Introduction to Volume One

Some family traditions die hard. Ours are no exception. Research indicates that John Meader of Piscataqua was neither the ancestor of all the Meaders in the New World nor even the first Meader in this country.

Nearly all immigrants to America for one reason or another lost contact with their origins. Few genealogies can trace ancestry beyond the West Atlantic shores. Even if they can do that, they run up against the problem that most earlier records in England were destroyed when Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and burned monasteries and libraries.

Meader is not a common name, but it is far from unique. It has existed for more than 500 years. The first mention of a Meader in the Parish of Affpuddle, Dorset, England, occurs in the 1542/3 Muster Roll for that area: a John Medar is listed as tithed for owning "a jacke and a byll," equipment for hunting and fishing. After his time, the spelling of the surname in Dorset records is either "Meder" or "Meader." The early New England spelling appears to have been "Meder." The spelling of the Virginia immigrants was at first "Meader" and seems later to have reverted to a consistent "Meador." Some genealogists also draw in "Meadow," "Meadows," "Meaders" and "Mede" as of related families.

Evidence suggests that John Meader had arrived in New England by 1647. There were already a number of Meaders in America. Ambrose Meader appears to have been the first. He surrendered 150 acres of Virginia land in 1636, Jonathan and Nicholas Meader were indentured servants in Virginia In 1638. There appears to be no further record of them, and the Meador genealogy begins with Thomas Meader, Sr., who received a grant in 1663. John Meader of Piscataqua had a grant of land by 1656.

We have really no proof as to what part of England John Meader or the Virginia Meaders came from. It must have been England, since immigrants to Virginia and New England were almost invariably English and any other nationality would have been noted in records. He probably came from either Dorset or Devon, both counties in the Southwest of England. He must have been a free man when he came, as there were almost no indentured servants in New England. He was probably not wealthy, as he appears to have had no land for some years after his arrival.

He may have come from Devon. The Coffin family has frequently intermarried with the Meaders, especially in the 18th century. Tristram Coffin of Butlers, Brixton, Devon, in his will of November 6, 1601 bequeathed 3 shillings fourpence to each of the four sons of Nicholas Meader, Nicholas Coffin, of the same place, in his will of September 12, 1613 as his first listed bequest gave 5 shillings to Ann Meader, daughter of Elinor Meader. Internal evidence, however, suggests that Devon is a remote possibility for John Meader's origin, since the Christian names of Ann and Elinor do not occur among his descendants for some generations, Nicholas, of course, is a common early Meader name.

An alternative possibility for John Meader's origin is Dorset. The recurrence of Christian names suggests this as more likely than Devon. The conjectural listing of ancestors for John Meader must necessarily be highly speculative, based on available wills and other records and assuming relationships from evidences of dates and the continuity of Christian names.

Affpuddle, in southern Dorset, may be the original home of the Meaders of New England. There are Meaders still in the area there, as reported by Edwin E. Meader:

“On August 13, 1973 my wife and I visited Cyril G. Meader and wife, Milestones, Stalbridge. Cyril and his brother Richard E. Meader owned and operated Charles Meader, Ironmongers, the largest store in Stalbridge. In October, 1973 they were to celebrate the centenary of the founding by Grandfather Charles, who ‘came from Blandford Farm as a young man, antecedents unknown. According to the telephone book there is a ‘Meaders, Ltd., Watchmakers, Jewellers, Silversmiths’ In Bournemouth.”

The first recorded mention of Affpuddle Is in 987 A.D., "rus iuxta Pydelan." Later it was called "Affapidele," and in 1212 A.D. it was referred to as "Effepidel." The first part of the name comes from a Saxon owner AEffa, which is identical with AElfrithus, who was the owner in 987; the second part is an ancient word for "swamp" or "marsh."

There is the tale that the town's name was changed from "Affpiddle" to "Affpuddle" at the suggestion of Queen Victoria. However, that may be apocryphal, as one source, of Victorians time, suggests that "Several places were named from the Piddle [River], Dorset, the names vary between 'Piddle' and 'Puddle.’"

Fordington, Bere Regis and Tolpuddle are nearby villages or towns. Stonehenge, currently estimated to be nearly five thousand years old, is only two-score miles to the northeast, and there are a number of "henges" in Dorset itself.

Please visit “Early Meaders in England” for a brief genealogy of those Meaders in the Dorset, England area who are the probable ancestors to John Meader of Piscataqua.