All the Brinsmeads known to be alive in the world today descend from just one couple: Thomas and Agnys Brinsmead of St. Giles in the Wood in North Devon. However, they were not the Adam and Eve of the family. In the early 1600's when they were alive there were many Brinsmeads around; it is just that, so far, the link remains elusive. Their descendents can be seen as "the modern Brinsmeads"; their contemporaries and ancestors - the as yet unlinked Brinsmeads - as "the ancients".
Where were they?Early records show two main concentrations of Brinsmeads; those living on the Yorkshire - Lincolnshire boarder in North-East England and those living in Somerset and Devonshire, centered on the village of Bishop's Hull, next to Taunton, Somerset. There were several Brinsmeads living in and around London, but they appear to have been related to either the Bishop's Hull family or the Lincolnshire family. There were a variety of Brinsmeads living in specific villages in Devon and Somerset; some clearly related to the Bishop's Hull line, others of uncertain ancestry.
Brinsmead is even now a difficult name for people to spell. Back in the sixteenth century the spelling of surnames was much less settled. There are many spellings extent of the family name. Some of this was as a result of phonetic usage, some of it due to changes in style and some a lack of literacy. Common forms of the name in the 16th century included Brynsmeade, Brynsmead, Brindsmead and Brinesmead.
Not infrequently an M is substituted for the N. This is more often an error either in original spelling or in transcription than a spelling variation, since its occurance is inconsistant. The Latter Day Saints transcription project that resulted in the International Geneological Index (the IGI), while the family historian's best friend, does contain some doozies when it records Brinsmeads. These include Brinchmaid, Bringemate and many others, all quite understandable when one tries to decipher the original records from the 1600's, but nonetheless a challange.
The Myths of Family History
Despite the efforts of certain commercial houses to tell you there is a Brinsmead Coat of Arms, in thirty years of research we have found no evidence this there is or ever was. The plaques you can buy come with a tiny subscript saying "this is what a typical family crest might look like". Nor would one expect to find a Coat of Arms. The Brinsmeads were from the farming and merchant classes - many of them the proverbial "Ag Labs".
There are a variety of publications that puport to explain the origin of the name and its geoographical origin. None provide any convincing account. A few suggest the family was originally Irish. The evidence we have is that te Irish branch of the family almost certainly began with a Samual Brinsmead who first went to Ireland at the time of Cromwell's army.
There is a very large contingent of Brinsmade's in the USA. They do appear to be related, and the variation in the spelling clearly took place after the Brinsmead arrival in the US when a number of spellings were simplified. However, many of the trees puporting to trace this family back to different parts of England include wild speculation, most often cut and paste from dubious Ancestral File or IGI records that do not stand up to original parish record verification.
Organization of this Section
The further back one probes, the more difficult it becomes to obtain clear and complete records. Sometimes all we can get is a glimpe of family member, or an incomplete grouping too sparce to fit into a tree. We record these sightings on the page Random Sightings, always hoping to find more information to provide a stronger link. Some Ancients left quite a comprehensive documentary record; for example Hannah Brinsmead of St. Albans or Samuel Brinsmead of Dublin and Cork. For some locations there are family records going back several generations, for example for Witheridge in Devon or Messingham in Lincolnshire.
When we have sufficient information we have created specific pages for people, families or settlements, each listed and linked in the left margin. We will keep adding to the Random Sightings and trying to spin off new pages as our research brings new information to light.