Recorded in several spelling forms including Swap, Swapp, Swep and Swepp, this is a Middle Engish 13th century occupational surname. It derives from the Olde English 'swepen', meaning 'to sweep', and was given to either an oarsman, one who worked the 'sweeps', or possibly to someone responsible for 'cleaning up'. This was unlikely to have been a chimney sweep, certainly not as we would know the term today, because few houses had chimneys in any recognizeable form before the 15th century. Occupational surnames were amongst the first to be given, but they did not become hereditary in many cases until the son continued the fathers trade. When this did not happen, the name 'died'. In this case we have been able to trace the development of the name since the 16th century through surviving church registers in London. These recordings commence with Thomas Swap, a witness at the chuch of St Katherines by the Tower (of London) on April 22nd 1624. Later recordings include Willian Swape, who is also recorded as William Swap, whose daughter Jane was christened at St leonards, Shoreditch, on January 10th 1790, and Joanna Swapp, who may have been the first in this spelling, and who married Henry Hayward at St James, Westminster, on May 22nd 1821.
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