This is an English medieval locational surname. It originates from the village in former times known as Le Whitewhom, but is now Whitwham, in the county of Northumberland. First recorded in the year 1317, Le Whitewhom translated as the valley of the light grass, and refers to a summer grazing area. From the Old English 'hwita - wham', the latter is a dialectal form of cwm or cumb meaning a valley. The surname is not apparently recorded in Northumberland at all,being centred on the county of Lancashire and to a much lesser extent, Yorkshire. This suggests that the original village in Northumberland was probably cleared in the 15th century through changing agricultural practice, or possibly to escape from the raiding Scots, who pillaged as far south asthe city of York. In leaving their original homestead, the villagers adopted or were given as their surname the name of the village. Spellings being at best erratic and local accents very thick lead to the creation of the variant forms. Examples of recordings taken from early church registers include Mychaell Whytwham of Halifax on September 10th 1581, and John Whitwhame of Burnley, on April 15th 1562. Other spellings include Whitewham, Whitwhame, Whittwam, Whitwham, Whitewam, and Whitwand, Joseph Whitwand, of Newcastle on Tyne, Northumberland, being christened there on March 5th 1637. The first recorded spelling of the family name in church registers may be that of Alice Whitewhame. This was dated September 23rd 1563, when she married at Burnley, Lancashire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, 1558 - 1603. 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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