This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from any of the places so called in Essex, Devonshire, Lincolnshire and Somerset. The place in Somerset appears as "Witeham" in the Domesday Book of 1086, while the place in Lincolnshire is recorded as "Witham", also in the Domesday Book. These placenames all have the same derivation, that is, they are composed of the Olde English byname "Wit(t)a", from "wit(t)", wits, mind, or the Olde English "wiht", bend, plus "ham", homestead, enclosure. During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took the name of their former village or hamlet, resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Early examples of the surname include Peter de Wytham, mentioned in the Feet of Fines of Essex in 1295, and John Witham, recorded in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Essex. One Thomas Witham (died 1728) was chaplain to James 11, and was superior of St. Gregory's seminary, Paris (1699 - 1717). The Coat of Arms most associated with the family depicts on a black shield a gold fess between three gold cinquefoils. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Warin de Wyhteham, which was dated circa 1272, in the "Feet of Fines of Essex", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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