This name is of English locational origin from a place thus called in Durham, recorded as Softelawe circa 1200 in the Pipe Rolls of that county and as Softley in 'The Finchale Charters' relating to Durham. Alternatively, the name may be locational from Softley in Northumberland, recorded as Softeley (1277) - 'the place names of Northumberland', by A. Mawer. The name, in both cases, derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'Soft' referring to the soft spongy soil of the area, plus 'leah', translating variously as 'a low - lying meadow', 'pasture - land' or 'clearing'. The surname is particularly well recorded in Church Records of Durham and Northumberland from the mid 16th Century (see below). On November 25th 1593 Isabel Softley was christened in Morpeth, Northumberland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Anthony Softley, son of Ralph Softley, which was dated March 31st 1565, christened at St. Nicholas, Durham, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess 1558 - 1603. 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.
© Copyright: Name Origin Research 1980 - 2017