History of the Mee Surname

The following information was taken from a Book called "Genealogy of the Mee Family" which was written by Charles Cowper Mee, dated 1913. A copy of this book is in the Museum of Leister, England. A microfilmed version of this book can be seen at a Latter-day Saint's Family History Center, Film #0944099 #ID# M/F 46

        This name frequently occurs in the Parish Registers of Leicestershire,
 instituted by Royal Injunction in 1538, and at a later date the name appears
 in the Parish Registers of the adjoining county of Derbyshire.  It occurs more
 especially in the district, included within the boundaries of the river Trent,
 and its tributaries the Soar and the Mease.

	The whole of this district formerly formed part of the Saxon Kingdom of
 Mercia, the ancient town of Repton being at one time the residence and burial
 place of the Mercian Princes.  At a subsequent date this district was, from
 878 to 901, by the treaty of Wedmore, included in the Danelagh.

	The Rev. Dom Antonio Staerk, O.S.B., rejects the theory that this name
 is in any way akin to the Saxon name Mede or Meade, signifying a meadow, on
 the ground that the French prefix “Le” in the earlier documents points to
 either a Norman or possibly a Breton origin.

	This celebrated antiquary was born in Germany in the year AD 1871.
  Receiving his earliest education in a Benedictine monastery of his native
 country, he subsequently removed, with other members of the confraternity,
 about the year AD 1883, to the then newly re-established Benedictine abbey of
 Buckfast, South Devon.  At a very early age, evincing an extraordinary
 aptitude for acquiring languages, twenty-five of which he learnt to converse
 in and fifteen of which he could read and write, he specialized in Hebrew and
 Sanskrit, and more especially in the ancient Celtic and Saxon languages.

	His extraordinary abilities attracting the attention of the Holy See,
 he received a commission with plenary powers to search and examine all the
 most ancient records, some of them dating from the fourth and even the third
 century.  These priceless documents relating to the Early History of  the
 Catholic Church, and recording evidences of the most ancient families of
 Europe, their tenures of lands, endowments of abbeys and religious houses, and
 other historical matters, were in  many instances, during the disturbed
 period of the French Revolution and subsequently, removed from their original
 depositories in various countries t Petersburg, and have since been preserved
 among the Imperial Archives of the Russian Empire.  During a residence of
 eight years in that city the Reverend Father minutely examined all these
 documents, copied and photographed them.  His researches have been further
 extended to other historic libraries and muniment buildings in Europe, in
 which valuable ancient documents were known, or suspected, to be conserved.

	Known by repute, and in the majority of instances personally know, to
 every crowned head, ruling prince and diplomat, free access has been readily
 accorded to him in his researches, and his advise eagerly sought after, and
 his decision with regard to any matters dealing with those subjects in which
 he has so brilliantly specialized may safely be regarded as final.

	When revisiting Buckfast Abbey for further local researches there, and
 in the Domesday Book of the Library of Exeter Cathedral, he evinced a personal
 and friendly interest in the researches which have been made concerning the
 early history of the Mee family, and other families subsequently to be dealt
 with , with regard to which he generously offered to gratuitously supply
 further information as the opportunity occurred, and which it would otherwise
 be impossible to obtain.

	Spelt in various forms, it is occasionally met with as ME, MEY, MEA,
 MIE, in the Parish Registers which directly refer to this family.

	The Parish Register of Castle Donnington, co. Leicester, dating from
 1539, is one of the earliest authentic records, and proves that several
 members of the Mee family were living there, some of whom are mentioned as
 children in the will of John Mee, 1552, and others whose exact degree of
 relationship it is impossible to ascertain.  It is probable that they were
 established there, or in the vicinity, at a very early period.

	Nichols, the greatest historian of modern times concerning the county
 of Leicester, makes several allusions to individuals of the names of Mey,
 Meye, otherwise Mecum or Meysham, which appear to have been the more ancient
 forms of this name.  Maye apparently is also another form of the names Mey,
 Meye and Mee.

	The earliest information afforded by Nichols appears under the heading
 “Over Seale or Upper Seale,”* Vol. III, part II, page 989, and is as follows--

	“Over Seale or Upper Seale, called also Little Seile and Spital Seile,
 was one of the Lordships given to Nigel de Albani, who was ‘seized; of it at
 the time of the general survey completed  AD 1086/7.  It consisted of two or
 three Manors or small Seignories, all of which we soon find of the Fee of
 Ferrers; one of them sometime the inheritance of William the son of Ralph of
 Meisham, who in the time of Henry III, AD 1216-1272, gave part of it, probably
 the best, in frank marriage with Godehouda,his eldest daughter, unto William
 the son of Robert de Appleby (living in AD 1205; see Vol. IV, part II, page
 442), together with a park, a mill, and a wood, called Woodlondes (the Manor
 of Appleby is about two miles south of Measham.)“To the Abbot of Merivale (co.
 Warwick) the same William de Meisham afterwards gave the service and homage of
 William heir of William de Appleby, and of the heirs of Osbert the son of
 Lucian Disert of Little Seyle.  The witnesses named are--Lord Hugh de Mesnill,
 at that time seneschal to William Earl of Ferrers and Earl of Derby; Lord
 William de Gresell; Thomas de Ednesorre; Serlone de Munsay; Henry de Mavasyne;
 soldiers of the same Earl.  This was about AD 1250  or nearly, for Mesnil,
 first witness here, witnesses also, by the same style of seneschal, two deeds
 in the Rydeware Chartulary Nos. 56,119; one expressly dated AD 1253, and the
 other manifestly executed at the same time.  We see that Meisham, besides the
 services of what he had bestowed on Appleby, gives the abbot, moreover, those
 of the heirs of Osbert Disert of Little Seyle, which shows that he had not so
 bestowed his whole manor. Osbert Disert, or his father Lucian, was not merely
 a subordinate vassal of Meisham, he held other Over Seile lands immediately
 from the Earl, as is shown in an agreement with William the Parson of Seile
 before AD 1205 (Rydeware Chartulary No. 43; and original, at Seile).  He
 appears throughout co-ordinate with Meisham, the latter has merely precedence
 in the naming; they grant each other two quadrigates out of their wood of Uver
 Scheyl, and the Parson releases to them and their heirs.  This Parson,
 William, was Rector there perhaps fifty years, for he had been so some time
 when the Papal Delegates made their award before AD 1179, and he was still
 there as Rector in the Matriculus of AD 1220.  When in AD 1346, 20 Edward III,
 the Abbot of Merevall was assessed 20/- for half a knight’s fee in Spital
 Sheile, on the aid then granted for knighting Edward of Woodstock, the King’s
 eldest son, Richard Earl of Warwick and Salesbury, Grett Chamberlayne of
 England, Captain of Calleys and Cheff Stuerd of the Duchie of Lancaster,
 stated that,-- ‘We have seen the evidence of our welbeloved the abbot of
 Mirevalle, wher it appeareth that one William of Meysham gave to their
 predecessors, lands and rents in Seyle, which lands the sayd William held of
 William Ferrers Earle of Derbie by Knights Service with sute at his Court of
 Tuttebury (co. Stafford).’”Under the heading “Willesley” it is stated by
 Nichols that this manor was the Lordship of the family of Ingwardby.  The
 earliest member of this family of record was Michael of Wivelesley (Willesley)
 living in the reign of Henry I (AD 1100-54).  He appears to have been the
 father of another Michael, to whom succeeded John, whose son Nicholas married
 Cecilia, widow of Nicholas, the son of Henry Wychard.  Cecilia appears to have
 been, if not the daughter, at any rate a close relative of Sir William of
 Meysham, Kt., who was living in 46 Henry III, AD 1261-2.

	Nichols reproduces extracts numbered 1 - 33 from Willesley deeds,
 mostly relative to the family of Ingwardby, and he draws attention to the fact
 that in the twenty-one instances in which this name occurs, it is spelt in
 nineteen different ways.  In extracts 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,17,19,23
 the name of William of Meysham occurs with others, as a witness or testator to
 these deeds.  Male heirs of this family failing at the beginning of the 15th
 century, the Manor was conveyed by one of the two heiresses of Ingwardby to
 John Abney.

	This Manor is situated two miles north-west of Ashby-de-la-Zouche; and
 Measham is a little more than a mile west of Willesley; all within the Hundred
 of West Goscote.

	Measham or Meyham is situated about one mile from the River Mease,
 anciently spelt Meesse, a tributary of the Trent.  Ham, the second syllable of
 the name, signifies in the Saxon language place or home.  The name probably
 signifies the place on the river Mease, and the surname Measham, which
 frequently occurs in the Registers of Repton and other parishes in the
 vicinity, is probably borne by families originally settled in that Saxon
 hamlet and subsequent Norman manor.  In Domesday Book it is registered as a
 Hamlet or “Berwite” of the Priory of Repton, and is said to have at one time
 belonged to the Bishops of Lichfield.

	By the return to Parliament in 1801, it contained 215 houses, 5
 uninhabited.  A population of 1,136 inhabitants, of which 540 were males.

	Nichols further states that in an Inquisition of 7 Edward I (AD 1279),
 Willielmus le Mey, or William the Mey of Donington of the Heath, in the parish
 of Ibstock--presumably the Sir William of Meysham previously referred to--is
 registered as holding three virgates (90 Acres) of the Prior of Cherley.  The
 Prior held of the Honour of the Earldom of Chester, and the Honour of Chester
 held of the King.  Donginton-on-the-Heath is five miles south-east of
 Ashby-de-la-Zouche, the same distance from Measham, and ten miles south of
 Castle Donington.

	In 1 Edward III, AD 1327-8 a subsidy was granted by Parliament to the
 King for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the Wars  with Scotland.

	This document, preserved in the Public Record Office, is called--The
 Lay Subsidy Roll of 1 Edward III, and in that portion of it called The
 Leicestershire Exchequer Lay Subsidy Roll occur these entries--

	Joh’ne le Mey of Newton Burgoland    ...   ...   ...   ij s

        Henricus le Mey of Normanton on the Heath   ...   xviij s

        Joh’ne Hacluth of Alexton   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   iiij s

        Joh’ne Bakeputz of Alexton  ..   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   iij s

	This subsidy was levied at the rate of 10 per cent on the moveable
 goods of all the King’s subjects, and is said to be the earliest Subsidy Roll
 now known to be in existence at the Public Record Office.

	Newton Burgoland is two and a half miles south-east of Measham, and
 four and three-quarter miles south of Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

	Normanton on the Heath, formerly a Chapelry of Nailstone, is two and a
 quarter miles east of Measham and three miles south of Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

	Preserved in the Public Record Office are many hundreds of Rolls of a
 similar description.  The valuable information contained in them is at present
 unknown, and a search would be a costly and very long  and tedious affair.
 When, however, the Custodians of the Public Records, at some future date, have
 completed the search and indexed the contents, they will no doubt furnish
 further information concerning members of this family.  The only subsequent
 Roll which at present affords any further information is The Benevolence or
 Subsidy Roll of County Leicester--reference number 133/147 of 36 Henry VIII,
 AD 1544-5.  The rate of the assessment is not recorded.  The following is the
 complete list of the names of those assessed in the Town of Castell Donyngton,
 co. Leicester.

                           CASTELL DONYNGTON

 * William Bower (presently referred to as “Vicar and Curate” in the Will of
 Jhon Mee of Castel Donyngton)      ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...  x s

 Hugh Hasilrigg   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   xx s

 Robert Osborne  ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   vj s    viii d

 Thomas Robie    ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   viij s

 Thomas Parsons ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   xvj s

 William Newberye   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   xij s

 Jhon Nychollson ...  ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   xvj s

 Jhon Shere     ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   vj s    viii d

 Jhon Maye (presently referred to as Jhon Mee of

 Castell Donyngton) ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   x s

 In another part of the same Roll--


 Allen Clerke ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   vj s     viii d

 Rauf Bentley      ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   x s

	Under the heading “Allexton” Nichols further states that in an
 Inquisition 48 Edward III, AD 1374-5, it was found that William Hackluit died
 45 Edward III, AD 1371-2, and that Sir John Mecum, Kt. (Meysham), aged 24, and
 John Trusell, aged 24, were his heirs to the Manor of Hackluit--escheat 47
 Edward III, Memb. 38.

	By another Inquisition of 50 Edward III, (AD 1376-7), it was found that
 William Hakeluit died, “seized” of a certain Manor, with its appurtenances in
 Allexton, which he held of Sir William Bakepuiz, Kt., in capite, by the
 service of 6d. or one pair of gilt spurs a year; and that John Meye of
 Lodington--presumably the Sir John Mecum, Kt., before mentioned--was the next
 heir in blood of the said William de Hakeluit, escheat 49 Edward III, Pars. 1,
 No. 66 Leicester.  Lodington is about twenty-eight miles south-east of
 Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Measham, and Castle Donington, and near to the border of
 the adjacent county of Rutland.  Nichols quotes the statement of the historian
 Burton, to the effect that at Hallaton there existed in the chancel-window,
 the arms; Argent, on a bend cottized gules, three mullets, for Hakluit; and
 that the same arms were displayed at Medbourne.  At Allexton, in AD 1592, Mr.
 Wyrley the antiquary found in the lowest north window, the arms; Gules two
 bars argent, in chief three horseshoes or; for John Bakepuiz, living in the
 time of Edward II,; and Gules, three pole axes or, for Hakeluit.  The family
 of Bakepuiz were patrons of Allexton from AD 1220 to AD 1385.  Henry Bakepuiz
 was Rector AD 1225-1274. previous to which it appears that Peter Bakepuiz was
 Rector , instituted by Hugh Wallys, who was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln 12th
 AD 1209, and died 8th February, AD 1234.  It should be borne in mind that
 Knight service, otherwise the obligation to assume Knighthood, and to serve
 the Sovereign in the field for a certain period when necessary, at the
 Knight’s personal expense, was compulsory with all those who held lands to the
 extent of a knight’s fee or fief.

	A knight’s fee consisted of four hides--a hide was equivalent to about
 120 acres.  Sir William of Measham and Sir John Mecum, otherwise William Mey
 and Jhon Meye, must have held severally not less than 480 acres.  They may of
 course have held other fees or portions of fees in addition, all part of the
 same manor or elsewhere, in which case they would be obliged to render further
 military services in proportion to the lands that they held.

	The Episcopal Records of Lichfield mention a John Me, who was
 instituted, with Ralph Aleyn, a First Priest of Chaddesden, county Derby--a
 village distant eight miles from Castle Donington--in 1404, the fifth
 year of the reign of Henry IV.

	Whatever ecclesiastical records there may have been prior to 1538
 referring to the inhabitants of Castle Donington and the vicinity, disappeared
 at the suppression of the Religious Houses, and the consequent destruction and
 spoliation of all their property; previous to which period the monks and
 clergy entered marriages and burials in the missals and psalters in use in the
 churches, priories and monasteries, and kept registers of public and private
 transactions in books called “Chartularies,” “Leiger Books,” “Obituary
 Chronicles,” &c.

	The Church held nearly one-third of all the land in the country.  It
 was the chief and almost the only repository of learning.  Its revenues could
 be counted by millions.  It controlled the settlement and the full
 transmission of the land of the laymen, for in its hands rested the drawing up
 and carrying out of wills and other social arrangements.

	The first Royal injunction for keeping Parish Registers of baptisms,
 marriages and burials in England was issued to the Clergy by Thomas Cromwell,
 Vicar-General to Henry VIII, and bears the date 29th September, 1538.  It is
 quite the exception to find registers of this earl date extant, many parishes
 have lost their earlier records , and some, it appears, did not observe the
 original command.  The injunction was confirmed in 1547, and in 1558 Queen
 Elizabeth vigorously renewed it.  During the Civil Wars of Charles I and the
 Commonwealth, 1640-60, the system of registration almost entirely failed.
  Most Parish Registers are found imperfect, many are altogether deficient, and
 the registration was given over to the laymen, often a village tradesman.

	In 1653 another ordnance respecting Parish Registers was passed.  As  a
 rule baptisms were ignored, and only births recorded; banns were either
 published on three successive Sundays in parish churches, or, more often, in
 the nearest market place, on three successive market days between eleven and
 two o’clock.  Marriages were prohibited without the certificate of the
 Registrar, and the parties vested with the certificate presented themselves
 before a Justice of the Peace, who had power to marry them.

	In 1660, the accession of Charles II, this system ceased, and
 registration by the clergy was again resumed; but at the same time, civil
 marriages by justices were legalized.  It should be noted that in 1752 the
 new style was introduced, previous to which New Year’s Day was march 25th.
  Various other Acts relating to registers were passed in 1666, 1678, 1694,
 1695, 1754, 1812 and 1836.

	Bishop’s transcripts (or copies of the Parish Registers) were
 instituted in 1597.  An injunction directed the parish clergy, yearly, within
 one month of March 25th, to transmit a copy of the past entries in the
 register, to the Bishop’s Registry.  This not being regularly done, a similar
 mandate was issued in 1603.

	There are, however, some of an earlier date at Leicester, the earliest
 dated 1561, the reason for which cannot be clearly explained.  During the
 contest between Charles I and the Parliamentary forces, registration was
 greatly neglected, no transcripts were sent to the Bishop’s Registry during
 the period of the Civil Wars, or the Interregnum which followed, and the Act
 of Parliament passed during the Commonwealth regarding Parish Registers made
 no provision for the transmission of transcripts by the lay Registrars, and it
 was not until the Restoration in 1660 that the practice of sending in yearly
 transcripts was again resumed.

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