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.
The surname is registered with the Surname Society and the Guild of One-Name Studies.
The earliest written record of the 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.
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
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..