This unusual surname recorded in the spellings of Sneezem, Sneezham, Sneesen, and Sneezum, is locational. It is one of a small, but important group of surnames which are dialectal, and which in most cases represent the original sound of a place name. This sound (and spelling) has often been lost over the passing centuries. In this case the original village was 'Sneatham' in Norfolk, as recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book for the county, and this is the modern Snettisham. The name translates as 'Snipe Farm' from the Olde English 'snite-ham'. Like the villages of Snetterton, also in Norfolk, and Sneachill in Worcester, this is probably a reference to an area where 'snipe' (the bird) were found in large numbers, although it is possible that the original owner was called 'Snipe'. Curiously although this is one of the earliest surnames ever recorded (see below) its history between the 12th and the 18th century is not proven. The surname is hardly ever recorded in Norfolk, and its 'centre' seems to have been Castle Hedingham in Essex where a John Sneezum first recorded at Castle Hedingham Independant Church on November 17th 1795 was the patriarch of a large family. On December 18th 1830 Jos Sneezham married Emma Staples at Mundon in Essex, and a year later the same person is recorded at the same church in the 'new' spelling of Sneezam when his son also called 'Jos' was christened. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Snetesham, which was dated 1161, in the pipe rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as 'The church builder', 1154 - 1189. 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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