Mead Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Mead Meaning
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

Mead, Meade and Meads Today

Numbers (000’s) Mead Meade Meads
UK    12     3     2
Ireland     2
America    10     8     1
Elsewhere     6     5     1
Total    28    18     4

From de Prato to Mead.  Spencer P. Mead’s 1901 History and Genealogy of the Mead Family started with the Norman name de Prato, meaning “of the meadow,”
from whence came the English surname Mead.

“In 1180 to 1195 there was to be
found in the ancient Norman records the names of William, Robert,
Matilda, and
Reginald de Prato, and in 1198 the names of Richard, and Robert de
Prato.  In 1199 in Essex occurred the name
of Roger
de Prato and the same year also that of Walter de Prato in
Hertfordshire; and
in 1272 there were recorded Stephen and Peter de Prato. Hervey de Prato in 1200
in Normandy was King John’s ‘Faithful Knight’ and the custody of Rouen
was given to his brother.” 

The Meagh Family in Ireland.  Where did the Meagh name come from?  One Irish source has its origin in
the Gaelic word midheac (pronounced
mee-ach), which in the mutations of time became Miache, Miagh, Meagh,
finally Meade.

According to the Irish surname historian Edward
MacLysaght, the
Meagh family was among the leading families of county Cork from the
of the 14th century.  The earliest
recorded was Philip Meagh of Buttevant who lived   from 1315
to 1361.  MacLysaght thought that this
family may have
originated in county Meath after the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170 and
settled in Cork and Limerick.

It was unlikely that they had come from Bristol to
Cork.  Rather, it may have been the other
way round.  Being rich landowners,
merchants and ship-owners the Irish Meaghs set up a branch office in
Bristol to
run their affairs.  It was the Bristol
Meades who would then have anglicized their name.

Their ancestral seat was Meaghstown
castle in Cork where they had been settled for centuries.
The records show that between 1379 and 1637
twelve of the mayors of the city of Cork were from this family.

Family fortunes
suffered during the tumultuous 17th century.
Their estates were forfeit in 1645 with Cromwell, regained in
1661 with
the Restoration, and then lost again in 1691.
J.E. Meade’s 1953 book The Meades of Meaghstown Castle and Tissaxon covered the family history until 1766.

John Mead, the Last of the Wendon Lofts Line.  Little did John Mead know when he married Jane, the
daughter of William Wardour of Westminster, that he would be the last
of the
Mead family to live in Lofts Hall.

When his son Thomas was born on 6 July 1674,
“between one and two a clock in the morning” he must have felt
pleased to have secured an heir. But, though he was baptised on 12
July, hopes
were dashed when he died in August of the following year.

Jane was again
pregnant and must have wished for a boy as she stood in the church at
firstborn’s funeral.  But a little more
than two weeks later she gave birth to a girl, Jane.  The parson
records that
she was born “on Thursday August 26th 1675 within a quarter of an hour
twelve a clock at noon.”  She lived
and was followed by the birth of her sister Margaret, but there was no
son and

When John died in 1715 at the age of 63, his Essex
property passed to Jane
and Margaret, to be equally divided.
Jane had married a London merchant, John Whaley.
But Margaret had reversed the position of her
ancient Somerset kinswoman, Isabel Mede, by marrying a man of lower
rank –
William Pytches, a joiner from nearby Chrishall.

Benjamin, Ralph and Staats Mead in New York.  Edmund Mead, the forebear of the Mead family of New
York merchants, lived in Greenwich (once called Horse Neck) and had
come from
an old Connecticut Mead family.  He was a
wealthy farmer there.

However, by his extravagant tastes and habits, he had
a shipwreck of himself and his property.
His wife and family returned to her father’s house where they
cared for until the sons were old enough to look after themselves.  These sons then came to New York, with the
exception of one who was left at the Connecticut farm and homestead on
death of their father.

The eldest son Solomon died in New York of yellow fever
in 1798.  But the next three sons –
Ralph and Staats- all prospered there as merchants.
Curiously their wives Eliza, Sarah and Lydia
were all Holmes, sisters in the same family.
Initially all three families lived close to each other near the
business premises at Coenties Slip.

In time the Meads moved uptown.  When
the four elegant brick row houses were
constructed on Second Avenue in 1838 for the three brothers, that area
become one of the most prestigious residential neighborhoods in the
city.  Nearby were the homes of the
Hamiltons, and other prominent families.
The four matching homes in the new Greek Revival style featured
brownstone porticos supported by fluted Ionic columns and sheltering
double-entrance doors.  Long parlor
windows opened onto cast iron balconies.

Ralph Mead, a well-known wholesale grocer
in New York, stayed on at Second Avenue until his wife died and he
decided to
retire.  In 1859 he moved uptown again to
West 34th Street.  His brother
Brockholst, once was a clerk in the City Bank, was an aged bachelor who

Mead’s Mountain House in the Catskills.  George Mead was the original owner and builder of the Mountain House, whose family name is memorialized in the legacy of the gracious
Catskill guesthouse and the winding mountain road which leads to the scenic destination.

A native of Ridgefield,
Connecticut, Mead ran a successful silversmith business in Kingston,
New York
until failing health forced him to turn his talents to farming.  He built the original front section of the
house in 1865 and subsequently moved his family to the mountain-top

Mead later opened his home to summer
guests.  As they became more numerous and
frequent he began adding rooms.  He
gradually transformed the small farmhouse into the spacious, rambling
hotel known as Mead’s Mountain House.
A broad porch wrapped around the front and
one side of the hotel, overlooking a croquet lawn and tennis courts.

Three generations of Meads were hosts to
summer guests for over one hundred years. In George’s day, it took a
team of
four horses to pull the guest carriage up the road. Most of the guests
came via
the Hudson river by ferry from New York City.
Many famous and distinguished people spent their vacations at
the Mead’s
Mountain House. According to records, there were as many as 65 guests
at one

In 1948 the Mead family sold the
property to Captain Salva Milo, a Yugoslavian pilot who had served in
United States Air Force.  Milo and his
wife maintained the hotel until she died, whereupon Milo put the
property up
for sale.  A great deal of time would
pass before the old hotel would take on a new role which could never
have been
envisioned by the previous owners.  The
Meads Mountain House was to become a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and

Cowles Mead in Clinton, Mississippi.  Cowles Mead, born in 1776, was said to have moved from Virginia to Mississippi
to marry his first love.  When he got to Clinton she changed her mind and
married another man.  However, she did name
her first child after Mead.  This son,
Cowles Mead Vaiden, was the man after whom Vaiden township in Mississippi was named.

Mead himself left and moved to Georgia where he got involved in
politics. After losing a congressional seat in Georgia, the President
him the Territorial Secretary of the Mississippi Territory, as well as
the acting
Territorial Governor during the absences of the elected Governor.  At this time Mead’s greatest fame came from
his determination to arrest Aaron Burr after he had shot Alexander
Hamilton and
fled to Mississippi.

Later in his career he lost several elections for various
posts, but built his home, Meadvilla,
in the state’s first capitol.  He subsequently moved back to
Clinton and
the Greenwood plantation where he
died in 1844.

Roland Meade’s Death in Canada in 1879.  The following appeared in the Daily Free Press of Winnipeg on May 5, 1879:

“R.P. Meade, a
well-known Winnipeger, died at noon today in the hospital to which
place he
went last Friday.  Mr. Meade was
possessed of considerable literary abilities and as an artist he was
clever.  Like many other men of generous
disposition, he was his own worst enemy.”

Roland Meade in fact died of lead
poisoning at the young age of 42.  His
wife Mary, a Metis woman, remarried and moved away after his death.  Meade Street in the North End of Winnipeg was
named after him.



Select Mead Names

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


Select Mead and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.




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