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Our 2,745 members have registered
2,397 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The name was registered with the Guild in 1994. I had been researching my maiden name of Medlam since 1965 and was unable to find the baptism or birthplace of my 5 x greatgrandfather, Thomas Medlam, who lived for much of his life at Weare in Somerset dying there in 1800 at the age of 93. I had collected all references to the name, initially with the hope of tracing Thomas, but I still have not found his baptism.

Variant names

The registered variants are Midlam and Middleham. Many variant spellings have been found over the years and I now have a list of over 100 other spellings. One branch of the family in the West Midlands changed their name to Middleman and I have collected entries relating to this particular branch but Middleman is not considered a variant as most of the occurrences in the UK appear to be anglicizations of Eastern European names such as Mittelman.

Name origin

The Medlam surname is a locative one, being derived from one or more place names. The most likely sources are Middleham in Yorkshire and Bishop Middleham in County Durham. There is a hamlet called Medlam in Lincolnshire but no evidence has yet been found to suggest this as a source. The earliest occurrences of the surname are in Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland.

Historical occurrences of the name

Rev. Thomas Myddleham was secretary to the Bishop of Bath and Wells by 1588 and in 1595, after the Bishop's death, he became Rector of Wookey in Somerset where he remained until his death in 1637. His son, Purefey, became Vicar of the neighbouring parish of Westbury-sub-Mendip in 1612 and father and son were the incumbents of adjacent parishes for 35 years.

Name frequency

At the date of the 1881 census there were 139 Medlam, 19 Midlam and 46 Middleham entries. According to an Office of National Statistics database (2002) there were 281 Medlam, 11 Midlam and 87 Middleham spellings.

Distribution of the name

In the 1881 census the most populous counties for the combined spelling variants were Warwickshire (45 entries), Yorkshire (33 entries) and Staffordshire (23 entries). In the UK, Medlam is the most numerous spelling followed by Middleham with a very small number of the Midlam spelling. In the USA Midlam is the most numerous followed by Medlam with a very small number of the Middleham spelling.


All the Medlam,Midlam/Middleham birth, marriage and death entries from the General Register Office for England and Wales (since 1837) and Scotland (since 1855) have been recorded (c 3500 entries).

All references from the 1841 to 1911 censuses have been recorded.

All grants of probate from 1858 to 1999 in England and Wales have been recorded.

The one-name study also includes many entries from parish registers, military records, and records from overseas (especially the USA, but also Australia, New Zealand and Canada).

A number of pedigrees which have been built up over the years or submitted by other researchers, including some which trace family in the USA back to the UK.