This is almost certainly an English surname from the county of Devon. If so it is locational and probably from the village of Up Ottery, near the market town of Honiton, in East Devon or from living by the River Otter, or possibly even from the town of Ottery St Mary, or the villages of Venn Ottery or Mohuns Ottery, all found in the county. The first recording of the river is as early as the year 714 a.d. at the very begining of surviving written records, and it does mean "otter river". The surname is rare, but at various times over the past seven centuries has been recorded in a variety of spellings including Oter, Otter, Atrey, Otry, Otrey, Ottery, Owtrey and possibly others, although it would seem that only Ottery, a spelling which seems to have first been used in the 18th century, surviving into the 21st century. Locational surnames are usually "from" names. That is to say names given as easy identification to a person who had left his or sometimes her, original homestead to move somewhere else. This could be the next village, but was often some distance away, and hence the tendancy for variant spellings. As it happens the first church recording in Devonshire that we have was close to home and yet given a wholly different spelling! This was James Owtrey whose son Thomas was christened at Honiton in 1572, actual date not known, whilst half a century later we have William Otrey at South Molton, on November 29th 1625, and later still, William Ottery who was married to Marry Venn at the port of Brixham, on December 31st 1713.
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