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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

My interest in the family tree started one Christmas in the mid 1970's, when my father gave me the original 1860 marriage certificate of his great grandfather, Charles Southby. After going back two more generations I became stuck and I therefore widened my search. I then expanded it into a full one-name study on taking early retirement in 2000.
In early 2018, I established a Y-DNA study. It is hoped that this will confirm the link between the two branches of the Berkshire line, establish any link with the Kentish line, and explore possible links with alternate spellings such as Sotheby, and the Scandinavian Surby families.  

Variant names

The Southby lines have remained almost without variant since the early 1500's, the exception being Surby, which does occur in Berkshire in the sixteenth century and has existed in Kent since the eighteenth century.
One UK branch of the Kent line still uses the name Surbey, while one in North America uses Surby. A study of the US Census data of 1920 and 1930 also reveals a few individuals with the name Surby and born in Scandinavia.
The King's Visitation to Yorkshire in 1563 refers to a family in Pocklington variously as Southby, Sotheby, and Sudby. It is possible that these variants persisted in different branches of this family.

Name origin

The name is of Scandinavian origin meaning someone who lived south of the village. It has been suggested that it came with Danish Vikings settling in Lincolnshire in the ninth century. It would appear that the original name was Surby and that Southby is the Anglicised version.

Historical occurrences of the name

A Richard Southby was granted land in Buckland, Berkshire by Henry VII in 1501 and this family prospered down the years providing Members of Parliament, leading militia in the Civil War, being Justices of the Peace, and making successful marriages, even with minor royalty. The most notable recent member was Commander Sir Archibald Richard James Southby who, after a successful naval career, was MP for Epsom from 1928 until 1947 and was made a baronet in 1937. His family still hold the title.
A separate branch of this family can be traced back to Richard of Wales, who was buried in  Hinton Waldrist, just three miles from Buckland, in 1572. His son's will mentions his kinsman, John Southby, almost certainly the grandson of Richard of Buckland.
An apparently completely separate line of the family descends from John Southby or Surby, who died in Sevenoaks in 1782. Of his six children three were baptised Southby and three Surby. 

Name frequency

According to the 1881 Census, there were one hundred and ninety individuals in the UK with the surname Southby. At this time, there were also seven individuals in Canada, possibly up to twenty in Australia and New Zealand, but none in the USA.

Distribution of the name

In the mid sixteenth century, most of the Southbys lived in Berkshire in an area between Faringdon and Abingdon. This family gradually spread throughout Berkshire and into Wiltshire and Gloucestershire as well as into London. Another line then appears in the Sevenoaks area of Kent in the mid eighteenth century, probably as a variant of Surby, spread to Greenwich and Dover, and by 1881 one third of all the Southbys lived in Kent. Another twenty percent remained in Berkshire while Wiltshire, Gloucester and London accounted for about eight per cent each.


At the present time, I have data on about two thousand three hundred members of the Southby family world-wide and dating from 1500 to 1970, although not all of it is linked together. I am currently in the process of gathering data on all the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire variants, such as Sotheby, Sutherby, Suttaby, etc. and have about one thousand three hundred individuals on file, most of them from the nineteenth century.


In early 2018, I established a Y-DNA study. This has a number of aims

Firstly, it is hoped that this will confirm the link between the two branches of the Berkshire line. The proximity of Buckland and Hinton Waldrist combined with the evidence of a will suggest that they share a common ancestor in the early sixteenth century.

Much research has been done of the Kentish Southby line, but this has hit a brick wall in the mid eighteenth century. It is hoped that Y-DNA will reveal any link with the Berkshire line.

Thirdly, any link between Southby  and possible alternate spellings such as Sotheby will be explored.

Finally, since the American branch of the Kentish line uses the name Surby, it is hoped that it may be possible to make a comparison with recent Scandinavian-origin Surby families.