This interesting and honourable surname is Scottish. Recorded as Wem, Weme, Wemes, Weems, Wemm, Wemyss and possibly others, it is locational from the places called Wemyss in the counties of Fife and Argyll. It is said that the meaning is "cave" from a pre 10th century Old Gaelic word. Locational surnames are usually "from" names, or surnames given to people after they left their original homes to move somewhere else. However there are exceptions, in particular in the north of Scotland and Cornwall. Here locational surnames are given to people because they do live in a particular place. This can cause problems for postmen, and furthers the cause of nicknames! This ancient surname dates back to the mid 13th Century, (see below) and early recordings include David Wemyss, who in 1286 was chosen as ambassador for Scotland to Norway, whilst David de Wemes was a juror on an inquisition held at Perth in 1304. The name has travelled far south and a good example is that of Thomas Weme who married Joyse Kendall at the church of St. Bartholomew the Less, city of London, on February 15th 1579, whilst Margaret Wem, was christened at St. Mary Whitechapel on November 27th 1592. The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Michael de Wemys. He was a charter witness, dated 1261, in the charters of the Hospital of Soltre, Trinity College Edinburgh, during the reign of King Alexander 111rd of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. 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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