Recorded in the varied spellings of Wakem, Wackham, Whackum, Wacombe, and Wacum, this is an English locational surname. It originates from any of three minor places called Wakeham near Aveton Gifford, in the county of Devonshire, or near Terwick in Sussex, or near Weymouth in Dorset. The derivation in all cases is from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal byname "Waca" meaning "watchful", plus "ham", meaning a farm or homestead. The surname was first recorded in the latter part of the 13th Century (see below), and early examples taken from the surviving church registers include those of Johanna Wakecam and Edrus Gaye who were married at Ugborough, Devonshire, on June 24th 1545, that of Agnes Wakeham who was christened at Rudgwick, Sussex, on July 15th 1575, and William Wakam, who appears in the Public Records for Cornwall in 1715. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry de Wakeham. This was dated 1296, in the "Subsidy Rolls" of Sussex, during the reign of King Edward 1st of England, 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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