This surname of GREENHAM was an English habitation name from a place near Thatcham in the County of Berkshire, so called from the Old English word 'grene' and 'hamm' (water) literally meaning the dweller by the meadow or homestead by a river or lake. Local names find their origins in the villages, towns and areas where people were born, or from the land they owned. In the Middle Ages, a man was identified by his place of birth and almost every city, town and village existing medieval times has originated one or more family names. Anyone leaving his birthplace would be known to new friends and neighbours by the name of his former residence, his birthplace, or the land he owned. Early records of the name mention Simon de Gryndham, who was documented in 1268 in the County of Somerset, and Ralph de Greneham appears in County Suffolk in 1275. The name was taken to Scotland by early settlers and there is a place GREENAN near Ayr, from where the original bearer may have taken his name. Surnames as we recognise them today are believed to have been introduced by the Normans after the Invasion of 1066. The first mention of such names appears in the Domesday Book and they were progressively adopted between the 11th and 15th centuries. It was the nobles and upper classes who first assumed a second name, setting them apart from the common people who continued to use only the single name given to them at birth. It was not until the reign of Edward 11. (1307-1327) that is became common practice to use a secondary name, originally a name reflecting the place of birth, a nickname, an occupational name or a baptismal name which had been passed on from a parent to the child, as an additional means of identification. The name is also spelt GRINHAM. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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