Newcomb, Newcombe, and All That Jazz

There are many variations on the spelling of this name, which include: Newcombe, Newcom, Newcomen, Neucomen, Neucome, Newcome, Neucum, Neucom, Nucum, Nucumb, Neukomb, Newkomb, Neucombe, Neucomb, Newcum, and Newkombe.

The earliest recorded person of this name in North America, is John Newcomen, who was the victim in the first murder among the colonists. John Billington, who had been a Mayflower passenger, was hanged for killing Newcomen in 1630. Billington had long been a trouble maker in the Plymouth colony. The reason for the murder is unclear, but it may have been the result of a long-standing feud between the two men. Although Billington and his family, as members of the original settlers of the Plymouth colony, are well documented, nothing further is known about Newcomen
From Bethuel M. Newcomb’s 1924 book:
The name Newcomb is said to be of Saxon origin, combe signifying a low situation, a vale, a place between two hills. Newcombe, Newcomes is defined by Halliwell as “‘strangers newly arrived’; but the family of this name, who trace back to Hughe Newcome, of Saltfleetby, Co. Lincoln, temp. Coeur de Lion (1189-1199), are not parvenus in this or any other sense. The name is doubtless the same as Newcombe, though the locality from which that is derived is not known.”
Names beginning or ending with comb, which in the ancient Celtic signified a low place or situation, are favorite names in Somerset and Dorset, but especially in Devonshire. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 22, p. 29.)
In early records in this country the name is found written Newcom, Newcome, Newcomb, Newcombe, Newcum, Newkum, Neukom, Newchum, Nucom, Nucome, Nucomb, Nucombe, Nucum, etc.; in some instances in two or more ways in same document; now it is almost invariably written Newcomb. The Newcombs residing in Canada generally use the final e, while nearly all residing in the United States omit it.
Certain writers contend that the name Newcomb is of German origin, and while it is a fact that a similar name is found in Germany and Switzerland, the spelling has materially changed from that of early date. A party of Swiss and Germans settled in Lancaster Co., Pa., in 1720, among them was one Peter Newcomat; a land owner in the same county, 1764, was John Newcomer.
There are numerous Newcomers in the United States, and those personally known to the writer are of German origin and in no instance has the writer found this spelling among English immigrant stock. Again, the name is found in the very early records of England soon after the period when surnames were being adopted by reason of change of government from Tribular to more modern methods. History informs us that names did not become hereditary till after the time of the Norman Conquest, 1066. Even in the 11th and 12th centuries hereditary names were uncommon. It was not till the 14th and 15th centuries that the lesser people assumed the dignity of surnames as such.