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2,405 study surnames with us
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About the study

The Mewburns are a family from north-east England.
The study contains a database with life-cycle details for most of the 1,400 or so Mewburns born in England before 1940. To that has been added most of the Mewburns from records in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and most of the Meaburns, giving some 1,700 in total.
Family trees have been developed for most identifiable lines and family histories have been written for the majority of those. There is a website for the family histories and another for the consolidated family tree of all Mewburns and Meaburns.

Variant names

There are many odd spellings but the only important variant is Meaburn. The study includes Meaburn. Similar names beginning with 'Ma' and 'Mo' are strongly southern in origin - such as Maybourne from Kent - and are not considered to be the same name.

Name origin

The name is locative with the -burn ending being clearly topographical. The point of origin is possibly the village of Maulds Meaburn in Westmorland. See the 2013 JOONS article 'Seeking Mewburn':

Historical occurrences of the name

The Mewburns are what historians might call a 'middling sort'. Some things stand out though:
* A family of Meaburns owned Pontop Hall near, Dipton, County Durham between 1603 and 1723. They were noted Catholic recusants and the Hall once had a chapel hidden in its attic.

* James Mewburn (c1680-1731) was Steward at Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland (today a National Trust property) and was in charge there at the time the present Hall was built for Admiral Delaval to the designs of Vanbrugh.

* James's grandson Simon (1748-1834) inherited Acomb House near Hexham, Northumberland via his mother. The house remained with that line of the family for 280 years.

* Tulip Mewburn (1755-c1845) boasts the most distinctive name (in fact his mother's family name) and a colourful life. A member of the Acomb line, he was apprenticed as a draper, married his master's daughter and ran his drapery business in Newcastle from about 1788. A little later he was listed in the medical Directory as a surgeon practicing at Newcastle hospital (with luck that was an error and it was a cousin, Henry) and by 1795 had become a brandy merchant. By 1797 he was declared bankrupt. In 1813, two years after his first wife died and by now a labourer, he married 22-year old Elizabeth Armstrong at Gretna Green and had some 9 children by her (the first marriage had been childless).

* Francis Mewburn (1748-1833) became a successful apothecary/surgeon in County Durham and later inherited a small estate at Danby, North Yorkshire from a distant cousin.

* Francis Mewburn's eldest son, Francis (1785-1867), became a solicitor in Darlington and built up one of the most successful practices in the north-east. He has gained fame as the 'first railway solicitor'. Francis wrote the parliamentary bill, and steered its passage through Parliament, to allow the building of the Stockton and Darlington railway. Without him the development of rail transport might not have succeeded as it did and the transformation of Victorian society and the British and world economies might have followed some different course. Francis was also Chief Bailiff (effectively the mayor) of Darlington for many years.

* Francis Mewburn's second son, Dr John Mewburn (1788-1864), was part of a dynasty of six generations of medical practitioners. He emigrated with his family to Canada in 1832. Most of today's Canadian Mewburns are descended from him. They include: Frank Hamilton Mewburn (1858-1929), Canada's first Professor of orthopaedic surgery; General Sydney Chilton Mewburn (1863-1956) a barrister, Privy Councillor and Canadian Cabinet Minister in charge of WW1 wartime defence resourcing.

* A few Mewburns have lived in London since the 16th century. The most distinguished has been John Mewburn (1762-1830) a notable, and still collectable, silversmith and Liveryman of the Goldsmiths' Company and his son Barak another fine maker. Their histories have been published in The Journal of Genealogy and Family History, see DoI

* Joshua Mewburn, of the silversmith line,lived as a Maori for over twenty years from 1833 - a very early New Zealand settler. His history has been published in The Journal of Genealogy and Family History, see DoI

* William Mewburn (1817-1900), the grandson of a shoemaker in Stokesley, North Yorkshire and a staunch Methodist, became a stockbroker in Halifax and established a firm that was one of the founder members of the Manchester Stock Exchange. He amassed a considerable fortune - particularly by trading in railway shares - and moved to Wykham Hall near Banbury. He became a Justice of the Peace for Oxfordshire, High Sheriff in 1889, and Deputy Lieutenant for the county.

* John Clayton Mewburn (1840-1901), of the Acomb line was a patent lawyer in London and established the firm that is now Mewburn Ellis LLP, a leader in the fields of patent and trade mark law and intellectual property law.

* Two Mewburns were transported to Australia - John Mewburn (1810-1891) in 1830 and Robert Wilkinson Mewburn (1827-1891) in 1853.

* Remarkably, all the Meaburns in England today have their origin in Bishopton, County Durham. Even more remarkably they all descend from John Meaburn (1734-1817) the parish clerk of Bishopton.

* Another line of Meaburns originated with shipowner John Meaburn and his wife Amy Ambler at Boston, Lincolnshire in the 1770s (with a possible earlier origin in Sunderland). That line has died out in England but survives in the Meaburns of Tasmania.

* George Richmond Mewburn (1865-1941), of the Acomb line, played several times at Wimbledon and was Hon. Sec. of the Lawn Tennis Association.

* Alfred 'Alf' Adolphus Mewburn (1851-1901) captained the Durham county cricket team. His brothers John and Fred also played, as did his son Bowyer Bell.

Name frequency

There are around 1400 births known from England.
Today there are probably no more than 40 or so name-holders in England (more Meaburns than Mewburns).
Most of today's Mewburns live in Australia.
It is worth noting that census records give a deceptive view of Mewburn numbers. Generally a good 30% are mis-transcribed or wrongly recorded as Newburn.

Distribution of the name

The majority were born within a 25-mile radius of the City of Durham. Those from County Durham typically carry the Meaburn spelling while North Yorkshire, specifically Cleveland (and most particularly Ormesby) is the source for Mewburn.  A few lines turned up in Northumberland. There has, though, been a southward drift since late Victorian times.
Canada was populated from 1832 by descendants of Dr John Mewburn, and his nephew Francis.
New Zealand was populated initially by descendants of the Sunderland boat-builder Armstrong Mewburn (1835-1898) who took his family there in 1858.  They, however, were supplanted by a branch of the Australian Mewburns.
Australia has seen multiple immigrations (on about 15 occasions by the end of the 19th century). Three of these were by children of Thomas Mewburn, a weaver of Hurworth, County Durham and his wife Mary Ann Buck. They were the convict John Mewburn (1810-1891) and his brothers, Thomas (1816-1902) and William (1824-1900) - (as well as a sister, Mary Ann (1818-1896), wife of George Aldred). Today some 60% of Australian Mewburns are descended from these three brothers. 
Mewburns have not settled successfully in the USA. There is, however, a family of the name Mewborn with their origin, in North Carolina. Their line is traced to a Thomas Mewboorn who died in 1749 at Bertie County, NC. Some accounts say Thomas was born around 1695 in Northumberland to a Moses Mewburn. However there is no record of a Thomas being born in Northumberland around that time and there is no record of any English Mewburn (prior to 1895) ever having been called Moses. Earliest records in the USA use the name Mewboorn and it is likely that they came from around north Holland or Schleswig Holstein possibly having joined in the Palatines migration.


There are databases covering vital events and census appearances for most of the Mewburns born in England and good coverage for Canada (including censuses), Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, the USA.
The vast majority, from 1700 onwards, have been assigned to one of 24 family lines, and trees exist for them, captured in Family Tree Maker. However, a moderate amount of source recording still needs to be added.
The study does not deal with living Mewburns.