This name is of Northern English locational origin from a place thus called in Lancashire. Recorded as Chetam in the 1212 Fine Court Rolls of that county and as Chetham in Lancashire Inquests dated 1226, the name derives from the British word "ceto", ultimately from the old Celtic "kaito", a forest, plus the old English pre 7th Century "ham" translating variously as "village, estate, manor or homestead"; hence, "settlement by the forest". The surname was first recorded in the mid 13th Century, (see below). In 1394 one, Thomas de Cheteham appeared in the "Calendar of Inquisitiones" for Lancashire. The surname, with variant spellings Che(e)tam and Chetham, is widely recorded in Lancashire Church Registers from the mid 16th Century. On August 1st 1542 Ellis Cheetam; an infant, was christened in Middleton by Oldham. John Chetham was also christened in that parish. The christening of John, son of Richard Cheetham, took place in Prestwich on July 10th 1608. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey de Chetham, witness, which was dated 1246, in the "The Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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