The Swaim Family of Indiana and Oklahoma

John Swaim (b ~ 1719) (or Michael Swaim) (b ~1715)

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John Swaim (b ~ 1719) (or Michael Swaim) (b ~1715)

[NOTE: This Chapter is undergoing a major rewrite]

So far the Swaim paternal ancestry back through John Swaim (b 1748) can be validated by reasonably hard evidence, family Bibles and general consensus.

However, once we begin to carry the investigation deep into the 1700’s we run into larger problems in verifying the ancestry. The 1790 United States Federal census was the first federal census conducted. Censuses from 1790 through 1840 only identified the name of the head of the family and provided statistics on family members such as the numbers of women and men over 16 and men under 16. There is little solid information to link individuals to families.

One of the more controversial genealogical issues regarding the early Swaim ancestry in America is the disagreement over the father of John Swaim (born 1748). Many sources including the Swaim-Tysen Family book, Clampett Family Centre web site, Latter Day Saints and others claim that this John Swaim (born 1748) is the son of Michael Swaim (born 1715). On the other hand, family sources state that John’s father was another John Swaim, presumably the one that married Charity Vickery and born ~1719. It is believed by some that this John Swaim (b 1719) was the brother of Michael Swaim (b 1715).

There is no hard evidence in the form of wills or other sources that has been located to conclusively identify John’s father. John Swaim (1748) had a Bible in which births, deaths and marriages were recorded but it did not list his father or mother. The issue of John Swaim’s father has been a running controversy in Swaim family genealogy circles for a number of years. Although the Swaim-Tysen Family book by authors Lloyd Swaim, Joe Mullane and Margorie Johnson claims Michael is the father of John Swaim, (b 1748) no convincing evidence is offered. Lloyd Swaim related to me in an email that Joe Mullane primarily came up with that theory and Joe has since passed away.

“I (Lloyd Swaim) really cannot say who was John's father. Joe Mullane came up with the suggestion that the father was Michael. Others say no, but there is no documentation to really support either argument very well.”722

The Teague family history site ( includes the following explanation:

“Some versions of this family (John Swaim, born ~1719, and Charity Teague Swaim) include a son John Swaim (1748-1827), who married Elizabeth Vickery in 1767 and lived in Randolph Co. NC. Other histories say that this John is the son of Michael Swaim, brother of John Swaim, Sr. We have included John and Elizabeth Vickery Swaim's children in the next generation because a few of their descendants show up in Forsyth County.”

Another source that states that John Swaim’s (1748) father was John Swaim (1719) is the Francine Swaim family information compiled by the Birch family web site at rootweb51.

In either case, whether John Swaim’s (1748) father was Michael (1715) or John (1719), there is some consensus albeit not unanimous that the grandfather of John Swaim (1748) was Willem Sweem (Swaim) (b ~ 1677) and that Michael (1715) and John (1719) were brothers.

According to the research of Joe Mullane, Lloyd Swaim and Marjorie Johnson in the Swaim-Tysen Family book, William’s son Matthias settled in West Virginia and sons Michael and John settled in North Carolina. Michael settled in the area around Greensboro and John settled in the area south of Winston Salem52.

Based on the Swaim-Tysen Family book Simeon W. Swaim’s53 middle initial “W” stood for ‘Worthington’. If so, this could be viewed as circumstantial evidence that he was named with Christopher’s possible grandmother Martha Worthington Swaim in mind. As we recall, Martha Worthington Swaim was the wife of Michael Swaim. However, some do not view this as proof of anything.

I do not have independent conclusive evidence as to which of these theories is correct. There are many knowledgeable researchers that have strong opinions on these theories. I suspect this issue will continue to remain unresolved for some time unless some additional evidence surfaces. DNA testing conducted thus far does not answer this question.

I will list the information and analysis I have compiled thus far.

Census analysis

Censuses do not provide details on family members but can be helpful in providing circumstantial evidence regarding where people lived and possible relationships. People with the same surname living in the same vicinity were often related. Of course, family members often moved apart for a number of reasons. So let’s look at some census data and see where that leads us.

In the early Swaim family there were numerous Williams, Michaels and Johns listed in the censuses. In the 1790 census of North Carolina there are 6 Swim’s, 2 Swaim’s and 3 Swain’s (in the counties of interest in North Carolina). Let’s map them by county and see where they are and what their families look like.

Figure 9 – Location of Surry, Stokes, Guilford and Randolph counties in North Carolina

Surry and Stokes counties are in the northern part of North Carolina, Surry being to the west of Stokes. Stokes County was formed in 1789 out of Surry County. Guilford is southeast of Stokes and Randolph is further south, south of Guilford.

John Swim (b ~1719) known as “old Swim” and his sons: Michael & Moses

John Swaim (b 4-26-1748)

Widow of Michael Swaim (b ~ 1715)



SWAIM or SWAIN’s indexed incorrectly54



John Swim (2-0-255)

Michael Swim (1-1-4)

Moses Swim (1-3-3)


John Swim (1-1-1)

William Swim (3-5-6)


Michal Swaim (1-4-6)

William Swaim (3-2-5)

Marthey Swain (0-0-2)

William Swain (1-1-1)

Joseph Swain56 (1-4-2) ?


John Swim (3-4-4)


6 families

4 families (5-7-14)

1 family (1-4-2)

Table 5 - Swim/Swaim/Swain’s in the 1790 Census, North Carolina

First let’s look at the group of Swim’s in the 1790 census since they would appear to represent an earlier evolution of the surname (not necessarily always the case but a reasonable starting place for analysis).

John Swim is listed in Surry County with 2 males 16 and older (one is himself) and 2 females. A small family listed in the 1790-1840 censuses is usually indicative of either a very young or fairly old family. There is a land record of John Swim buying 250 acres on Deep Creek on May 18, 1789 in Surry County. So this John Swim, with the small family, would most likely be John Swim (1719), the brother of Michael (1715) and son of William (b ~ 1677). This is the conclusion of the Swaim-Tysen Family book and I understand the logic.

The other Swims listed in Surry County with the larger families would probably be sons of John: Michael and Moses. The two Swims listed in nearby Stokes County would probably be his other sons: John and William.

There is a John Swim shown located in Randolph County, North Carolina listed with 3 males 16 and older (one is himself), 4 males under 16 and 4 females. He is not located adjacent to anyone and has a large family. Since there are so many John’s in this family, it is difficult to know for sure which one he is. It would appear possible that this is John Swaim (1748), brother to William (b ~ 1745/6) and Michael (b ~ 1752) who was later buried in 1827 in Timber Ridge Cemetery in Randolph County, North Carolina.

Also notice that John Swaim (b 1748) and John Swaim (b 1719) both were recorded in this census with their surname spelled “Swim”. Of course this could be a misspelling by the census taker but it would be unusual to make the same mistake four times. Plus we know there are land records of John Swaim (b ~1719) using the surname spelling “Swim”. This is circumstantial evidence that these four families are in a different family branch than the Swaim’s in Guilford County. It is also circumstantial evidence for John Swaim (b ~1719) being the father of John Swaim (b 1748) although I must say it is weak and uncertain evidence.

In looking at the Swaim families in Guilford County we see a Marthey Swaim who has long been believed to be Michael Swaim’s (1715) widowed wife who would have been about 75 years old. Located in the vicinity of Marthey and located right next door to one another is a Michal Swaim (probably misspelled and should be Michael) and a William Swaim. These are large families with 10-11 members each. The fact they are located next to one another, have identical surnames and have similar sized families is a possible indicator that they were brothers (although they could have been cousins). The Michael Swaim listed is certainly not Michael Swaim (1715) as his children would have been grown and left by then. It is less likely that a 75 year old man would have four boys under 16 and 4 daughters living at home.

These two families appear to be sons of Michael Swaim (1715) located in the vicinity of widow, Marthey Swaim (although that is not certain). Michael’s son William Swaim (1745) had 5 sons and 5 daughters that have been identified. Three of the five sons were born before 1790. The 1790 census for this William listed 5 males. So we’re off by one male which could be explained by a number of factors such as an elderly father living with them or another son that we don’t know about.

Michael Swaim (1715) had a son Michael Swaim (1752) who had six sons and an unknown number of daughters. Four of the five sons were born before 1790 which matches the 1790 census. So, while I am not certain, it would appear reasonable that this cluster of families were brothers and were sons of Michael (1715): William (~ 1745/6) and Michael (1752).

There is also another William Swaim listed in the 1790 census for Guilford County that is listed further away from this Michael/William/Marthey cluster. This William only has one son at home in 1790. I am not sure exactly where he fits in. In addition, there is a Joseph Swain (spelling in the census looks like it ends with an ‘n’). I listed him in the table for completeness since he does live in the vicinity of the others in Guilford County. I have no information on him and whether he is even related to our family or not.

By 1790, John’s oldest male child, William, would have moved out since he first married in 1789. If we examine the birth dates of the male children we find that by 1790 there would be two sons over 16 and not married yet – Christopher Columbus Swaim and Joshua Swaim. These two sons married in 1794 and 1795, respectively. In 1790 John Swaim (1748) would have had four sons under 16 – John, Jr. (13), Ashley (8), Marmaduke (6) and Moses (1). John Swaim (1748) had three daughters and the oldest, Massa, did not marry until December 1, 1790.

So this review of the 1790 census makes it certainly possible and perhaps likely that this “John Swim” in Randolph County is John Swaim (1748).

It is interesting that this John’s surname is Swim, not Swaim. This would seem to provide some evidence that his father was John Swim (b ~ 1719) and not Michael (b ~ 1715). It does seem odd that in the same snapshot in time (1790 census) that two brothers would use the name Swaim and one would use the name Swim. However, I have also been told that the Dutch pronounced Swaim in such a manner that it may have been misunderstood by the census taker as “swim”. So we have to be careful in drawing too many conclusions from these censuses.

The following sub-sections provide a brief synopsis of what is known regarding Michael Swaim (b ~ 1715) and John Swaim (b ~ 1719).

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