Recorded in many forms including By, Bye, Buy, Buye, Bwy and Bwye, this is a surname of Olde English pre 7th century origins. It is residential, and describes one who lived by a 'byge'. This was a prominent bend of a river, or perhaps a feature of the countryside such as a hill or rock outcrop, which may have appeared to be distorted in someway. It is unlikely to have referred to a bend in a road, although this is possible as in these early times original Roman roads from the 3rd century were still in use.In its spelling as 'By' the surname is the shortest in the British registers, and is one of a tiny group consisting of only two letters. Originally there were several others such as Ea and Ay, meaning one who was resident by a river, but most are now extinct. The late Professor Reaney considered that this name may in some instances have been a personal name, and if so examples may be Thomas filius Bye of Cambridge in the Hundred Rolls of 1279, and John Bye also of Cambridge in 1327. All other examples of the surname at this period refer to a person who was either de, de la, ate, or 'in the' bye, a clear reference to a location. These early examples include Alicia de Bly of Berwick in 1266, John ate Bey in the 1279 Hundred Rolls of Cambridge, and William in the By in the Subsidy Rolls of Somerset, for the year 1327. Later examples taken from various rolls include Robert Bye, who married Susan Martin at St Antholins church, London in 1568, and Philip Bwy, whose daughter Elizabeth was christened at St Mary-le-Bone, on July 26th 1741. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugh de la Bye. This was dated 1243, in the Assize Court registers of the county of Somerset, during the reign of King Henry 111rd of England, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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