This unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from the place called Parnham in Dorset. The placename is recorded as "Perham" in the Dorset Feet of Fines for 1288, and as "Parnham" in the "Feudal Aids" Records of 1431. The name means "the homestead where pear trees grew", derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "pere", pear (tree), with "ham", homestead, estate, village. The same elements are found in the placename "Parham", in Suffolk; Parnham in Dorset shows the genitive case of "pere", pear, "peren". The surname development includes Elinor Parnem (1716, Somerset), and Mary Parnum (1747, Hampshire). The marriage of Henry Parnham and Ann Arby was recorded at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, in London on August 28th 1699, and Richard Parnham was christened on January 1st 1717 in Portsmouth. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robart Parnam (christening), which was dated February 24th 1565, St. Stephan's, Coleman Street, London. during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, "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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