This interesting surname is Anglo-Scottish although the roots are quite different between the two nations. If English it derives from Benham in Berkshire, or Binham in Norfolk, although the latter place has few directly associated recordings. The village names derive from the Old English pre 7th Century personal name 'Benna', of uncertain meaning, plus "hamm" meaning "river-meadow". If Scottish, it is again locational, but this time from 'Benholm', in the former county of Angus. This name is composed of the elements 'Benna' again, plus the English "holm" meaning "island", although not necessarily an island on a river or lake, it may have been a cultivated or drained area in a forest or marsh. The surname dates back to the mid 13th Century, (see below), and the spellings include Beenham, Beanham, Benham, Bennum, Bineham and Binham. Examples of the surname recordings include Sara Benam, daughter of Henry Benam, who was christened at St. Giles Cripplegate, London, on February 16th 1583, and Thomas Bineham, christened at St Anne's Soho, Westminster, on November 26th 1607. Other recordings include John, the son of John Benham, who was christened at St Giles Cripplegate on December 3rd 1615, and Lewis Binham, christened at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on April 20th 1645. Thomas Benham, together with his wife, name unknown, daughter Eliza and son Thomas, were Irish famine emigrants, who sailed from Dublin aboard the ship "James of Liverpool", bound for New York on June 9th 1847. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas de Bennum, which was dated 1262 - the rolls of the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249 - 1285. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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