This surname of Olde English pre 7th century origins, and recorded in the spellings of Blackman, Blakeman, and the rare Bleakman, is almost certainly not in most cases, a surname which means what it says. The Olde English for white or fair was "blaec" whilst the Olde English for black was "blaca", it can therefore be seen that even without the major problems of dialect and poor spelling in early records, the capacity for mistakes is obvious. That the surname is a personal descriptive name of a type beloved of the medieval period seems self evident, but whether it describes a dark, swarthy person, or a pale, fair haired, individual is open to doubt, but probably some of each! Whatever its meaning the name was clearly complimentary as is shown by the popularity of recordings from the beginning of recordings.One of these, perhaps the earliest of all is that of Blacheman fillius Aedwardi in the 1166 Pipe Rolls of Norfolk, however this is not a surname, simply that Blacheman was the son of Edward. It was in fact this lack of identity which created surnames in the following century (see below). Early examples of the surname include Henry Blacman in the Hundred Rolls of Oxford for the year 1273, and Robert Blakeman of Cambridge in the same year. Later recordings include in 1591 John Blakeman, christened on July 1st 1591 at the church of St James, Clerkenwell, whilst Humfrey Blackman, who embarked from London on August 10th 1635, was one of the earliest settlers in the new colony of Virginia, America. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Blakeman, which was dated 1206, in the Pipe Rolls of Surrey, during the reign of King John of England, known as "Lackland", 1199-1216. 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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