Recorded in the spellings of Southern, Southan, Southorn, and the dialectals Sowman, Suman and Sumand, this is usually an English surname, but in some cases with a possible "French connection". It is a topographical and derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "sutherne", meaning southern. The surname has two possible interpretations; firstly, it may be a topographic term for someone who lived to the south end of a village or settlement. Similar surnames are Townend, Bitheway, and Easton. This type of surname was amongst the earliest created, since man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. Secondly it may be a regional surname describing one who had migrated from "the south". This could be the south of England, or it may be a vague term for somewhere to the south. Early examples of the surname taken from surviving church registers of the medieval and post medieval period include: John Southman of Sussex in the Subsidy Rolls of 1332, the marriage of Thomas Southerns and Anne Moor, at St. Mary's, Lichfield, Staffordshire, on October 13th 1754, the interesting recording of Simeon Soumaine at the French Huguenot church, Threadnedle Street, in the city of London, on June 10th 1685, Martin Sumen, a witness at St Andrews Holborn on May 23rd 1707, and Thomas Sowman, a witness at the church known as St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on June 5th 1808. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Geoffrey le Sutherne. This was dated 1243, a witness at the "Assize Court" of Staffordshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, 1216 - 1272. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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