There is a Richard Earlam in London who has been researching the origins of this name as far back as he can go, using parish records, IGI, and civil registration records and these are his opinions so far on the origins of this name and variations:
1. The earliest record so far is a Margaret Irlam in Prestbury, Cheshire 1569
2, The Mormon Centre computers(assumably England) list all Irlam/Earlam/phonetic variations together.
3. Starting in the 1600's, the lines appeared to separate into Irlam and Earlam, etc variants.
4. During the period 1580-1830, the families were concentrated in the Flixton, Lancashire area, between the rivers Irwell and Mersey, about 175 people with sunames E-variants and over 400 with the Irlam spelling.
Both lines have descendants in Australia, Canada, US. I personally don't know the connections between the two however some of my Earlam family has seemed to appear in soome of the places that are some Irlams as well, so who knows?? (Meadville, PA, Alberta Canada)
Richard is a descendant of an Earlam line, and thus has focused much of his information on that line, but is interested in connecting with anyone who may have information on the Irlam variation as well. He has a very detailed multi-page resport on the town/area Irlam, etc. He is not online, but I help contact him if needed. .
There is also an Earlam researcher in Australia as well if there is interest there. .
Hope this helps, Pam G. in CA