Recorded as Elam, Ealam, Ellam, Ellams, Ellom, Elum, Ellum, and Elham, this is an English surname. It is locational either from a village called Elham, in the county of Kent, or more probably given the large number of recordings in that county, from a now 'lost' village in Yorkshire. The place name and hence the surname is comprised of two separate elements. The first being "alor", an early pre 7th century Olde English word for alder trees, with "ham" as the second element meaning a homestead or small village. Elham is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Aham, and as Elham in the pipe rolls for 1182. Locational surnames are usually "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original home, and moved somewhere else. In so doing they took, or were given, for easy identification, the name of their former home. Spelling being at best indifferent, and local dialects very thick, often lead to the development of alternative spellings. In this case examples taken from surviving church registers include Henrie Elum, christened at Brodsworth, Yorkshire, on May 6th 1576, Charles Elam, who was christened at Snaith, Yorkshire on August 19th 1576, Rose Ellam, who was christened on July 17th 1603, at St. Mary the Virgin, Dover, James Ellam who married Agnes Thorne at Dewsbury, on June 21st 1636, and John Ellum, a christening witness at Emley, near Huddersfield, on August 5th 1832. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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