The Swaim Family of Indiana and Oklahoma

Willem Sweem (Swaim) (b ~ 1677)

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Willem Sweem (Swaim) (b ~ 1677)

As stated in the previous chapter there is the unresolved issue regarding the father of John Swaim (b 1748). Now we reach yet another stumbling block. Who was the father of John (Johannes) Swaim (b 1719) and Michael Swaim (b 1711 or 1715), the two contenders for being the father of John Swaim (b 1748)?

One school of thought presented in the Swaim-Tysen Family book is that Michael and John were both sons of Willem Sweem. It is further believed that Willem Sweem was the primary Swaim emigrant from New York into North Carolina. However, as stated in the previous chapter, there is also family information that suggests Michael’s father was an Anthony Swaim. I am not sure which version is correct but I will focus more on John Swaim (b 1719) than on Michael Swaim since I find more evidence to suggest John Swaim (b 1719) to be the father of John Swaim (b 1748).

This chapter is written based on the theory that Willem Sweem was a son of Thys Barentsen. With that introduction I will describe what is known about William (Willem) Swaim (Sweem).

Willem Sweem was born in 1677 on Staten Island, New York. He is considered by many to be a son of Thys Barentsen and Scytie Cornelius. There were at least five sons and two daughters in this family as William was growing up in Staten Island. William migrated from Staten Island to the Shepherdstown area of Virginia (now a part of West Virginia) around 1724. Although there are some who believe he continued on into North Carolina, the consensus of researchers is that he would live the rest of his life in Virginia and die there.

Because of the sparseness of records and the surname changes, it is difficult to determine where people were except for selective snapshots in time. For example, Anthony Swaim, son of Thys Barentsen, is noted in a 1696 land deed as “Anthony Sweem alias Tyse”. In Peter Manett’s Will, Anthony is referred to as his “neighbor Anthony Tice”. In the same Will, he is listed as a witness as Anthony Tyce.792 More information is included in the next chapter on the transition of the family surname and various aliases used.

In May, 1705 “Willem Tysson and Jannete?” are listed in a baptism of their daughter, Maryte based on Brooklyn Dutch Church Records.793 It is believed that this refers to William’s first wife, Jannete. What became of her is not known.

William then later married Mary Larzelere (or Lazeler). 794 Mary Larzelere was born in Staten Island, New York.

William does not appear in the 1706 Census of Staten Island, NY although that census is a partial listing because of missing pages.

William was listed as a member of the 1715 Militia, the same year his son, Michael was baptized. In Michael’s baptism record for October 18, 1715, William is listed as Wellem Swame and Hendreck Wellemsen was listed as witnesses. In the baptism records for sons Johannes and Cornelius in 1719 and 1722, respectively, William is referred to as Willem Sweem and his wife as Marya Lageler. 795

In 1722 there is a land transfer to James Freese from William Sweem of Staten Island. On May 20, 1724 there was a Richmond County (Staten Island) deed transfer of 91 acres to Simon Symons that refers to him as “William Sweem, late of Richmond County with his wife, Mary”796. This land deed also mentions his brother Anthony and refers to him as “Anthony Sweem alias Tyse”797.

Some believe that sometime after 1724 William, Mary and many of their children migrated to the northern neck of Virginia, then to Frederick County and to an area now part of West Virginia, the Shepherdstown – Charles Town area.798. It is then believed William then migrated to North Carolina around1752. There are references (perhaps just theories) on that state that William died in Frederick County, Virginia. 799 One source (Defazio’s web site) states that William died in 1750. I have no conclusive information on exactly when William died and where he was buried.

Willem Sweem (b ~1677) married Mary Larzelere64 (b ~ Jun 1681800). William and Mary had the following children:

  1. Matthias Swaim (b ~ 1711/12) married Judiah Higgins (b 1714). Judiah was born in Charlestown, West Virginia.
    Mathias and Judiah had the following children:

  1. William Swaim (b ~ 1732).

  2. Matthias, Jr. Swaim (b ~ 1734-6, d 30 Aug 1821) married Abigail Hedges (b 1746). Abigail was the daughter of Joshua Hedges and Elizabeth Chapline. Matthias died in Jefferson, Ohio. Abigail died in Tuscarawas, Ohio. 801

  3. John Swaim

  4. Lasaler Swaim

  5. Joseph Swaim

  1. Michael Swaim (b 18 Oct 1715, d before 1782) married Martha Worthington (b ~ 1727).
    [details covered in previous chapter]

  2. Johannes (John) Swaim (b Oct 1719, d ~ 1803) married Charity Teague (b 1722).
    [details covered in previous chapter]

  3. Cornelius Swaim (b ~1722). Cornelius was baptized around March 18 in 1722 at Dutch Reformed Church, Staten Island, New York802. Cornelius was about two years old when in 1724 his father William sold their property in Staten Island and migrated to Virginia.

  1. Immigration to America


Besides the research performed by Joe Mullane, Lloyd Swaim and Majorie Johnson there are at least two other accounts of the early Swaim ancestry in America. These accounts are based on family materials passed down which have also been documented in various books. What makes these accounts somewhat confusing is that it is possible that elements of one account could co-exist with elements of another account. It is also possible these accounts are consistent with the original immigrant being Thys Barentsen depending on how one interprets the words in the accounts. This results in quite a number of possible permutations. This section will summarize these accounts.

The three main accounts in regard to the early Swaim immigrant to America are as follows:

  • Thys Barentsen

  • Anthony Swaim > William Swaim > John Swaim (b 1748)

  • “Three Brothers in the Colony of Swerds and Finns”

There is also an additional theory posited that at least some of the Swaims' descend from Antoine Teunisse Lanen “Anthony” Van Pelt who also emigrated from Holland in the 1660’s. This account was put forward by Orra Eugene Monnette in First Settlers of Ye Plantations of Piscataway and Woodbridge, Olde East New Jersey 1664-1714 published in 1934.

This account seems to indicate that not all Swaim’s descend from Thys Barentsen and that some may descend from Anthony Teunissen Van Pelt. There is also family information passed down that mentions the name change from Van Pelt to Swaim. However, a DNA study conducted in 2007 included a descendant of Teunis Jansen Lanen and disproved the notion of a Swaim – Van Pelt connection.

        1. Thys Barentsen account

This account is primarily based on the research of Joe Mullane, Lloyd Swaim and Marjorie Johnson as described in the Swaim-Tysen Family book. In this account Thys Barentsen is described as the original immigrant from Leerdam, Holland that all Swaims in the United States descend from.

Based on the baptismal and land records there is evidence that sons of Thys Barentsen began using Tysen/Tice aliases after arriving here in the late 1600’s. They began using the name “Swame” as early as 1706 and “Swaim” as an alias as early as 1716. Admittedly the use of so many different names for the same people appears to be difficult to understand. However, one must always view these things in the context of the times in which these people lived. These were people of Dutch ancestry getting records recorded into a different language (English) while changing their traditional surname customs. Mispronunciations and miscommunications likely accounted for some of the variations in spelling. Some of this still occurs to this day as my surname is frequently mispronounced as “Swain”.

Because of the gradual change in surnames and lack of detailed records from this distant period, it is often difficult to independently verify surname spellings and confirm them one way or the other. The authors of the Swaim Tysen Family book had direct access to the best genealogical information available in New York (and Holland) and they came to the conclusion that Thys Barentsen was the original immigrant to America from which all Swaim’s descend. Based on the evidence presented in the book and the direct linkage shown between use of the Tysen and Swaim surnames, I can accept this theory as a reasonable and workable theory.

In this account Thys Barentsen migrated to Staten Island in 1661 with three children: Barent, Cornelius (or Beleyte) and Anthony. Once in America further children included Willem, Elizabeth and Johannes. In this account Willem migrated to North Carolina and was the father of Matthias, Michael, John (Old Swim) and Cornelius. This account also states that Michael Swaim (b 1715) was the father of John Swaim (b 1748) although the specific father of John Swaim is a separate and independent matter.

        1. Anthony Swaim account (Anthony Swaim > William Swaim > John Swaim)

A second account of the ancestry describes the original immigrant as named “Anthony”. This version of the ancestry can be traced at least back into the 1800’s.

“A newspaper article was published in 1892 by the Greensboro Courier; Greensboro, NC which states: "the progenitor of the Swaim family was one Anthony SWAIM, . . . and settled on the Hudson, that his wife was a French lady, that they had five sons, two of whom emigrated to Ohio, two to North Carolina, and the other remained on the Hudson."

This article was published on the occasion of a SWAIM family reunion in Level Cross, Randolph Co, NC. that was attended by family members from NC & IN. Among those mentioned that were in attendance were Jonathan SWAIM s/o Daniel SWAIM (Daniel was a school teacher in Randolph Co, NC at the old mountain school house) & Marmaduke Swaim.”803

It should be noted that in the Swaim-Tysen Family account developed by Mullane/Swaim/Johnson that while Thys Barentsen was the immigrant father, he also came over with a family including a son Anthony who was born in Holland and was an immigrant as well. So it is possible this account focuses on the Anthony branch of Thys Barentsen’s family.

This specific theory describing the progenitor as Anthony Swaim has been described in several books including Four Families of St. Joseph County by Charles M. Yoder, The Quaker Lines of Mary A. Williams Walter, and Founders and Builders of Greensboro, 1808-1908 by Bettie D. Caldwell.

In Four Families of St. Joseph County Anthony Swaim is listed as the Swaim ancestor who had four children: Michael, Mathias, William and (unknown). William migrated into North Carolina, married a Cherokee Squaw, and was the father of Moses Swaim, Michael Swaim and John Swaim (1748).

This account is also described in The Quaker Lines of Mary A. Williams Walter with the additional information that Anthony Swaim is referred to as “Anthony Van Pelt”. The source information listed for the early Swaim ancestry information included was Mabel Wood Swaim’s Story of the Van Pelt. In this account Anthony had three sons - Michael, William and John – who all migrated to North Carolina. This William was the father of John Swaim (1748).

Founders and Builders of Greensboro, 1808-1908 does not mention a Van Pelt connection or that William married an Indian, however, the essential remaining elements are the same which is that Anthony’s son William was the father of John Swaim (1748).

This account is also referenced in a handwritten ancestry sheet included in A Letter on Robins Family History by Sidney Swaim Robins. This ancestry is listed as

Anthony Swaim (landed Staten Island c 1700) >
William Swaim of Surry Co NC >
John and Elizabeth Swaim.

Figure 10 Handwritten ancestry of John Swaim to Anthony Swaim by Ella Thomlinson

This ancestry was described to Sidney Swaim Robins around 1928 by Mrs. Ella Thomlinson who at that time was secretary of the Swaim Family Association, of Indiana. This account mirrors the account written by Charles M Yoder.

In this account of the four sons of Anthony,

”… Michael remained on Staten Island and his descendants “lived up the Hudson”. Mathias removed to Essex County, New Jersey. William settled in Surry County, North Carolina. (The fourth may have settled in Ohio, but that is a suggestion from another source). William of Surry County, NC had three sons. Of these we are told that Michael and Moses “probably remained in Surry County”. Son John, born 1748, settled in Randolph in 1767, and the very same year was married to Elizabeth Vickery, she being seventeen years old….

Sarah Lambert relays the tradition that all the Swaims’ in North Carolina are descended from William of Surry County”

A large Swaim family reunion was held in the late 1800’s in Level Cross, North Carolina. I have a copy of the newspaper article entitled An Enjoyable Reunion from the Editor-Courier describing the reunion that was provided to me by Linda Livingstone who obtained it from Barbara Trujillo. In this reunion a speaker described the progenitor of the Swaim family as an Anthony Swaim. An excerpt is as follows:

“One of the most enjoyable reunions, perhaps that has ever been held in North Carolina, occurred at Level Cross in this county, and near the old Mountain school house, on the 28th last. It had previously been published, that on that day there would be a reunion and basket picnic there then: the reunion, especially of the Swaim family, and their relatives and the students who had attended school at the old Mountain school house, now rotten down and gone.

About the 20th last, an excursion composed largely of the Swaims’ and their relatives, notably Jonathan Swaim, his wife and three sons, one bring his wife, Delilah Meudenhall, Cyrus Jessup and wife, Hannah, Carah Cox, and others, left Indianapolis with a special view to this reunion and were all on hand on the 28th. All expected a good crowd and time of it; but early in the day, the relatives, friends, and schoolmates, began to come in, and by 12 o'clock there were some five or six hundred people on the grounds, to the surprise and gratification of all, and those who did not know the neighborhood, might well have inquired, whence is such a multitude to be fed? About 12 o'clock the who company were invited to a table spread under the church arbor, where they enjoyed a repast as good in its make up as it was bounteous in quantity. And all were filled and many "baskets full" left. A heart-felt shaking of hands with almost tears of joy at meeting of old and long parted friends had been indulged in before and during dinner.

After dinner all went into the church, who could find room to sit or stand, where they were addressed by an old acquaintance and schoolmate, Himehas Hockett [not sure about spelling], who gave a very interesting history of some of the Swaim family, the origin of the family, etc. He stated that tradition said that the progenitor of the Swaim family in America was one Anthony Swaim, who in the early settlements of the country, came from Holland to America and settled on the Hudson, that his wife was a French lady, that they had five sons, two of whom emigrated to Ohio, two to North Carolina, and the other remained at the old homestead on the Hudson; that from these the Swaim family throughout the U.S. were descended. He further gave an interesting account of the venerable father of Jonathan Swaim, the leader of the excursion. His father was named Daniel Swaim, noted and faithful school teacher in Randolph, at old Mountain school house, and other places in his day. After friend Hockett concluded his speech, Wm. Wilson was called on and gave an interesting account of his knowledge of Daniel Swaim as a school teacher in his early days. After Mr. Wilson's remarks, M.S. Robins was called on, who made quite an interesting talk. After which, and after another hearty hand-shaking, the company disappeared. At night at supper at Gen. F. Stanton's there sat down to the table seven grown persons, six of whom had gone to school together at the old Mountain school house and to Daniel Swaim, forty-five years ago, of which six, two were Indianians, who went there about that number of years ago, the other four embraced our congenial friend, Geo. F. Stanton, and his ? lady, Rubashuah, and the writer of ? article.~One of Them.804

It should be noted that Anthony Swaim, son of Thys Barentsen, was born in Holland and did immigrate with his father.

3. “Three Brothers in the Colony of Swerds and Finns” account

A third account of the ancestry does not begin with the immigrant but starts with three brothers. This account is described in the Swaim Family Genealogy which is a hand-written description of the Swaim ancestry dated March 13, 1891 by W. F. Crum who was a cousin of Charles Columbus Swaim. This account mentions specific families based on bible records. This account does not describe the original immigrant but rather begins with a description of three brothers from which all Swaims’ descend.

The account is as follows:

”There were three brothers, by the name of Swaim in the colony of Swerds and Finns who settled Delaware and New Jersey in 1638. From that trio all the Swaims in the U.S. were descended. They soon spread over the line into Pennsylvania. About 1720 one of these named John emigrated from Penns land to North Carolina where he reared four sons namely Moses, William, John and Michael. Of this first family of Swaims, who were born in the old North State, John who was born about 174565 and was married about 1767 to Miss Elizabeth Vickory, on Deep River, Randolph County, North Carolina. This venerable couple were the parents of eleven children: Massa, William, Joshua, Christopher, John, Elizabeth, Ashley, Marmaduke, Charaty, Moses …”

This record has many interesting pieces of information that validate other data that I have collected but also includes some discrepancies. We have to read this carefully or one may easily misinterpret it. I’ll provide some possible interpretations.

The Swaim Family Genealogy account states that there were three brothers by the name of Swaim in the colony of Swedes and Finns who settled Delaware and New Jersey in 1638. One could interpret this to mean that the three brothers were a part of the original group that settled the colony in 1638. But it is important to note that this account does not state when they arrived but rather that they were living in this colony. My interpretation is that they were simply living in this colony at some unspecified time after settlement.

On the surface the account seems to imply that these brothers were Swedish or Danish. However, they could have been Dutch men living in a colony of Swedes and Finns. The account does not specifically state from what country the immigrants arrived from.

This account conflicts slightly with the Swaim-Tysen Family book account which states that Thys and his sons settled in Staten Island not New Sweden located near Wilmington, Delaware. However, the Swaim-Tysen Family book does mention descendants settling in the Delaware area (and many other areas as they migrated out of New York). Since it does not describe when the brothers lived in the colony, it is possible that these three brothers were descendants of Thys Barentsen who settled in that area.

The account then says the Swaim family descended from these three brothers. It then says that in 1720 one of the descendents named John (I believe this John to be John “Old Swim” born 1719) migrated into North Carolina and had four sons - Moses, William, John and Michael. One of the sons was John Swaim, born 1745, who married Elizabeth Vickery. The date of birth was listed incorrectly but was close to the correct year of birth, 1748.

This account supports the theory that the father of John Swaim (1748) was another John Swaim and not a Michael Swaim.

It should be noted that all of these theories are consistent with the theory that all Swaim’s descend from a Dutch immigrant such as Thys Barentsen who migrated from Holland in the 1660’s.

The “Three Brothers” theory could imply a variance from this basic premise. I am not convinced this account has to be interpreted that the Swaim ancestry is Swedish or Finnish because as stated earlier Dutch immigrants could have been living in a Swedish-Finnish colony. However, this theory is one possible exception to this basic premise that Swaim ancestry is Dutch depending on one’s interpretation of the account. The DNA study performed in 2005, however, concludes that Swaims originated from Holland so that connection is solid.

The following sections provide further details on these accounts.

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