Recorded in many forms as shown below, this is an English surname. It is locational from the town of Cheltenham, in Glocestershire, and reflects the varied local dialectal influences over the centuries. The place is recorded very early, being in the charters known as the Saxon Chartulary of the year 803 a.d. in the spelling as "Celtanham". Later it is recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as "Chinteneham", and in the Pipe Rolls of the county in 1156 it is as Chileham. It is probably from this spelling that many of the later surnames were created. However spelt the name means "the water meadow by the hills", from the ancient British (pre-Roman) word "celte", meaningf hill, and the Olde English pre 7th century word "hamm", which described a low-lying meadow on a stream. Locational surnames were acquired either by the local lord of the manor, or more usually by those former inhabitants of a place who moved to another area. Thereafter they were best identified by the name of their birthplace. Regional and dialectal differences and varying standards of literacy subsequently gave rise to variant forms of the original name. These spellings include Chellam, Chelam, Chelnam, Cheltnam,Chellnam, Chillam, Shillam, Shillan, Shillom and Shellum! Early examples of the surname recordings include the marriage of Thomas Shillam and Agnes Heaven, on November 9th 1577, at Kings Stanley, and the christening of Edward Shillan at Minchinhampton, on October 23rd 1686. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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