It is very doubtful if any surname origins raises more controversy than Spel(l)man. In brief it can be English, German or Irish. The English name is Anglo-Saxon and therefore a development of the original German "spellar" which described a cleric or writer - one who could spell. In this case the name is recorded at least as far back as the 11th century when Goduine filius Spilemanni (Godwine the son of Spilman), was registered in the rolls of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in 1095. However this is not a surname, that came rather later, see below. In Germany the medieval surname form was usually Spielmann, but it was also found as Spelmann, so some English name holders may derive from German (Huguenot) refugees of the 17th and 18th centuries. In Ireland it is even more complex in that Spelman is a known anglicization of O'Spealain,(The scythe) as well as being an 18th century import from England. The name was originally found only in Connacht, but is now spread around the country. An early Irish recording is that of Elizabeth Spelman of Ballyhay, Cork on April 5th 1782. In England the usual spelling is Spillman, Spel(l)man being much rarer. An early example is Hierom Spelman who married Anne Burles at St Giles Church, Cripplegate, London on May 6th 1629, whilst on November 6th 1846, Elleanor Spellman, aged 20, was a passenger on the ship New York, from Liverpool to New York. It is not clear whether she was English or Irish. Cardinal Spelman, Catholic Archbishop of New York (1889-1972) was of Irish Origin. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Spileman, which was dated 1167, in the pipe rolls of Hampshire, 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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