Genealogy for Thomas Milam (ca 1716 - 1775)

Update to Milam Genealogy Based upon Recently Found Records

The past fifteen years have brought to light many important Milam records which were not available to researchers during the 1900s. Milam family history should reflect this new information knowing that it too will need to be updated with future discoveries. These notes are based upon the latest information that Oliver Milam, Robert Wilbanks and I have uncovered. 


I have read thousands of pages of Orange, Culpeper and Bedford County court records from 1730 through 1793 and also their histories. Thus I believe that I can help answer a few of the questions which are asked about Thomas Milam and his sons.

QUESTION: "What do you make of your recent discovery of a Bedford County court order concerning a William Milum which pre-dates Thomas and Mary Rush Milam's move from Culpeper County to Bedford County?"

RESPONCE: The court order was written on 26 MAY 1760 and is found on page 131 of Bedford County Court Order Book 1-B. It reads: "Charles McLaughlin, Robert Fitzhugh & William Milum are appointed to appraise the estate of John Vance, deceased." [425] You may view this order here (image) . Therefore, William was already established in Bedford County and sufficiently knowledgeable of local values for the court to assign him this significant task three months before Thomas Milam sold his 203 acres in Culpeper County on 17 AUG 1760. And seven months before Thomas signed an indenture with Richard Calloway for 400 acres of land along Hurricane Creek in Bedford County on 27 JAN 1761. [310, 426]

I have taken time to read Bedford County order books from its founding in May 1754 looking specifically for evidence that William was in Bedford County earlier. But there was no earlier court record for any Milam before that of William of 26 MAY 1760.

The next court record for William Milam was on 23 NOV 1762 when he was sued by William Bumpass for 19 Pounds, 4 Shillings and 6 Pence. [438] Bumpass owned a general store selling farming tools, clothing and shoes, supplies like bushels of corn and even pints of rum. In August 1762, Milam signed a bond to Bumpass promising future payment for the supplies he purchased. You may view a photo of the beautiful original document here (image) . Please note that he signed his name: "William Millam" - indeed he always spelled his surname "Millam". On 23 MAR 1763, the court found for Bumpass and Milam was ordered to pay. [439]

If William was born in 1746 as traditionally believed, he would have been 14 years old in 1760. Is it conceivable that a 14 years old was experienced enough with the values of land, animals and articles to assist in an estate appraisal? I seriously doubt it. William Milam must have been at least 21 years old in NOV 1762 in order to have his own account with William Bumpass meaning that he must have been born no later than 1741, and probably a few years earlier since in MAY 1760 he was appointed to appraise the Vance estate.

These points raise important questions: 1) how long had William lived in Bedford County to become so knowledgeable of local values and so well respected to be appointed to appraise and 2) given that he was older and had useful skills, isn't it curious that William is not found in Culpeper County, VA, records like Thomas' sons, Benjamin and John Milam?

William received his first land grant on 1 AUG 1772: the 600 acres on Meadow Creek. What was he doing between 1760 and then? It is very likely that in the early years William was working as an overseer for one of the men with whom he was associated: Charles Gwatkins or Charles McLaughlin until then. In the latter years he was probably leasing land before he was able to puchase it.

William became a significant land owner and respected citizen. He was appointed a Second Leutenant then First Leutenant in the Bedford County militia during our Revolutionary War as well as a road surveyor on several occasions. See my chapter on William Milam here (link).

Thomas and Mary Rush Milam were traditionally thought to have been married in the early 1740s. What should we think today given William's birth date? My best guess is that they were married circa 1738 or earlier.

QUESTION: "My big question is WHO is the Benjamin Millam who witnessed Thomas Milam’s assignment of a land Warrant (link) to John Green in Culpeper County in 1760? 

The Benjamin Milam, son of Thomas, who died in the Revolutionary War in June 1781 is thought to have been born between 1748 and 1750. Wouldn’t he have been too young to witness Thomas Milam's assignment in 1760? Therefore, wouldn’t this Benjamin most likely be Thomas’ brother, rather than his son?"

RESPONCE: Click here (image) to view Thomas’s Warrant assignment with Benjamin’s signature. [386] Note that Benjamin like William signed his surname "Millam".

Under English Common Law, full majority was reached at the age of 21. Anyone under 21 was legally an “infant”. However, for some legal actions, Common Law only required that the person be judged capable of “discretion” which was generally accepted as 14 years of age. Children aged 14 and over could legitimately perform the following acts: witness deeds and contracts, testify as a witness in court, select a guardian, apprentice themselves without parental consent, and bequeath personal property in a will – but not real property.  At the time in England it was common to select a child as a witness who most likely would survive for decades to bear witness to the transaction. [139]

Like Thomas Milam, Benjamin was next found in Bedford County, Virginia. My recent research found an account statement in Bedford County Judgments Box 38 1773 hand written by Moses Milam demonstrating that he and Benjamin Milam worked together as wood workers. His bill itemizes work for David Wright’s account: 1) for Alexander Baines Mill “for sawing 673 feet of Plank for his mill and also 5 Shillings for Sawing of the Trunk plank….£ 1.15. 0”; 2) for David Wright “claps {clapboards}…one house…£ 6.10. 0”; and 3) “balance owed Benjaman Millam on the old account….£ 1.  3.  9”. You may view the original bill here (image). [443]

In addition, Moses and Benjamin shared land which was proven by a 1786 Bedford deed for 120 acres from Moses Milam to Benjamin's widdow, Elizabeth Jackson Milam, after his untimely death in our Revolutionary War.  I found it very moving. Moses demonstrated great integrity and deep devotion to his brother and co-worker. It reads in part:

"....Between Moses Milam of Bedford County of the one part, and Elizabeth Milam (Relic of late Benjamin Milam, Deceased) of the other part. Witnesseth, that the said Moses Milam for and in Consideration of the Sum of Twenty one pounds Currant {Money of Virginia} to him in hand paid by the above Benjamin Milam before his decease, the receipt whereof the said Moses Milam doth hereby confess and acknowledge, Had bargained and sold to the said Milam, deceased, and doth by these presents grant and Convey to the said Elizabeth Milam during her Natural Life, and after her decease to revert to the Heir at Law of the said Benjamin Milam deceased...." [444] You may read this deed here (image) .

This deed is more evidence of the very close and special relationship between Moses and Benjamin Milam.

Finally, William Milam and Moses Milam witnessed Benjamin's Will on 13 OCT 1780; [387] and Rush Milam acted as a Security for Benjamin’s wife, Elizabeth Jackson Milam, when she was appointed executrix of his estate. So it very much seems that Benjamin was a son of Thomas and Mary Rush Milam and a brother to Moses, Rush and William.

Therefore, the most reasonable answer to the question is that Benjamin was born a couple years earlier than previously estimated - in 1746 or earlier. And that also would mean that his older brother, William, was born earlier too - circa 1738. {see below} See my chapter on Benjamin Milam here (l;ink) .

QUESTION: "What do you make of this often quoted phrase concerning Thomas Milam's wife, Mary Rush Adams - that she was 'traditionally believed to be a relative of John Adams of Boston' "?

RESPONCE: John Adams, the first Vice-President and second President of the United States, was born in present day Quincy, Massachusetts, on 30 OCT 1735. Five days before his 29th birthday on 25 OCT 1764, Adams married Abigail Smith, his third cousin. Their first child, Abigail, was born in 1765. You may learn more about John Adams by clicking here (link).

Oliver Milam on gives Mary Rush Adams' birth date as "1728 Virginia". Robert Wilbank's gives her birth date as "Circa 1720". Whatever else may be said about this "traditional belief", two points are clear: 1) Mary Rush Adams is not a descendant of President John Adams of Boston because she was born years before he was; and 2) no one has found any evidence to support this belief. It is simply a "belief" or, more likely, a wishful thought.

My question in turn is: who decided to give Thomas' wife this widely quoted name, Mary Rush Adams, which has been in many Milam family genealogies for decades? And on what basis? Or was someone actively attempting to boost the idea that Thomas Milam was a descendant of John Milam of Boston?

You may read my complete rational for the marriage of Thomas Milam and Marry Rush here (link) .

QUESTION: "You present evidence that Thomas Milam married Mary Rush, daughter of William Rush IV (link) . Can you exclude the possibility that Mary Rush was first married to, then widowed from, an Adams man before marrying Milam?"

RESPONCE: There is only one possibility - a Robert Adams - who was first found in the Orange County Order Book 1 on 25 AUG 1737 when he was the Plaintiff against John and Mary Howard in an "Action of Trespass(link) ". [388] [389] Adams was also found on the list of Tithables in 1738 with one tithable (himself).

From time to time he was at Orange County court involved in minor cases of debt and trespass. The last entry for him in an Order Book was on 23 JUN 1748. [390] There are no further Orange County court orders for any Adams until a Benjamin Adams first appeared purchasing land nearly ten years later on 23 FEB 1758. [391]

The land records (warrants, surveys, patents, grants and deeds) and Wills - which might have demonstrated the name of his wife - mostly survived for Culpeper and Orange Counties. But there are no land records or Will for a Robert Adams in either county. In a Chancery Court suit dated 23 JUL 1742 it was revealed that his wife's name was Ruth, "Ruth Adams, the late Ruth Boyd". [418]

Suffice it to say that the only Adams in Orange County during the 1730s and 1740s - Robert Adams - did not die or leave a widow before June 1748 by which time Thomas Milam had married Mary Rush and their first sons were born. You may read my complete rational for the marriage of Thomas Milam and Marry Rush here (link) .

QUESTION: "Since you found several new records which weren't previously known, can you be more specific concerning the approximate birthdates and counties in which Thomas Milam's sons were born?"

RESPONCE: The most important new document is a Bedford County Indenture (link) signed between Richard Calloway and Thomas Millim dated 27 JAN 1761.

You can read this beautifully preserved document here (link) ; it reads in part:

"Know all men by these present that the Thomas Millim of the County of Culpeper in the Colony of Virginia, Planter (link), am holden and firmly Bound unto Richard Calloway of the County of Bedford in the Colony, a Gent. (link), in the Sum of Eighty pounds current money of Virginia.....dated the twenty seventh day of January & in the year of Our Lord one thousand seventeen Hundred and Sixty one___________________1761" [385]
Thomas Milam Signed this Indenture with his Mark: TM.
The Clerk of Court spelled his name, "Millim".
Thomas Milam Land Contract 1761

This Indenture proves a couple of important points: 1) that the Thomas Milam who was granted land in Culpeper County in 1749 is the same one that is found in Bedford County in the 1760s and 1770s; and 2) that the date Thomas moved to Bedford County was late 1760 or early 1761 - not in May 1763 when he obtained a deed for 400 acres of land from the same Richard Calloway mentioned above.

Since we know that the northern portion of Orange County in which Milam owned land was incorporated into Culpeper County in May 1749 and that he removed to Bedford County in late 1760 or early 1761, we can more precisely establish where his sons were born based upon their estimated birth dates as I discussed above.

Concerning John Milam, the discovery of the original documents for the May 1763 William Stamps vs Daniel Norris court judgment show that an attachment (link) was issued upon John Milam and several others: John Richey, Joseph Jackson, James Boyde, etc. This meant that certain articles of Norris which were in the possession of John Milam and the others would be seized to pay his debt to Stamps. A man must have been of the Age of Majority, 21 years, for this to occur otherwise the writ of attachment would have been ordered upon his parent or guardian. This means that John Milam must have been born by 1742 or earlier.

And it means that John would have been about 18 years of age when he assisted his father as a chain carrier in March of 1760, 31 years old when he was appointed Bedford County Constable and about 35 years of age when he was a Bedford County Lieutenant at Boonesborough. These ages make a lot more sense to me than if he had been born in 1750 as previously presumed. Please see my chapter on John Milam here (link).

In March, 1773, Moses Milam sued David Wright in Bedford court for £6 2 Shillings and 6 Pence which means that in order to have legal standing in court Moses was at least 21 years of age and thus was born by 1752 or earlier. Please see my chapter on Moses Milam here (link).

Sons of Thomas and Mary Rush Milam

I. William, Born circa 1738, or earlier {see above} - Orange County (became Culpeper County in 1749)

II. John, Born circa 1742 or earlier {see above} - Orange County (in 1749 Culpeper County)

III. Benjamin, Born circa 1746 or earlier, {see above} - Orange County (in 1749 Culpeper County)

IV. Moses, Born c. 1752 or earlier {see above} - Culpeper County

V. Zachariah, Born c. 1755 - Culpeper County

VI. Solomon, Born c. 1757 - Culpeper County

VII. Rush, Born October 1759 - Culpeper County

Thus none of Thomas' sons were born in Bedford County nor was Mary Rush born in Bedford County and nor were Thomas and Mary married in Bedford County as some genealogies mistakenly record. Mary Rush was born in Westmoreland County of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, as I discuss at length here (link) . They were married by 1737 or earlier. Milam's land was in the northern portion of Orange County which in 1749 became Culpeper County. In 1792 Thomas Milam's farm fell into the newly formed Madison County where it can be viewed today just west of Syria, Virginia, on the property of Graves Mountain Lodge. You may view photos here (link) .

QUESTION: "Do you have any idea who were Thomas Milam's parents or where he came from?"

RESPONCE: Quite a few Milam family trees posted on and other genealogy websites list a Samuel Mileham and his wife, Martha Gardner Mileham, as Thomas Milam's parents. Their marriage was well documented in Lancaster County in the eastern Northern Neck of Virginia on 8 SEP 1724. However, by the early 1990s Robert Wilbanks IV had demonstrated that they could not be his parents. Thomas Milam appeared as a defendant in Orange County court on 24 MAR 1737/1738 - 1738 on our current calendar - at which time he must have been of legal age (at least 21 years old) to be a defendant in court. Subtracting 21 years from 1738 means that Thomas must have been born in 1717 or earlier. Therefore, our Thomas was born a few years before Samuel Mileham was married and so Samuel and Martha Mileham can not be his parents. Thank you Robert Wilbanks IV for your careful research! You may read Robert's summary of Major Change in Virginia Milam's History on his website, Robert (link) .

I, like Robert Wilbanks IV and others, have searched the abstracts of all the county court and church records of the more eastern counties in the Northern Neck of Virginia and found no other reference for a "Milam", other than this one for Samuel Mileham. Indeed, the invaluable English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records by Louis des Cognets Jr. - which has the names of officials, military officers, land patents from 1699-1737 and land rents paid to the English Crown in 1704 for counties whose records were destroyed - contains no Milam by any of its various spellings. [414]

Speaking of careful research, Oliver Milam spent years studying the Boston Milams and recently reported that John Milam returned to Ireland in 1652 with his five sons and two daughters which explains why descendants of the Boston Milams haven't been identified. Humphrey Milam of Boston had seven daughters, no sons. You may read Oliver's discussion about John Milam's return to Ireland on his website (link) .

Direct Immigration to Virginia

I - for one - do not know from whence Thomas Milam came. He most probably immigrated directly from the British Isles. David Hackett Fischer in his monumental work, Albion's Seed, documented the general patterns of immigration during the 17th century: New England colonies were settled primarily by Puritan immigrants from the east of England via the Port of London; and the mid-Atlantic colonies were settled by Anglican immigrants from the south and southwest of England via the Ports of Bristol, Barnstaple, Plymouth and Weymouth. In particular for Virginia, both the wealthy and servant classes came primarily from "a triangle of territory whose base was along the English Channel coast from Kent in the East to Devon in the West and whose apex was Herefordshire in Wales" [587]. The influence of these immigrants was reflected in the unique socioeconomic culture of colonial Virginia including: 1) loyalty to the King (Royalists) [588], 2) Anglican religion [589, 592], 3) patriarchal family [590, 591], 4) endentured servants and slavery [597], 5) vocabulary and Southern accent [593], 6) choice of given names [594], 7) "Southern" cooking [595], and 8) the sporting life [596], all of which closely resembled the culture of their native English counties. Below is a map based upon Fischer's research.

This map is not from Fischer's book, Albion's Seed, but is based upon his conclusions.
Map of Immigration from Great Britain

Utilizing English parish records for births and christenings during the 1500s and 1600s as recorded in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), I prepared a map showing the counties and parishes where "Milam"s and phonetically similar surnames were born. [437] There were 54 recorded births during the 1500s and 253 in the 1600s. As you can see on the map below most were living in four counties: Berkshire in the south, Cumberland (now part of Cumbria) in the northwest, Norfolk in the east and Sussex in the southeast. This pattern persisted through 1700.

Map of Milam Birth Locations in England

Map of International Genealogical Index's births locations for 54 MILAMS in England. [437]

The earliest recorded birth was an Edmundi Millam (#4) on 21 February 1539 in Cumberland (now Cumbria) County in northwest England. The earliest recorded birth in Scotland was Alisone Millam (#57) on 31 October 1624 in East Lothian County near Edinburgh. But the real growth in Scotland didn't begin until the mid 1660s in Angus and Perth counties. These data may provide hints of where our "Milam"s originated. A possible problem is the lack of recorded "Milam" births in the southwestern counties of England perhaps due to the destruction of courthouses by fire or wars.

MY SPECULATION: Cumberland or now Cumbria County in Northwest England

Life was difficult in Great Britain during the early 1700s because of the War of Spanish Succession (link) (1701 - 1714) pitting Great Britain and the Dutch Republic again France and Spain; and the Jacobite (link) rebellions in Scotland in 1715 and 1745.

In 1709 Great Britain endured The Great Frost (link) which not only totally iced rivers like the Thames and brought floating ice into the North Sea but destroyed crops which lead to a severe famine and a deep depression, worse than any depression since. [737] And the 1720 collapse of the famous South Sea Company (link) financial bubble caused wealth destruction among many small investors and another recession.

Millam shipmasters and Virginia traders from the port of Whitehaven in Cumberland County made many voyages to ports on the Viginia rivers between 1699 and 1743 - the period when John Sr and Thomas would have immigrated. See my chart for details of their voyages to Virginia here (link) . Read my chapter on these very successful Whitehaven Millams here (link) .

Virginia Colonial records show that the immigrants, John Sr and Thomas Milam, arrived in Virginia as indentured servants and were illiterate i.e. they were not able to write their own name. (See my discussion here (link) .) Thus as illiterate children of tenant farmers perhaps living in Greystoke, Loweswater, Penrith or Stanwix in Cumberland County, their future in economically challenged England was not promising. Therefore I can imagine that they were indentured to work in Virginia in exchange for their passage across the Atlantic Ocean on one of the many Whitehaven ships trading there. This is my best guess of where the patriarchs of the Virginia Milams originated.

It's very unfortunate that in 2016 we were not able to find a Millam / Milham still living in Cumberland (now Cumbria) County to Y-DNA test for our Milam/Mileham/Milum Surname Project.

In August 2022, I again attempted to find a living Millam / Milham in the Whitehaven region. I learned from the Cumbria Archives that names of persons from census data in England are not released for 100 years - so no luck there. However I found that voter registries are avaiable. I quiried the Copeland Borough Council which includes Whitehaven. Michelle Pennock, Senior Electoral Services Officer, replied that her search confirmed "that we have no electors on the current register for any of these surname spellings". Well a lot can and did happen over the ensueing 300 years.

This confirms the results of my 2016 search of the British Telecom online directory. No Milhams / Millams / Milams there now. End of the story.

{ Important genealogy principle, it is folly to believe that John and Thomas Milam were from an educated, well to do English family of some status. Literate parents do not raise illiterate children because the parents understand how important the ability to read and write are to a person's future. }

Genetic Genealogy

I have written a review of the basics concepts of genetic genealogy which includes the specific genetic genealogy of the John and Thomas Milam family of Colonial Virginia. You may read it here (link) :

In 2017, I was able to recruit an additional seventeen British men to join our Family Tree DNA Milam Surname Project which brought the total to twenty-six. Their Y-DNA results divide them onto six genetically distinct families. However, none of their results match our John and Thomas Milam family. You may read my summary and discussion of the British MILAM genetic genealogy data here (link) :

Finally, you may view all our Project's Y-DNA test results and the eight distinct gentic families of American and British "MILAM"s by clicking here (link) .


NOTE TO READERS: All the words in bold type face are links to images, maps or word definitions in the Glossary.The Citations and Glossary are available under the Resources tab or here (link)


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