This surname, recorded in English church registers from the late 16th Century, under the variant spelling Sowthway, derives from the old English pre 7th Century "suth", old German "sud", south, plus the old English, old High German "weg", a road or path, and is an Anglo-Saxon topographical name for someone who lived by a path to the south of a village or settlement. The name may also be locational from a place in the Wells rural district of Somerset called Southway. Since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages, topographical surnames were among the most widespread. Locational names were originally given as a means of identification to those who left their village or place of origin to settle elsewhere. Henry, son of Bartholomew Sowthway, was christened in St. Botolph, Bishops Gate, London in 1597 and on May 2nd 1605 John Southwaie and Creset Gymlett were married in North Petherton, Somerset. The marriage of Henry Southway to Martha Bussard took place in St. Gregory by St. Paul, London on December 21st 1628. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elizabeth Sowthway, which was dated January 13th 1590, St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, "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.
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