Beckham Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Beckham Surname Meaning

The Beckham surname derived from a place-name in Norfolk that was recorded as Beccheham and Becham in the Domesday Book of 1086.  The roots of the name are the personal name Becca plus ham meaning “homestead,” hence Becca’s homestead.  Over time the name became Beckham.

Beckham may have started as an English surname.  But today American Beckhams outnumber English Beckhams by more than five to one.

Beckham Surname Resources on The Internet

Beckham Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Norfolk)
  • to America and Australia

England.  The Beckham surname originated in Norfolk and Norfolk still accounted for over 30 percent of the Beckhams in the 1891 UK census.

Norfolk.  The surname was first recorded at the hamlet of Beckham in north Norfolk in the 14th century.  Sir Roger de Beckham held lands there in the 1350’s.  An old volume of English history written in the 1400’s mentioned these Beckhams as being Normans and that they were notorious for their bad temper.  However, there was no further record of them there.

Beckhams next appeared in the 1569 Visitation of Norfolk where a pedigree was entered for John Beckham who was born at North Creake in 1421.  He had descendants in the village of Narford in the Breckland district.  It was probably from around here that William Beckham departed for America in 1639 as an indentured servant.

A later Beckham line began with the birth of James Beckham at Brandon Parva in 1741 and continued with descendants at Mattishall Burgh in the 19th century.  The church of St. Michael in Norwich has a plaque to commemorate Zebedee Beckham, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who died in 1829 at the age of forty.  He was the grandson of an earlier Zebedee Beckham who was born in Norwich in 1712.

London.  Many Beckhams must have migrated south to London, because London Beckham numbers were greater than Norfolk Beckham numbers in 1891.  The best-known Beckham family here was to be found in Walworth in south London within the borough of Southwark.  John Beckham, born in 1846, was employed there as a scavenger.  His descendant is the footballer and media star David Beckham.

America.  There are many more Beckhams in America than in England.  Part of this may have been due to other names from elsewhere in England, such as Bickham, arrived in America and became Beckham.  Then there were Scots Irish Beckhams such as Abner Beckham, one of the early settlers of Culpeper county, Virginia where he died in 1811.

The gap in Beckham numbers between America and England did widen in the 20th century.  Since 1880 the Beckham census numbers have expanded eight times; while the growth in the UK has been less than three times.

Virginia and the South.  Most Beckhams were to be found in Virginia and points south.  An early account was James Beckham’s 1910 book Genealogy of the Beckham Family in Virginia. A more reliable guide has come from James Heidlebaugh with his more than 13,000 pages of Beckham family information in America.

The first arrival was an indentured servant William Beckham who came to Upper Norfolk county, Virginia from Norfolk in 1639.  He married Tabetha Randolph there.

Their descendants were to be found in Essex county, Virginia and, from the 1740’s, Granville county, North Carolina.  Benjamin Beckham was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and afterwards moved to Chester county, South Carolina.  Later Beckhams were to be found in Florida.  Other Beckhams settled in Twiggs county, Georgia.

Beckhams at Bardstown, Kentucky began with William Beckham who arrived there sometime in the 1820’s.  His son William married into the influential Wickliffe family and their son J.C.W. Beckham rose to become Governor and then Senator for Kentucky in the early 1900’s.  Beckham county in Oklahoma was named after him.

Texas.  Texas has the most numbers of Beckhams today.  The first arrival was probably Lewis Beckham, a planter and slave-owner from Missouri, who came with his family in 1852 and made his home in Jackson county.

Beckham township near Sulphur Springs in Hopkins county was named after early settlers Riley and John Beckham who arrived in 1864.  Abner Camp Beckham died in Texas in 1883, a descendant of immigrant Abner Beckham of Culpeper county, Virginia.

Australia.  Two Beckham brothers from Norfolk, Francis and Henry, were transported to Australia on the Sir George Seymour in 1844 for stealing a sheep.  They were able to find work fairly quickly in Victoria because of the shortage of labor there.  Their wives and children followed them from England five years later.   And their younger brother Robert also came.

New Zealand.  Thomas Beckham, an officer with a Gloucestershire regiment, came to Auckland on the Diana in 1841.  He served as a magistrate there and a member of the House of Representatives in the 1850’s.

David Beckham’s Family Ancestry

David Beckham’s roots are in London from the 1860’s, first in south London – where his forebears were street cleaners, carmen, and seamen – and then in east London.

Just click below if you want to read more about this history:

Beckham Surname Miscellany

Early Beckhams in Norfolk.  In the 1569 Visitation of Norfolk the pedigree from John Beckham of Creake went as follows:

  • his eldest son had Walter of Narford who had three sons – Richard, Thomas and Henry.   The last Richard Beckham had an eldest son Walter who married Alice Gwynn.
  • his second son Richard of Westacre had sons Richard and John, both of Narford.    Richard had a son Richard and John had a daughter.
  • his third son Walter was a canon of Westacre Abbey.
  • while his fourth son John Beckham was of Narford.

In the subsequent 1613 Visitation, the line from Richard or Walter Beckham and his wife Alice Gwynn continued.  A Coat of Arms was allowed for this family, although their origin appears to have been lost in history.  The same Arms were said to have been in the church window at East Beckham, showing these people to have been of the same family as the de Beckhams there.

Beckhams in the 1891 UK Census

  • London, 105
  • Norfolk, 90
  • Suffolk, 18
  • Elsewhere, 127
  • Total, 340

Beckham Brothers from Norfolk Transported to AustraliaThe Norfolk Mercury of July 1, 1843 reported the following:

“Francis Beckham, aged 34, and Henry Beckham, aged 36, were charged with stealing one sheep, the property of James Mack, a farmer at North Tuddenham, on April 4.

His shepherd Benjamin Engledow deposed that he found the skin and entrails of the sheep in a field.  By the hurdles he observed footmarks that led to the prisoners’ house in the adjoining parish.  Police officers went to their cottages.  Mark Yorke deposed that he found a basket with two shoulders of mutton with Francis; while at Henry’s he found in a dung heap a sack in which was the whole carcass of the sheep except for the shoulders.

The verdict was guilty and ten years transportation.”

Francis and Henry were the sons of Daniel Beckham, a ratcatcher in Mattishall Burgh.  The real story appears to have been the following.  The Beckhams lived next to well-to-do farmers who ran pheasants and kept rabbits.  The Beckhams owned dogs who sometimes went for a run and occasionally went to the neighboring farm.  The owners did not like this.

So a plan was devised to put a dead sheep in Beckham’s barn.  Francis was tried and sentenced to ten years, served four years and was pardoned.  The only proviso was that he did not return to England within the ten years.

The Will of William Beckham.  William Beckham died at Fishing Creek in Granville county, North Carolina in 1776.  His will ran as follows:

“I William Beckham of the county of Granville and in the providence of North Carolina being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory do this fourth day of June 1776 make this my last Will and Testament in this form and manner.

I do lend unto my dearly beloved wife Phillis Beckham as long as she lives all my negroes, that is to say Peter and Lucy and her child to have, and to claim as her own property until death; also all my stock of cattle, hogs and horse-kind, with all my beds and furniture and every other kind of household goods, chattels, and belonging at present to me.

I do give and bequeath unto my son John Beckham after the death of my wife Phillis the above-mentioned negro Peter to have and to hold forever.  And it is also my will and desire for the love and respect I bear to my other children that my son John Beckham pay unto my other beloved children his brothers and sisters lawfully begotten of my body the sum of five pounds of product money of this province to each of them at or upon his receiving the said negro Peter or at the death of my beloved wife.

I do also desire that at the death of my wife Phillis all the remaining part of my estate to be sold and equally divided between the rest of my sons and daughters – that is to say Thomas Beckham, William Beckham, Simon Beckham, Phillis and Mary.  It is also my desire that my beloved wife be executrix for and unto this my last Will and Testament.”

John (Jack) Beckham from Granville County, North Carolina.  Born in 1741, Jack Beckham married Betty Henderson in Granville county in 1761.  He trained horses for a certain Wade Hampton.

Leaving North Carolina in 1774, he worked as a hunter and trapper.  When the Revolutionary War began, he served as a scout and spy for the Americans.  He suffered at the hands of the British and Tories who even stole the last quilt that he had.

After the war, this n’er-do-well trained horses again. He died in 1789 in Santuck, South Carolina before he could apply for a Revolutionary War pension.  He left a widow and several daughters.

Joseph J. Beckham in Florida.  One of the oldest passenger conductors in point of service in the South, Joseph J. Beckham was widely and favorably known among the traveling public.

For thirty-seven years he had traveled on various runs, first for the Seaboard Railway and from 1905 for the Southern Railway system.  During that time he won the friendship and esteem of men in all stations of life.  In a leave of absence in 1921 he was elected municipal judge of Jacksonville, a position to which he was then re-elected.

Beckham Names

  • Roger de Beckham held the Beckham lands in Norfolk in the 1350’s.
  • J.C.W. Beckham served as Governor and then Senator of Kentucky in the early 1900’s.
  • Bob Beckham was a Nashville publisher who mentored generations of country music songwriters as head of Combine Music Publishing from 1964 to 1989.
  • David Beckham was a football star for Manchester United and England in the 1990’s and 2000’s and has become a global media star.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. has been a star wide receiver for a number of NFL teams.

Beckham Numbers Today

  • 800 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 800 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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Written by Colin Shelley

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