The Scottish/English border was a tract of rugged territory stretching from Carlise in the west to Berwick in the east. The name Elam is one of the oldest border surnames or clans. Ancient manuscripts such as the Exhequer Rolls of Scotland, the Inquisitio, the Ragman Rools, the Domesday Book, Acts of Scottish Parliaments, baptismals, parish records, and cartulaaries, and tax records, were researched. The name Elam was first found in Berwickshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 AD.
Although the name Elam appeared in many references from time to time, the surname was shown with the spellings Ellem, Ellim, Ellam, Ellames, Ellams, Ellems. These changes in spelling frequently occurred during a person’s own lifetime, or between father and son. Simple errors by scribes and church officials occurred when they spelled the name as it sounded. The same person was often born with one spelling, married with another, and on his gravestone, yet another.
The family name Elam is believed to be descended originally from the Boernicians. This ancient founding race of the north was a mixture of Scottish Picts, Angles, and Vikings, a race dating from about the year 400 AD.
Their territories ranged from Edinburgh in the north, southward to the North Riding of Yorkshire in England.
Their territories ranged from Edinburgh in the north, southward to the North Riding of Yorkshire in England. From 400 A.D. to 900 A.D, their territory was overrun firstly by the Ancient Britons, then the Angles from the south, and, finally the Vikings, Picts, and Dalriadans from the north. By 1000 A.D., however, the race had formed into discernible Clans and families, perhaps some of the first evidence of the family structure in Britain. This area produced strange nicknames such as the Sturdy Armstrongs, one of whom, Neil, was the first to colonize the moon, the Gallant Grahams, the Saucy Scotts, the Angry Kerrs, the Bells, the Nixons, the Famous Dicksons, the Bold Rutherfords, 4heBudding Somervilles, and most of the names ending in “son”.
Emerging from this distinguished circle is the surname Elam and the earliest records were found in Berwickshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at Longformacus near Coldingham. Henry Ellom rendered homage to King Edward I of England on his brief conquest of Scotland in 1296. Malaseus Ellam was Vicar of Forgund in 1463. They migrated south to the Liverpool area in England, and acquired Allerton Hall in that city. The family seat remained however at Slichthouss in the barony of Bonkle in Scotland. They also acquired lands in the barony of Butterdene, and became one of Berwickshire’s distinguished families. Notable amongst the family name during the early history was Henry Ellem of Berwickshire.
The Clans or families to the north of the border became Scottish after about the year 1000, and to the south they became English. However^ they would continue to be united clans, powers unto themselves, owing little allegiance to either Scotland or England, having territories and interests obi both sides of the border
The conflict between these aggressive families became so great that in 1246 A.D., six Chiefs from the Scottish side and six Chiefs from the English side met at Carlisle and produced a set of laws for all the border territory. These were unlike any laws prevailing in England or Scotland or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. For example, it was a far greater offense to refuse to help a neighbor recover his property, wife, sheep, cattle, or horses than it was to steal them in the first place. For refusal of assistance, a person could be hanged on the instant, without a trial. Whiles clans were on this “hot trod”, from which we get the modem expression “hot to trot”, they were protected from almost all eventualities. Many of the descendants of this border area have enjoyed the distinction of claiming to be descended from cattle thieves and horse stealers, little realizing this was the way of life amongst the border people who, ironically, earned nicknames such as the Haughty Humes, the Worthy Watsons, the Proud Setons and the Jingling Jardines.
In 1603, the unification of the crowns of England and Scotland under, James VI of Scotland found it expedient to disperse the “unruly border clans”. In 1587, an Act of Scottish Parliament had condemned certain border families for their lawlessness. Scotland was moving toward breaking up the old “border code”.
Hence, the Border Clans, largely the Strathclyde Britons on the western border, and the Boemicians on the Eastern Border Marches were dispersed to England, northern Scotland, and to Ireland. Some were banished directly to the Colonies.
In Ireland, they were granted lands previously held by the Catholic Irish. They signed an “Undertaking” to remain Protestant and faithful to the Crown. There is no evidence that the family migrated to Ireland, but this does not preclude the possibility of their scattered migration to that country.
Gradually becoming disenchanted with life in Ireland many of these uprooted families sailed aboard the armada of sailing ships known as the “White Sails” which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships often arrived with only 60 to 70% of their original passenger list, many dying of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, or smallpox.
In North America, some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name Elam, of that same Clan or family, were Charles Ellam who settled in Philadelphia in 1858.
These migrants became the backbone of the first settlements from Maine to the Cumberland Gap. In Canada, they settled Nova Scotia, the St. Lawrence, and the Ottawa Valley. During the American War of Independence, those loyal to the Crown moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists. Meanwhile, the family name Elam provided many prominent contemporaries, and the family continued to make an important contribution to the political and cultural lift of the societies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Note: © 1998 Swyrich Corporation, used without permission.