This interesting name, found mainly in the northern and north-western counties of England, is of Old Norse origin, and is a locational surname deriving from any one of the various places called Sowerby in Cumberland, Lancashire, Westmorland and Yorkshire. The places in Lancashire are recorded as "Sorbi" and "Sourebi" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and those in Yorkshire as "Sorebi", also in the Domesday Book. All the places share the same meaning and derivation, which is "the farm or village in marshy ground", from the Old Norse "saurr", mud, sour ground, with "byr", farm, settlement. The development of the surname includes the following early examples: Richard Surby (1381, London), William Sourby (1381, Yorkshire), and Isabel Soreby (1485, ibid.), and the modern surname can be found as Sower(s)by, Sor(s)bie, Sor(s)by and Surby. One Francis Sowerby, of County Durham, was listed in the Register of Oxford University in 1609. A Coat of Arms granted to the Sowerby family of Cumberland and Hertfordshire is a barry of six black and red, on a chevron between three lions rampant, silver, as many annulets, red. The Crest is a lion rampant, silver, langued red. 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 "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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