This unusual surname derives from either of two Norman personal names; firstly, from Otois which is composed of the Germanic elements "od" meaning prosperity, riches, plus "widis", from "wid", wide, or "witu", wood. Secondly, from the given name "Otewi" in which the second element is "wig" meaning war. The personal name appears as Otewi (1202) in the Assize Court Rolls of Lincolnshire, Otewicus le Poher (1221) in the Curia Regis Rolls of Sussex, and Otewi de Esthall (1228) in the Eynsham Cartulary, Oxfordshire.The surname dates back to the mid 13th Century (see below). Further recordings include Hugh Otewy (1319) in the Subsidy Rolls of London. Variations in the modern idiom of the spelling include Oty, Otty, Otey, Otye, Ottye, and Ottee. London Church Records show Richard Ottey who married Jane Hodges on May 30th 1572 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and the marriage of Joane Otey to John Burton on July 28th 1608 at St. Giles Cripplegate. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Otway, which was dated 1260, in the "Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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