The surname has several
variants – Balkcom, Bolkcom, Balcom, Balkcum, Balkum, Bawcom, Balcombe, Bawcom, Baucum,
Baucom, and others. Many of these can be attributed to phonetic spellings
of census takers or clerks for tax rolls; however, the Bau… spellings are
thought to represent a different branch of the family from that of
the Bal… and Bol… spellings (McLaurin).
The spelling Balkcom came to be used by one branch of the “southern”
family – the descendants of Baruch Balkcom who moved from Massachusetts to
North Carolina before 1755, and then to Georgia and Alabama beginning in
the early 1800s. Of those who continued to live in North Carolina,
the spelling Balkcum was most often used, particularly by descendants of
Hester Balkcum d 1843, who lived in North Carolina in the 1800s and on.
Official records until the mid-1800s mix the
spellings, sometimes even within a single document. Before 1900 it seems that most
in the Georgia-Alabama Balkcom family had settled on how they wanted their name to
appear. In an 1873 Homestead Affidavit in Dale County, Alabama, James
Balkcom signed his name as such. The clerk who filled out the form went
back over the filled-in form and overwrote his earlier spelling Balcom to
make it Balkcom. In 1881, in a land patent issued to James “Balcom” of
Dale County, Alabama, the clerk made an amending notation at the bottom,
“Issue patent in name of James Balkcom, as per signature”.
These are the more recent
spellings. It appears that the family took its name from the village
Balcombe in Sussex County, England. One of the earliest of the Balkcom
family in America (arriving before 1664) was Alexander Balcombe or Balcom.
He is alleged to have been from Sussex, and the earlier mentioned Baruch
Balkcom who migrated to North Carolina was his grandson.
Sussex names are Saxon for the
most part, so would date from the mid-5th century to the 11th
century. Sussex was originally Suosexe, meaning the land of the South
Saxons. According to Leslie Fairweather
in his book on the history of the village Balcombe: “It seems likely
that the name is derived from Bealda’s cumb, meaning Bealda’s valley.
Bealda would have been the chief Saxon of the area; a cumb or coombe is
[old English] a valley on the flank of a hill. The awkward sound of
Bealderscumb would, over the years, have been contracted to Balcombe [It
has had many different spellings over the years; Balecumba (1121);
Balecumbe(e) (1272, 1292, 1327); Belecumbe (1279); Baldcombe (1279);
Baldcomb (1284); Baulcombe (1639); Bawcombe (1688); Bolkham (1715)]. In
America, where the Balcombe family emigrated, [it was] shortened to Balcom.”
other possible derivations: “Judith Glover, in The Place Names of
Sussex, believes it means evil valley from the old English ‘beaulu
cumb’. She thinks some unpleasant happening – perhaps an accident or
murder – has been associated with the settlement. Another derivation may
be ‘Balca’ a ridge, ‘ham’ a dwelling; dwelling on a ridge.”
The latter theory appears in
general books listing surnames. If there's anything to this
one, it would also indicate Saxon influence. Place names ending in
-ham are indications of Germanic, or Saxon, settlement.