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About the study
This study is currently focused upon the United Kingdom, with the intention of its early expansion to worldwide status. The surname is widely accepted as being locative for the ancient town of Rotherham, in South Yorkshire.
Historically (1881 Census), the name was most heavily concentrated in Derbyshire (160 per million) with other counties having fewer than half that number. Nowadays, the distribution is more diverse, with East Yorkshire being the highest (149 per million), followed by Merseyside (134 per million) and County Durham (102 per million). The density in Derbyshire has fallen dramatically to 94 per million.
The most common variant is Rotheram (without the aspirate), although all variants of the name are considered to be deviant in character, i.e. derived from incorrect recording of the genuine spelling.
Other recorded variants include Rodirham and Roderham. The apparent variants Rudderham and Rudrum are strongest in Norfolk.
The earliest written record of the place name of Rodreham is contained in the Domesday Book (1086), which is thought to mean a "homestead or village on the River Rother". The River name is rooted in the Celtic, meaning "chief river", coupled with the Old English ham, meaning village or settlement.
History of the name
It was Edward I who directed that people might take as a name the town or place of their birth. An early record of the surname appears in the Feet of Fines for Yorkshire, when in 1319 Adam de Rotherham, chaplain, granted the manor of Penistone and other lands in South Yorkshire to William Clarel and Agnes his wife. Then in 1322, Eustace de Rotherham, chaplain, granted the manor of Aldwark to the same William Clarel and Agnes.
The Sussex Feet of Fines, 1349, record that William de Roderham was involved in a conveyance of the manor of 'Perchyng' (par. Fulking, near Brighton), and in the Close Rolls for June 1356 William de Roderam is to be paid 10 marks by the Sheriff of Surrey for his wages.
In the Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls (Poll Tax) for 1379 in the "Villa de Rodirham", (i.e. the town of Rotherham) is recorded one Robertus de Roderham and Alicia his wife. Interestingly, this is the only record of the surname in the whole of the Strafforth Wapentake, i.e. South Yorkshire area. By 1672 and the collection of the Hearth Tax, there was no-one with the Rotherham surname or its variants to be found anywhere within the West Riding of Yorkshire.
There are approximately 1000 people named Rotherham in the United Kingdom. That means it is the 6,821th most common surname overall. Out of every million people in the United Kingdom, approximately 19 are named Rotherham. If the Rotherhams were a breed of dog, they would be close to being categorized as "endangered"!
Despite its English roots, the surname occurs most frequently in New Zealand (25 per million), the Horowhenua District having by far the highest density (176 per million) of anywhere in the World.
Distribution of the name
Currently, the surname occurs with the greatest frequency in New Zealand (25.39 per million), compared with the United Kingdom (19.27 per million) and Ireland (2.44 per million).