This most interesting surname is of Old Scandinavian origin, and is thought to be a locational name from one of the estimated seven to ten thousand villages and hamlets which have now disappeared. The prime cause of these "disappearances" was the enforced "clearing" and dispersal of the former inhabitants to make way for sheep pastures at the height of the wool trade in the 15th Century. Natural causes such as the Black Death of 1348, in which an eighth of the population perished, also contributed to this phenomenon. The original place, believed to have been in Yorkshire, is composed of the Old Norse "sviethinn", Middle English "swithen", burnt, land cleared by burning, and the Old Norse "bakke", Middle English "bank", a bank or slope. Early examples of the surname include: the marriage of Ambrosio Swinbank and Isabell Eyre on January 29th 1559 at Ecclesfield in Yorkshire; the marriage of Ambros Swynbanke and Alice Sheircliffe, also at Ecclesfield on July 17th 1568; the marriage of James Swinbank and Mary Philips on October 10th 1589 at Wensley, Yorkshire; and the marriage of Elizabeth Swidenbank and Moses Ingke on June 2nd 1611 at St. Michael-le-Belfrey, Yorkshire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Swynbancke, which was dated January 29th 1556, marriage to Jane Syluester, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, during the reign of Queen Mary, known as "Bloody Mary", 1553 - 1558. 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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