Series of email communications between Paul Wham, of Scotland, currently living in London, and RAW.  Paul's emails have a great deal of excellent information regarding the history of Scotland and Ireland which directly influenced the migration of the Wham family from Scotland > Ireland > US!

Sat, 6 May 2000 17:38:58 +0100

From: Paul Wham <>
To: "''" <>

Hello Richard
I just thought I'd drop you a note to say hello! My name is Paul Wham and I am Scottish (although I now live in London). My father, who died three years ago, was always interested in the origins of our family name. He did a certain amount of research, mostly in Scotland. I know that he also had contact with another man called Wham in the US, who had done quite a lot of
research into American Whams. I can't remember his name, but I think he had a family law firm called "Wham, Wham and Wham", or something like that! I could find out more from my mum if you are interested.

I was interested that you say on your website that the Whams came from Ireland. We always reckoned that the family originated in Scotland! It is difficult to prove these things, of course, because if you go back far enough records are very difficult to verify. What is the source of that piece of information?

If there is anything I can do for you over here? Let me know.
It would be nice to here from you.

Best Regards,
Paul Wham

Date: Sat, 06 May 2000 12:56:42 -0500
From: Richard Wham <>
To: "" <>

Great to hear from you. The Wham in the US that you referred to is probably Jim Wham, a cousin of my dad's. He lives in Centralia, Illinois, where I grew up and where my parents (both 90 years old) still live.

The Wham family DID indeed originate in Scotland according to our family traditions. However, for political, religious, or other reasons they moved to Ireland for a generation or two, and they sailed to America in 1797 - 1806 time frame. They sailed from Dublin, Ireland to Charleston, SC, US.

The first Wham here according to our information was Benjamin, born 1750 in County Deery, Ireland. His two sons were William and Joseph, both born in Ireland. Please see the overview of the Wham family on our web page -"".

Several Whams here in the US over the past s 50 years have tried to get information about our ancestors in Ireland and Scotland - without success. Records in that era were not complete. Our ancestors were strict Presbyterians, and it would appear that they were of average means. Any information you have about the Wham family would be greatly appreciated. The Wham Roots page is for all of us - you, me, and any other Whams. I'm sure we are all tied in together since it is such an unusual name.

Speaking of names, what is your understanding about the origin of the Wham name? Over the years there has been speculation that there used to be a "McWham" or "MacWham", but I have never seen anything to support that speculation. Do you have any information about this? If you or your father have ever put your family information into one of the various genealogy computer programs, please send me a GED file and I can put it on the Wham Roots page. Some year we will get the missing links!

How did you get my name? Have you seen the Wham Roots site? = ""
Please keep in touch. Hope to hear back from you soon.


Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 18:07:08 +0100
From: Paul Wham <>
To: 'Richard Wham' <>

Hi Dick

Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, Jim Wham will be the guy I was referring to. I was racking my brains trying to remember the name of the town that he lived in. I new it was something that sounded to me kind of unusual and futuristic.

My dad reckoned that many Whams were forced to leave Scotland and that some went to Ireland before emigrating to America, so that ties in with what you say below. I know that after the 1745 rebellion, during the Highland clearances, a lot of people fled the country and some changed their names to try and escape the persecution. I know that later in the 18th century, there was a great deal of poverty in the highlands and there was a large exodus of people to the Americas, so it is also possible that the Whams left for either of these reasons. It is also possible that some Whams changed their name to something else
because of the Highland Clearances. I certainly know that there are not many Whams now in Scotland or England and most of them are my relations!

Regarding the origin of the name, there is a Scottish surname Macilwham (I'm not sure about the spelling). Older records reveal it was probably spelt Macklequam (again I'm not sure of the spelling, but I will dig out the information when I get a minute). I think the Macklequams were affiliated to the Lamont clan. I don't know how much you know about Scottish history, but during the feudal days, smaller families would associate with, work for and fight for the bigger, land-owning clans. The theory which my dad came to was that the Macklequams changed their name to Wham, either because the had to distance themselves from their past for their own safety, or because it was not uncommon during the 18th and 19th centuries to change the spelling of your name, I think for social or fanciful reasons!

I'm not aware that there was ever a MacWham or McWham (Mac is the Scottish version and Mc is the Irish version), but as you probable know, it means "son of" so it is always possible. We never actually put any information into a genealogy system, but I have been meaning for some time to start working on the family tree, so if you can recommend one, I could get it too to ensure compatibility.

I got your name from the web site, which I found because I was thinking of registering my own domain name and my search showed that was already in use, so I went to it to take a look. It's really interesting being in touch with you. Thanks for doing all the work on the website, good for you! I am moving to a new house next weekend, so I am in the middle of packing and all my books and papers are now in boxes, so when I unpack again next week, I will pull out the various papers that I have and then I can send you some more information.

Best regards

Date: Sat, 06 May 2000 13:20:47 -0500
From: Richard Wham <>
To: Paul Wham <>


The following is from the works of Mary Wilma Wham Monroe, about 90 years old, , still living in Laurens, South Carolina. She has been interested in genealogy for 40 years. Her version in consistent with family tradition according to other sources, so I presume it is basically correct. This material is posted on the Wham Roots page. I would be very much interested in knowing as to how this information fits with what you know - religious persecution, Presbyterian, etc. in that era - 1700-1800.

"WHAM is an unusual name. In my lifetime, I have been thought to be Chinese, Spanish or Indian. However, the Wham family originally was from Scotland. On account of religious persecution, they removed from Durmant, Dumfries, Scotland to County Antrim, in northern part of Ireland so that they might have religious freedom. However, the family jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Religious intolerance in Scotland was very bad. The Whams were staunch Presbyterians, and to be a staunch Presbyterian in those days would be an impossibility to present day Americans. The Presbyterians in Scotland lived a VERY VERY STRICT life. They strictly observed the Sabbath - no cooking, no frolicking, no dancing, no working - only praying, reading the Bible and singing hymns.

And so these Whams (Scot word for SWAMP), went to Ireland either voluntarily or involuntarily, found themselves to be in the same situation they had been in Scotland. To them, freedom meant everything and they were determined that they would be free. My Whams, and all those others descended from the Whams who immigrated to South Carolina came from County Derry, Ireland - Londonderry to be exact, and according to the poem written by Joseph Wham, sold all their possessions, and they walked to old Cilton Town, spent the night there and walked on to Belfast. I know that when they reached Belfast and could look down on the harbor and saw the ships there, they must have had both misgivings about leaving Ireland, and hopes for a better life in America."

Mary Wilma Wham Monroe, 1996

Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 17:08:05 +0100
From: Paul Wham <>
To: 'Richard Wham' <>


This is fascinating. Do you know the source of her information, especially the bit about them coming from Durmant, Dumfries?
Re the religious persecution part, that is very difficult to comment on. The history of Scotland and its relationship with England and with religion, is quite complicated. I'll have a go at explaining it.

Christianity arrived in Scotland at around the 5th century AD, although it took time to spread and various heathen faiths survived for some time. Over time, Christianity became established in Scotland (in its catholic form) under the rule of the Stuarts, until about the early 1500s, when the Protestant Reformation arrived from Europe and started to gain some hold in both Scotland and England. Presbyterianism (the Scottish branch of Protestantism) became established in Scotland during the 16th century,
although they were pretty explosive times because (of course) religion and politics were closely linked. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament renounced the control of Rome and banned the saying of mass in Scottish churches.  The Scottish crown, strangely, remained catholic under Mary, Queen of Scots and continued to be catholic under James IV of Scotland (who later became James I of England, thus uniting the two kingdoms). When James became king of the new United Kingdom (and moved to London to rule from there), he tried to enforce the Episcopalian doctrine, which was not Catholic, but was fairly close and included the saying of mass. He and then his son King Charles, attempted to enforce the Episcopalian doctrine on the Scottish churches. The Scots were pretty ambivalent, in that they were happy to swear allegiance to the King, but rejected attempts to change them from Presbyterian worship. This situation carried on for some time, with the Scots creating the National Covenant in 1638, which accepted the king's rule, but rejected the idea of any religious customs being imposed from the crown and asserting the right of the General Assembly in Edinburgh to run the Presbyterian church. Scots nationwide signed copies of the Covenant, so it amounted to an early referendum.

The next part is presumably what Mary Wilma Wham Monroe is talking about, although the dates don't match up. Oliver Cromwell, the Englishman who led the roundheads during the English civil war, was supported by the Scots, as they believed he would in turn support the enforcement of Presbyterianism (via the Covenant) in Scotland. However, when Cromwell executed King Charles, the Scots turned against him and towards accepting Charles II as king, in particular because he agreed to sign the covenant. Cromwell invaded Scotland and technically defeated them, but the Scots still had Charles II crowned at Scone (the place where all the monarchs of Scotland were crowned). Cromwell invaded again a few years later and crushed the rebellion. So Scotland had started with their king being crowned as the first king of a united Britain and then had become an occupied country under an army of occupation.

The monarchy was restored in 1660, but Charles II no longer had any interest in supporting the Covenant, and put his own puppets in the Scottish parliament and re-installed the bishops in Scotland. It became illegal not to attend church services and at one point some people refused and thirty of them were hanged and the rest sent into slavery. This forced Presbyterianism underground and the worshipers, who were known as Covenanters, were forced to hold their services in secret in open-air services in the hills. The authorities tried to stop this, but the Covenanters armed themselves for defense and fought back. It got worse when Charles II died and his Catholic brother, James VII, succeeded him.  He made the worship of the Covenanters a capital crime and many were killed. However James was unpopular and was ousted in 1688. He was the last Stuart monarch.

The Dutchman, William of Orange, took over the British crown. In current times he is seen by some as a Protestant hero, but although he ousted a Catholic king, he had done it for political, not religious, reasons. He thought that the persecution of the Presbyterians by the Episcopalians was wrong. However, although many Presbyterians thought he would now enforce the Presbyterian doctrine, William disagreed and equally thought that any reverse persecution would be wrong.

I include this next part purely for interest's sake. The Scottish Church then settled down into more or less the form it is today: its constitution rejects the idea of the monarch as head (unlike the Protestant Church of England) but instead has an annual gathering of clergy and laymen (called the General Assembly), who elect a chairman, the Moderator. The Moderator is a parish minister who holds office for one year and then returns to normal parish duties. In the theology of the Church of Scotland, all men and women are equal in the site of God.  This was all more or less concluded by around 1692, which, taken with the statement in Mary Monroe's text, would imply that if the Whams fled Scotland some time during the mid to late 17th century, they then endured persecution in Ireland for a further 70 years or so before emigrating to America, which seems strange.

The Act of Union merged the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707 and parliamentary power for Scotland transferred from Edinburgh to Westminster in London. However the Jacobite (Stuart) line survived in the form of James, son of King James VI & I. He was exiled in France, but made claim to the throne. He had a brief and botched attempt at rallying an army in Scotland and fighting the English, but it was his son, Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, who made an arguably almost successful attempt at regaining the British throne in the Jacobite Rebellion. However, after many battles he was finally defeated by the English Duke of Cumberland at the battle of Culloden in 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie, with difficulty, fled Scotland and returned to France.

The Highland Clearances then followed. This dark process was started by Cumberland and then enforced by Act of Parliament in London, in order to root out any remaining rebellious vestiges of families who would not be loyal to the parliament. Many Highlanders, including women and children, were killed during this period, on the principle that the only good Highlander was a dead one. Some of the troops carrying out these deeds were actually Scots who had fought on the side of Cumberland.

At this time, many people fled either farther south or to Ireland, or changed their name to try and escape detection. So it is quite possible that the Whams either left for Ireland and America at this point (just after 1745), or later during the bleak times that followed. As I said in my other email, it is possible that the name was changed from the Scottish surname Macilwham (I'm not sure about the spelling). Older records reveal it was probably spelt Macklequam (again I'm not sure of the spelling, but I will dig out the information when I get a minute). I think the Macklequams were affiliated to the Lamont clan. During these feudal days, smaller families would associate with, work for and fight for, the bigger, land-owning clans. The theory which my dad came to was that the Macklequams changed their name to Wham, either because they had to distance themselves from their past for their own safety, or because it was not uncommon during the 18th and 19th centuries to change the spelling of your name, I think for social or fanciful reasons!

That was a rather long-winded answer to your question below, but I think one has to take the bigger picture into account to try and assess the origin of the Wham name and the reasons for the emigration. I can't vouch for the complete authenticity of everything above, but I have checked details in one of my history books and so it should be reasonably accurate (or as much as historical accounts ever can be)!

Just to add something else (and to confuse things even more!), the Scots have always spoken their own form of English, usually referred to as old Scots language. Some of it has died out, although contemporary Scots still use a fair number of words and expressions which are different from English as it is spoken in England. My English girlfriend still laughs at some of expressions which I use, even though we have been together to six years. See the work of Robert Burns for good examples.

Chambers have published a dictionary of this language and it contains a word "wham", "meaning a valley or hole in the ground". Mary Munroe refers to something similar in her text (swamp). So another possibility is that the Whams were the "people from the valley", or the "people who lived in holes in the ground!!!"

I hope you find the above useful. I got a bit carried away and have spent most of the day on compiling this, so I had better go and get on with my packing. Look forward to hearing from you!


Subject: Old Scots definition of "wham"
Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 18:06:38 +0100

From: Paul Wham <>

To: "Richard Wham (E-mail)" <>


I just found the Chambers Scots Dictionary, which I mentioned earlier. Here is what it says:
Wham, n. a swamp; a hollow in a field; a wide, flat glen through which a brook runs; a
there is also:-
Whaum, n. a blow; a bend. Cf. Wham.
Whaum, n. a hollow on a hill. Cf. Wham.



Subject:         Research on Wham
   Date:         Sun, 07 May 2000 12:02:13 -0500
   From:         Richard Wham <>
     To:         Paul Wham <>


!!!!!!!!!   Thank you so much for the wonderful email!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I realize that it must have taken many hours to compile and type this information.  I told my wife, who a few minutes ago came in and looked over my shoulder while reading your email, that I was on an adrenaline high because of your message!  It's hard to explain, but the results from the Wham Roots web site have brought forth a wealth of information, and if I can use this medium to get it distributed to various family members, I feel that I am making a great contribution.  The internet and email have truly revolutionized the way we live!  (And this includes Spell Checkers!)

You did not answer my question - Is it OK with you if I post your emails on our web site?  Now with the material contained in your second email (most recent), it is all the more important in my opinion to make this material available to all!  Do I have your permission - including you email address?

I'm sure I will have other questions after I have time to digest your most recent email.  In the meantime, have a great evening, and you will be hearing from me soon.  Hope you give permission to post your information.  Please!


Subject:         RE: Research on Wham
   Date:         Sun, 7 May 2000 18:22:53 +0100
   From:         Paul Wham <>
     To:         'Richard Wham' <>

Hi Richard

Thanks for that acknowledgment.  I got quite carried away with compiling the mail and spent more time than I had meant to, but what you just said made it completely worthwhile!

I agree with you about the internet; I find it fascinating.  I use it a lot, I suppose because I'm a very inquisitive person and I love discovering new things.  You and I would probably never have made contact and started this correspondence, for example!

 I'm fine with you posting my emails and email address.