Recorded in many forms including Sawley, Sawlie, Sewley, Sowley, Souley, Solly, Solley, and Suley, this very interesting surname is believed to be generally English, but sometimes Irish or even French! It has several possible origins. The first is locational from any of the various English villages called Sawley in the counties of Derbyshire, and North and West Yorkshire. Secondly it may again be locational, but this time from the Gloucester village of Sudeley, known to have been recorded as Sowley and Sully. Thirdly it may be Irish, and a short form of Mac Solly. This surname is recorded as Solly in the register of taxpayers of County Monaghan in 1674. Fourthly the name may be of French origins from the word "sol". Introduced by the Normans after 1066, this was a topographic surname for someone who lived by a communal threshing-floor. "Sol" is a development of the pre 7th century word solum, meaning the ground floor. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving registers of the post medieval period include: William Soly, who was married at Ash near Sandwich in the county of Kent on September 25th 1508, and Alyce, the daughter of John Sollye who was christened at the same place on November 12th 1587. Other recordings include Anna Sawley of Kidwick in Yorkshire, christened there on December 13th 1579, Susanna Sowley, who married Walter Brind at the church of St John Zackary, in the city of London, on May 22nd 1790, and Cornelius Sewley, a witness at the church of St John, The Baptist, Shoreditch, on February 18th 1848. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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