Recorded in many spelling forms including Chesham, Chesson, Cheson, Chessum, Chessun, Chesun, Chesam and no doubt others, this is an English locational surname of medieval origins. However spelt it originates from the little Buckinghamshire town of 'Chesham', the local dialects which existed in most parts of Britain until the First World war 1914 - 1918, ensuring the various spellings. The place name itself is probably pre-Roman, 'Cestreham', being recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, the world's first official place name gazetter. The place name itself derives from the Old English pre 7th century 'caester' meaning a 'heap (of stones)' but probably a reference to an earlier fortress now in ruins, and 'ham', a low-lying meadow by a stream. Locational surnames are 'from' names, that is to say that for most nameholders they were given to people when they left their original homes and travelled elsewhere. Unless the person had a specific job, Smith, Tailor, or whatever, the easiest form of identification was to call him or her by the name of the place from whence they came. Spelling being problematical and dialects 'thick', lead to the development of alternative spellings. Early examples of recordings include the marriage of Joan Chesson to John Cowley, at the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, London, in 1538, and John Chessum, married to Martha Howlett at the church of St Mary Aldermary, also city of London, in 1728. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Burchard de Cestreham. This was dated in the year 1200, in the Pipe Rolls for the county of Berkshire, during the reign of King John Ist of England. He was known by the nickname of 'Lackland' being the younger son of King Henry 11nd, and brother of the famous Richard, Coeur de lyon. John reigned from 1199 to 1216 and was heartily disliked. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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