M*CH*MORE One Name Study

Where do the M*CH*MOREs come from?

Underlined text indicates the latest update (#30).

The first M*CH*MORE records come from Devon, England. The earliest records, covering the period from 1243 to the 16th century, are spasmodic, consisting of a few wills, other legal documents and the occasional population return. Systematic records commenced with church records in the 17th century, superseded by civil registration and decennial censuses from the mid-19th century.

The first records of M*CH*MOREs living in England outside Devon come from eastern Cornwall in the mid-16th century. The earliest M*CH*MOREs living outside England are recorded in the United States in the late 17th century and Australia in the early 19th century.

On this page, we examine the first English records in four sections: (1) the earliest isolated Devon records, (2) the early southern South Hams linked records, (3) the early northern South Hams linked records, and (4) the early eastern Cornwall linked records. A discussion of overseas emigration is available here.

The earliest Devon records

The first extant M*CH*MORE records are as follows.

  1. C Spiegelhalter, in his 1958 book A dictionary of Devon surnames, has an entry for G de MICHAMORE in 1220 but does cite his source.
  2. The earliest known documentary reference to a M*CH*MORE occurs in the Devon Feet of Fines, a record of land transactions dating back to mediaeval times.  There it is reported that on 17 May 1243,  Richard de MUCHELEMOR bought 1 ferlings of land in Edelton (modern Ilton, near Malborough) from Richard de CURCHESWELL for a price of 8 marks of silver. (A ferling was about 10 acres. A mark was two-thirds of a pound sterling.)  Spiegelhalter (op. cit.) is undoubtedly referring to the same person when he mentions "Rd de MICHELMORE 1238".
  3. According to O. J. Reichel ("The hundred of Stanborough or Dippeforda in the time of Testa da Nevil, AD1243", Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art, 1913, XLV, 169-207), the jury of the Stanborough Hundred (an area of South Devon roughly the same as the modern South Hams) reported that Richard Noel, bailiff of Alfyngton [modern Alvington], had taken mark from Nicholas de MOCHELEMORE in 1274.
  4. Nicholas de MOCHELMOR of West Alvington is also mentioned in the Hundred Rolls of 1274.
  5. The College of Arms holds a record of an indented deed dated 1328 which shows that Guy de MOCHELMORE had an interest in land in Badeston (modern Bayton, Salcombe) in the parish of Malborough.
  6. A correspondent has a record showing that one John MICHELMORE paid a groat to the churchwardens of Ashburton in 1334.
  7. Another entry in the Devon Feet of Fines, dated 28 Jan 1380, records that Richard MICHELMOUR and William MICHELMOUR both held life-long leases on dwellings on an estate in Dydesham (modern Dittisham) belonging to Thomas FYCHET and his wife Ricarda.
  8. On 27 Oct 1406, again according to the Devon Feet of Fines, John MARTYN, William BURLESTON and Thomas REYMOUND leased from John & Joan CROSSE various properties in Estwere, Bodeleford (Buddleford, Collumpton), Lyneworthy, Badeston (Bayton, Salcombe) and Radewey (Radway, Teignmouth) along with the homages and services of, among others, Peter MOCHELMOUR.
  9. An unknown source relates that a Robert MYCHELMORE was one of the leaders of a group of men who seized a Spanish ship that put into the bay off Bolt's Head, South Huish, in 1410.
  10. H R Watkins' Dartmouth (Exeter, 1935) states that Walter MOCHELMOR was a freeman of the borough in 1458.

Extracts of records nos. 2, 7 and 8 are available here.

The next known records are from the period 1480-1550. The surviving documents refer to several M*CH*MOREs resident in East Allington and Kingsbridge as well as to individuals in Ashprington, Hartland, Kingsteignton, Malborough and Slapton. Later 16th century records relate to M*CH*MOREs in Blackawton, Buckfastleigh, Dartmouth, East Allington, Halberton, Halwell, Kingsbridge, Kingston and Ugborough.

These records strongly suggest that the M*CH*MORE surname first arose in the Malborough-West Alvington area (south of Kingsbridge) in Devon and then spread outwards from there.

The early southern South Hams records

Parish churches began keeping records of baptisms, marriages and burials in the middle of the 16th century, but many of the earliest records have been lost. Even the extant records are difficult to read and in some cases are not legible. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that reliable records are available for most parishes.

From these parish records and the subsequent civil registration and census records, we have been able to reconstruct eight family trees and several subtrees (sequences of past families that cannot yet be fitted into any of the family trees) that originate in the southern South Hams region.

Two large subtrees (Tree 101 and Tree 102) reach back to the 16th century at East Allington and Blackawton but died out in the 17th century. Three full family trees (Tree 01, Tree 02 and Tree 05) go back to the 17th century, originating in East Allington and Stokenham. Apart from these, there are several smaller 17th century subtrees of families located at Bigbury, Chivelstone, Dartmouth, Harberton, Stokenham and West Alvington.

Tree 15 has also been traced back to the 17th century. Although the earliest records in this tree are from Totnes, in the northern South Hams, Y-DNA testing suggests that it originated in the southern South Hams. For the same reason, it seems that one of the two MUCHMORE trees the US Muchmore Family Association have traced back to the 17th century, the earliest members of which came from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, also originated in the southern South Hams.

Four more family trees have been traced back to the 18th century: Tree 08 to Stokenham, Tree 09 to Charleton, Tree 11 to Thurlestone and Tree 13 to Blackawton. There is also a number of 18th century subtrees, located at Chivelstone, Dartmouth, South Pool, Stoke Fleming, Plympton and Plymouth.



Southern South Hams

The southern South Hams

It seems certain that some or all of these trees and subtrees are linked. But it has not yet been possible to deduce these relationships from the written records, for two reasons: Firstly, as mentioned, some records are missing. Secondly, early records do not give sufficient information to match families confidently. In particular, marriage records only give the names of the bride and groom and no information such as their ages or their parents' names. Moreover, no middle names were used and some first names (such as John and William) were very common. As a result, there remain many cases where a son's marriage or a groom's parentage cannot be determined.

The following diagram shows the possible connections between some of the southern South Hams trees and subtrees. As can be seen, it is possible that family trees Tree 01, Tree 05, Tree 08 and Tree 09 and subtrees Tree 106 and Tree 107 might be descended from the same ancestor:

There is currently no documentary evidence to suggest links between the above trees and the remaining southern South Hams trees (Tree 02, Tree 11 and Tree 13) or subtrees. Y-DNA testing suggests that Tree 02 and Tree 11 are in fact not related to any of the other southern South Hams trees or to each other. No Y-DNA results are yet available for Tree 13.

The early northern South Hams records

From the available parish records and subsequent civil registration and census records, we have been able to reconstruct four family trees (Tree 16, Tree 17, Tree 18 and Tree 19) and four subtrees that originate in Buckfastleigh in the northern South Hams. The oldest records in Tree 15 come from Totnes, also in the northern South Hams, but Y-DNA testing strongly suggests that it originated in the southern South Hams.

Buckfastleigh church records go back to the beginning of the 17th century. However, a number of factors make it extremely difficult to reconstruct early family relationships:

  • The 17th century Buckfastleigh baptismal register did not record mothers’ names.
  • No records were kept in the Commonwealth period between September 1642 and October 1653, and there is an inexplicable absence of MICHELMORE records for the years 1658 to 1672.
  • There was only a small number of forenames in use. For example, of the 58 children baptised between 1600 and 1750, over a quarter were called Philip and nearly a half were either John, Robert or William.


Northern South Hams

The northern South Hams

The following diagram shows the possible connections between the four trees and the four subtrees. There is, however, a relatively large number of Buckfastleigh records that cannot be assigned to any of these trees or subtrees (see Tree 351), so there are many other possibilities. 

Y-DNA testing suggests that Tree 17 and Tree 18 are definitely related. No results are yet available for Tree 16, and there are no surviving male members of Tree 19.

Y-DNA testing also suggests that the Buckfastleigh and Stokenham trees shown in the two diagrams above may have had a common ancestor in the 13th or 14th century.

The early eastern Cornwall records

From the available parish records and subsequent civil registration and census records, supplemented by several wills, we have been able to reconstruct one family tree (Tree 20) and two subtrees (Tree 600 and Tree 601) that originated in eastern Cornwall in the triangle between North Hill, Liskeard and St Stephens by Saltash at the beginning of the 17th century.

It seems very likely that these three Cornish lines are related. The following diagram shows the possible links:

Y-DNA testing suggests that the Cornish M*CH*MOREs had a completely different origin than any of the Devon trees or subtrees.


Eastern Cornwall