This interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical name for someone whose home was by a village or homestead. The derivation of the name is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "bi" (Middle English "by"), by, beside, and "ham", a village, estate, manor, homestead; hence, the name would probably have been given to someone living just outside the village or homestead. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. The surname is mainly found in the Norfolk-Suffolk area, and in the modern idiom the surname can be found as Biham and Byham. Recordings of the surname from English Church Registers include: the christening of Margarite, daughter of Thomas Byham, on November 1st 1590, at Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk; the marriage of Oliver Biham and My Miller on April 16th 1596, at St. Giles', Norwich, Norfolk; and the marriage of Thomas Byham and Anne Daye at Layham, Suffolk, on June 10th 1621. One of the earliest settlers of the name in the New World was Nathaniell Byham, aged 14 yrs., who departed from the port of London aboard the "Blessing", bound for New England, in June 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Byham, which was dated October 8th 1563, a christening witness at the Church of Snodland, Kent, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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