This very unusual and interesting name is of medieval English origins. It is locational from a now lost medieval village in the county of Devonshire called in the 13th century "Melehewis". The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th century words "maele", meaning brightly coloured, and "hiwisc", a hide of land. A hide was an area considered suitably large for a family of four to subsist on, or roughly the area that could be ploughed by one plough in one year, whilst "brightly coloured" in this sense may have a transferred meaning of "good land". The village is recorded in the register of Hundred Rolls along with Chagkford, Churiton, Eghbeare and Foleford. Locational surnames usually developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, often to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. Spelling being at best erractic and local dialects very thick, soon lead to the development of "sounds like" spellings. In this case spellings of the name include: Melheuse, Mellhewes, Melhuse, Mellhush, Mellhuish and Mellish. Early examples of recordings from Devonshire church registers include: John, the son of Thomas Melhuish, who was christened on November 10th 1603, at Woodbury; whilst Humfrie, the son of John Melhuish, was christened on January 7th 1626, at Sandford; and Robert Melhuish married Agnes Rowe on November 15th 1636 at Stockleigh English. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elinora de Melhywys. This was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls" of Devonshire during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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