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About the study

Welcome to the Sabey One-Name Study.

I have always been intrigued by my birth surname Sabey because it is quite unusual and has obscure origins.  It rhymes with baby, but is often mispronounced to rhyme with tabby.

At present I am in the process of digitising nearly 40 years of my late father's research in addition to my own. The aim of the study is to bring together all possible data, information and research relating to Sabey in order to share it with those who are also researching or have any interest in the surname.  As such, it will remain a work in progress and I welcome any contributions or comments.

Variant names

Sabby, Sabie, Saby

Name origin

The origin is uncertain, but many sources including The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland (Patrick Hanks, Richard Coates, and Peter McClure, 2016) say it is probably a reduced form of Sabin.  The Sabines were an ancient Italian tribe.

There is a seaport in Northern Denmark called Saeby.  Perhaps there is an ancient invader responsible for the surname?   My Sabey DNA Project may throw further light on the issue (see below).

History of the name

Early holders of the name include:

John Saby, 1524 in Subsidy Rolls (Finedon, Northants)

Francis Sabey, 1568 in IGI (Lichfield, Staffs)

Thomas Saby, 1634 in IGI (Bolnhurst, Beds)

Sara Saby, 1721 IGI (Great Staughton, Cambs)

Notable holder of the name

James Sabey (1834-1910) from Upper Caldecote in Bedfordshire, England sailed from Liverpool to New York in 1861 taking his wife and 4 children with him.   He settled in Utah and became a Mormon Pioneer.  His marriages produced over 20 children and many of those who bear the Sabey name in Canada and the USA can trace their ancestry back to James.

Name frequency

Research is ongoing, but Public Profiler identifies 226 individuals bearing the Sabey name in the 1881 Census for England & Wales. It also shows that by 1998 there were 239 name bearers.

There were 251 Sabey name bearers in the 1939 Register in England (Findmypast).

Distribution of the name

In the 1841 census, the highest percentage of Sabeys are centred around Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire.

By 1881, Kent and Middlesex also have a large proportion of Sabey name bearers. In Kent, brickmaking, cement-works and barge building to transport the goods that fuelled the London expansion, caused a movement of workers and the arrival of railways in the 1850s facilitated this mobility.

The 1939 Register shows the spread of the surname was more evenly distributed between the above counties, but also Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Surrey.

By 1998, according to Public Profiler, the strongest concentration was still in Bedfordshire and the surrounding counties, but also London.  The industry that pulled people to Kent was largely defunct by this time.  Pockets of Sabeys can also be found in Yorkshire, Dumfries and Devon.

These migrations have not only been seen across the UK but worldwide. As a result there are now established populations in USA, Canada and Australia.


A DNA project for the name Sabey and any variants has been set up with Family Tree DNA.  If you are a male Sabey and have had your Y-DNA tested, please seriously consider joining the Project as every holder of each variant spelling will form a vital part of the study.  If you are thinking of taking a Y-DNA test, contact us as the Guild offer a discounted FTDNA testing kit.


Link to Sabey Family Tree DNA Project

Sabey website under construction, please check again soon.