This ancient English surname is residential for someone who came from 'the south' to another part of the country. Recorded in the surname spellings of South, Sother, Sotheron, Southers, Southern, etc. the derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century "suth" meaning "south", similar regional surnames being North, East and West. In the period after the 1066 Norman Invasion through to the end of feudalism in the Middle Ages, people were not encouraged to travel. Those few that did and particularly when they stayed, were given as easy identification the name of the place or region from whence they came, and this became their surname. Spelling being primitive and local accents 'thick' led to many variant forms of the same name. In this case early recordings include Robert de Sotherun in 1243 and Isabella South in the 1297 "Accounts of the Earldom of Cornwall", Henry Le Suthereen in the 1325 Court Rolls of Suffolk, and William del South of Yorkshire in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls. Amongst the interesting namebearers was John Souther or Southern, a poetaster to Queen Elizabeth 1st, Robert South, preacher to the court of Queen Anne in 1702, and Edward Lytton Sothern, (1856 - 1887) probably the first actor to have a world wide reputation. The coat of arms most associated with the family has the blazon of a red field, a silver chevron between ten bezants. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de la Sothe, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Devon", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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