This is an English locational surname of pre medieval origins. The village of Topham is near the town of Snaith in East Yorkshire, and it from here that all nameholders are understood to have originated. The translation of the village name and the subsequent surname is open to conjecture, but it seem likely that it was an amalgamation and shortform of the Danish-Viking word 'throp or thorpe', very common in the area, as a prefix onto the original Olde English pre 7th century 'ham'. If this is the case then both elements of the name have the same meaning of 'a farm or outlying place'. Alternative suggestions are that the prefix could be either the popular personal name of the period 'Toppa', or it could be literally descriptively locational to give 'top farm' or as in the village of Topcliffe also in Yorkshire, 'top of the cliff'. Locational surnames are by their very nature, 'from' names. That is to say that they were usually given to people who had left their original homes and moved elsewhere. The easiest form of identification of a 'stranger' in the small communities of the medieval period, was to call him or sometimes her, by the name of the place from whence they came. The surname is widely recorded throughout Yorkshire originally in the spellings of Topham and Toppham, although the latter spelling as in the recording of Johannis Toppham of Ripon on November 13th 1597, now seems to be extinct. Other recordings are those of Ellen Topham who married Christopher Smith at Pateley Bridge, West Yorkshire, on February 7th 1585, and William Topham, a witness at the church of St Michael-le-Belfry, York on December 21st 1604.
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