This famous German surname is recorded in a wide variety of spellings including Seelbach, Seilbach, Selbach, Selbacher, and others. It is topographical and derives from the ancient pre 7th century words 'bach' meaning a brook or stream and 'sel', a swamp or marsh - the stream though the marsh. Given that drainage in the 'Dark Ages' was at best rudimentary, and that rivers and streams were in most parts of Europe the principal, if not the only method of travel, such a description, was not surprisingly quite popular. As a result 'topographical' surnames, that is to say those names which derived from natural features in the landscape, were amongst the first to be created in the developing countries. Also as fewer than five in one hundred people could write their name, and few indeed could read, it is not surprising that variant spellings of surnames were developed. This is a good example, and it is also one which has some very early recordings. These include Katherine Von Selbach, baptised at Krottorf, on May 1st 1530, Anna Seelbachs, who married Diderich Sasseroth at Hamm Alkenkirchen, Rheinland, on March 26th 1702, and Albert Seelbach, a witness at Buir Kerpen, Rheinland, on February 18th 1757. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Eberich Selbach, which was dated 1466, recorded as the 'Stadtschreiber zu Speyer', Germany, during the reign of Emperor Frederick 111 of the German Empire, 1442 - 1493. 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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