This is an ancient English surname. It is locational from any or all of the hamlets called Southey as in Southey near Culmstock, in Devonshire, Southey Green in Essex, Southey Wood, believed to have been a lost medieval village in Northamptonshire, and Southey in Ecclesfield, in the former West Riding of Yorkshire. Curiously the name means 'South Island' from the pre 7th century 'suth-eg'. In ancient times much of the land was fen or marsh with dry areas known as islands, on which stood, for obvious reasons, any villages and hamlets. Later in the Medieval Period the flat lands of England were drained, and many of the villages who may have survived by fishing, disappeared as the inhabitants moved off to other areas in search of work. In this case the earliest known recording is that of Peter de Suthag of Yorkshire in the year 1219, whilst John Ofthesuthey appears in the Tax Rolls of Essex in 1315. Robert Southey wrote the first definitive biography of Lord Nelson soon after his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and even today this biography is a highly regarded work.
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