Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,765 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

2,043 total views, 1 views today




About the study

I started my journey into Family History as a result of my younger daughter asking her maternal grandmother about her family. I had earlier explained the relationship, or lack of it, between her and her siblings and the various adults they called Aunts and Uncles, As a result of that conversation one of her siblings bought for me a rudimentary Family History Computer Program. I worked my way through several programs before settling for the last few years on Roots Magic, now in its 7th edition

I was able to get a good start as my father in law's cousin had already started a Lynas study and the youngest of my 5 cousins turned out to have started a Wem study. I had recently acquired my own PC as I had started a consultancy company on retiring from  employment and one of my purchases was a CD set with UK names phone numbers and addresses. That enabled me to find the 40 of so addresses at which all of the 'Wems' on England and Wales electoral rolls could be found. Until then I knew of only two other families with our surname, one called WEM and the other WHEM. After writing to each of the 40 addresses I found that there were then no more than 5 family groups ie descended from one known ancestor and had found some called WEMM also, who seem to comprise one group

Variant names

Wemm, Wemme, Whem, Whemm,Whemme

However I have also received mail or found data on line where the name was written or transcribed as
Wern, Webb, Wein, Wems, Mew and Hew to name just those of the 30 or more  which occurred most frequently

I have ignored the names Wenn and Weymss all of which are likely to be shown when using a Soundex search. Wenn in particular appears to be an East Anglian name and the one WEM I found there is probably a mistranscription, he having been transported to Australia after being convicted in Norfolk and is probably a WENN.   There are no more than 3 Wem family Groups in Australia.   The descendants of my brother are the only WEM family in NSW.  Another group in West Australia is descended from  the same ancestors as my brother and I.  They have no male descendants now living in Australia, their one male descendant family now live in California.  The third Australian group appear to be descended from Marine Wem a 20 year veteran who enlisted near Shrewsbury in 1812 and later settled in the West Midlands.  He has an extended family there still

The WEMS in Manchester however can be shown to have originated in Shropshire

The earliest reference I have is of someone called  Thomas Wemme, alias Wykynsley, being sent down on 5 July 1520 from Oxford University, before being readmitted 17 Jan 1521.  He supplicated for BCL or Bachelor in Canon Law 28 May 1528 and became a Vicar or Rector  in a number of Parishes 'until death'.  Died by 1550, will dated 10 Aug 1550  

    Ref Biographical Register of  University of Oxford AD 1500-1540

I have not identified any descendants of Thomas.  There is no mention of a marriage

The most complicated family group I have come across so far is one where a the father of the groom in a wedding later married the mother of the bride.    I have also found what I and other relatives believe to be  uncle/niece wedding

Name origin

One website asserted that Wem or Whem was a derivation of Weymss, a place name from the Firth of Forth -  East Weymss, or West Weymss on the Firth of Clyde.  I have found no evidence to support that assertion. The one Wem family I found in Scotland are descendants of a West Midlands family

My own group has used Wem Wemm and Whem. The 15 Whem's in the 2001 Census are part of the group to which I belong, with proven descent from about 1729 in or near Atcham and probably from Richard Wem of Atcham near Shrewsbury in about 1650

Numbers from 'The Geanologist' website show that in the early part of the Victorian period more that half of all occurences were in Shropshire and more that half of the rest in adjacent counties which leads me to believe that it is derived from the town of Wem (formerly Wamm)some 10 miles North of Shrewsbury on the Shrewsbury to Crewe railway line. The name of Wamm was of Saxon origin, meaning marshland, referring to the area either side of the River Roden that passes through the town. William the Conqueror gave most of Shropshire to Roger de Montgomery who, in turn, bestowed the barony of Wem upon William Pantulph. It remained in that family for 150 years. The 1086 entry in the Doomsday Book (Folio 257 Shropshire) is short and describes the area as being wooded

Historical occurrences of the name

I have found no great names associated directly with the surname.  John Jeffries, the Hanging Judge took the title of Baron Wem when raised to the peerage. He later became Lord Chancellor.
At the battle of Wem in 1643 50 roundheads held off a much larger enemy horde of 5000

A rhyme dating from the Battle of Wem says

The women of Wem, and a few musketteers
Beat the lord Capel, and all his cavaliers

A more recent claim to fame for the town of Wem is that it is the Sweet Pea capital of the country. The Eckington Sweet Pea Society Show in Wem claims to be the premier Sweet Pea event of England

Name frequency

I also found from Victorian Census Records and from data extracted from the 2001 Census that there appeared to be no more than 135 people, with any of these names, alive in England and Wales at any one census between 1841 and 2001. The number crept up to from 41(Wem only) in the 1841 Census to 135 in the 2001 Census with Wem (106) as the 31959th of 290,000 surnames, Whem (15) 109436th and Wemm (14) in 114673rd place.   Names with less than 5 occurences are not listed

Those numbers 5237 apart show that there must be a lot of groups of names with only 14 or 15 members listed who were alive in 2001 

Distribution of the name

The the main groupings now are two in the West Midlands and one on Teesside but all may be traced back to Shropshire. The groups in Australia are almost wholly descended from the ancestors of the Teesside group with one other family in Western Australia descended from one of the West Midlands groups. A group in Canada from a West Midlands group has now no male descendants.

I have still not yet started recording the US names but have seen it noted that they 'came from Britain by migration' One of my correspondents purchased a book of worldwide Wems about 10 years ago so I have some data to start on.  A lady with the maiden name of Wem living in Canada says there are a lot of them about.  Her particular branch of the family have no living male heirs.  One of my related West Australian groups has one male child  only and he lives in California.  I have not received any reply from his parents.


All England and Wales BMD data from 1837 to 2005
All IGI data.  there were very many repeats when I first started to collect this data.  
My research at the present time is centred on my mothers Scottish Ancestors from Phingask in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire 
               See 'The Andersons in Phingask and their Descendants' by James M A Wood, printed privately in 1910 and 
               in pdf format on the 'Family Search'  website under 'Books'
All England and Wales census data 1821(Shropshire only) and 1841 to 1911
Correspondence with Wem(m) relatives right across Australia from NSW to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia


I have not stated a DNA project