the Civil War and was burned in 1863.
Nothing remains there except for a small
cemetery where Cowles and his wife were buried.
His earlier home Meadvilla
does remain. 

Meade Lines.  There were two notable
Irish Meade lines in

Andrew Meade of the Cork
Ballintubber line came in 1685 via London to Nansemond county, Virginia
he prospered.  Some of his descendants
remained in Virginia, others moved west to Kentucky.
Hamilton Baskervill’s 1921 book Andrew Meade of
Ireland and Virginia

covered his line.

Robert Meade from
Limerick had less notable ancestors, but more remarkable descendants.  He was a merchant, initially in the Bahamas
who came to Philadelphia in 1742.  His
line led to George Meade, the Union general victorious at Gettysburg
during the
Civil War.  Meade county in Kansas and in
South Dakota were both named after him.

brother Richard was a naval officer during the war, but lost his ship
stormy night and died a disappointed man.
Still, Richard’s sons Richard, Henry and Robert all had
naval records.  Richard became a Rear
Admiral, although he retired in dispute with the Navy in 1895.

  Richard Meade, an indigent farmer in county Cork,
came with
his wife and three children to Ontario on the Fortitude
in 1825.  Granted land in Douro township in Peterborough,
they were part of the Peter Robinson settler scheme.

Roland Mead became Roland Meade
after he crossed the border
with his parents from Vermont to Ontario in the 1840’s.
His ancestry went back to immigrant William
Mead of Stamford, Connecticut in 1635 and to Colonel James Mead, the
settler in Rutland, Vermont in 1770.  In
Canada Roland joined the Hudson’s Bay Company and moved to Winnipeg.  There he pursued a profession as a
painter.  Unfortunately, his life was cut
short by lead poisoning from his oil paints.

New Zealand.  Joseph and Ann
Meads departed England for New Zealand on the Thomas Sparks
in 1842.  The
main Meads line in New Zealand came from Zachariah Meads, born in
Wellington in
1843 and who lived until 1937.  His line
extended to his great grandson Colin Meads, one of New Zealand’s
greatest rugby

Select Mead Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Mead Names

Richard Mead was the most prominent
English physician of the early 18th century.
General George Meade
the Union army at the Battle of Gettysburg in
1863, a turning point in the Civil War.

Elwood Mead

oversaw in the 1920’s and the 1930’s the construction of the Hoover and
Grand Coulee dams in the West.  Lake Mead
on the Colorado river was named in his honor
Margaret Mead was an
American anthropologist who popularized its insights into American and
culture during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Colin Meads
was a New Zealand rugby player
between 1957 and 1971.  An icon within
New Zealand rugby, he is widely considered one of the greatest rugby
players in
Richard Meade
was Britain’s
 most successful equestrian Olympian, winning
three gold medals in total.  He also won
five World Championship medals between 1970 and 1982

Select Meads Today

  • 17,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 14,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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