This uncommon name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname, reflecting local dialectal influences, from the town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. The place is recorded very early, in the Saxon Chartulary of 803, as "Celtanham", and appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Chinteneham", while in the 1156 Pipe Rolls of Gloucestershire it is "Chilteham". The name means "the water meadow by the hill(s)", derived from the ancient British (pre-Roman) hill name "Celte", with the Olde English pre 7th Century "homm, hamm", flat, low-lying meadow on a stream, or an enclosed plot, a close.Locational surnames were acquired by the lord of the manor, and local landowners, and especially by those former inhabitants of a place who moved to another area, and were thereafter best identified by the name of their birthplace. Regional and dialectal differences and varying standards of literacy subsequently gave rise to variant forms of the original name, as in the case of Shillam, also found as Chel(l)am, Chel(t)nam, Chellenham, Shillom and Shellum. Examples of the name from Gloucestershire Church Registers include: the marriage of Thomas Shillam and Agnes Heaven, on November 9th 1577, at Kings Stanley, and the christening of Edward Shillam at Minchinhampton, on October 23rd 1586. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Shillam, which was dated February 2nd 1566, marriage to Katerine Poole, at Woodchester, Gloucestershire, 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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