This surname, with variant spellings Sorbie Sorsby, Sower(s)by, Sorbey etc., is of English or Scottish locational origin from any of the various places named with the Old Norse "Sourr", literally meaning "sour ground", plus the Old Norse "by", a village or homestead. The reference here is probably to infertile ground or marshy land on which the village was situated, and the places include Sowerby in Lancashire recorded as Sorbi in the Domesday Book of 1086; Sowerby in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and Sorbie in Wigtownshire, Scotland. The surname first appears on record towards the end of the 12th Century, (see below). Other early recordings include Richard Surby, (London pleas, 1381 and 1481 respectively). Gilbert de Sowreby who witnessed a charter circa 1268, is the earliest recorded Scotttish namebearer, while one, Peter Sorby in Dundee was charged with "aiding the English" in 1552. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Odierna de Sourebi, which was dated 1195, in the Pipe Rolls of Cumberland, during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "Richard the Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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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