In an unusual way this is one of the most popular surnames. There are many variant spellings ranging from Belham to Bollum, Bollam, Bollom and Belhomme, and it is the later form which gives the greatest clue as to the origin. The name is French, and was probably introduced by William The Conqueror in 1066. It is also one of the earliest of all surnames recorded in the British Isles. It derives from 'Bel homme', (the good man) and as such was a nickname given to an honest person, or perhaps one who performed good deeds. However it must also be pointed out that Medieval humour was extremely robust, as will be appreciated by any reader of Chaucer, and the famous 'Canterbury Tales', and therefore the opposite meaning could apply! This is one of the amusing aspects of the time, that people did not seem to take the meaning of their surname seriously, however vulgar, it was only later with the coming of the Reformation and the growth of Puritanism, that such sensibilities came to the fore. The fact that this surname has survived indicates its popularity even with the Puritans, and examples of the recordings include William Belhom of Cambridge in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of that county, whilst Robert Bollom married Isabella Hooper at the famous church of St Mary le Bone, London, on July 13th 1680. Another Isabella, this time Isabella Bolam married John Newell at Christ Church, Spitalfields, London, on July 23rd 1789, whilst Maria Bollam married Edward Ludlam at St Matthews, Bethnal Green, on April 10th 1802. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Reginald Belhome, which was dated 1180, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Sussex, in England, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189. 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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