This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is of locational derivation, from either Chesham in Buckinghamshire, which was recorded as "Caestaeleshamm" in the Anglo-Saxon Wills, circa 966, and as "Cestreham" in the 1086 Domesday Book; or from Chestham Park in Henfield in Sussex, which appeared as "Chesham" in the 1313 Feet of Fines of that county. The former placename is composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century "ceastel, cestel", a heap of stones, plus the Olde English "ham", village, homestead; while the latter placename in Sussex is composed of the Olde English "ciest", a chest, used here to mean a coffin or coffins found at an old burial place, and the Olde English "ham", as before. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often used their former village name as a means of identification, resulting in a wide dispersal of the name in a number of variant forms. The surname itself first appears at the beginning of the 13th Century (see below), and other early examples include William de Chesham (Wiltshire, 1297), and William Chessam (Sussex, 1525). William, son of John and Elizabeth Chessum, was christened at St. Martin in the Fields, London, on November 26th 1699. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Burchard de Cestresham, which was dated 1200, in the "Pipe Rolls of Berkshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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