Show ContentsSowly History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The vast movement of people that followed the Norman Conquest of England of 1066 brought the Sowly family name to the British Isles. They lived in Derbyshire. Their name, however, is a reference to Subligny, Normandy, the family's place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Early Origins of the Sowly family

The surname Sowly was first found in Derbyshire where they held a family seat from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. They were descended from a noble who accompanied King William whose home in Normandy was at Subligny near Avranche. Richard Subligny was Bishop of Avranches. They acquired considerable estates in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset by marriage with the Painells, but their main estates were at Newton Solney which later became Soley, and Sola.

"The men of Sole," according to Wace, were conspicuous at the battle of Hastings, "striking at close quarters, and holding their shields over their heads so as to receive the blows of the hatchet." The fief of Soules was held of the Honour of St. Lo at the time of the Conquest; but was soon afterwards granted to the chapter of Bayeux. Under Henry II., there was a William de Soules who held three knight's fees in Normandy; two of them in the Comte of Mortaine. [1]

Early rolls give a widespread use of the name and its many variants: William de la Sole was listed in the Curia Regis Rolls for Sussex in 1207; Thomas atte Sole was listed in Surrey in 1294; Hamo de Soles was found in Kent records in 1242; Osbert Sole was found in the Curia Regis Rolls for Norfolk in 1203; Walter Sole in Cambridgeshire in 1207; and Godfrey Osbert le Sol in the Hundredorum Rolls for Essex in 1274 and later again the Subsidy Rolls for Worcestershire in 1275. [2]

The Kentish branch of this name (of whom John de Soles bought Betshanger in 1347) derived it from the manor of Soles (Domesday Book) in the parish of Nonington. This family was in early times most powerful in Scotland, where it gave its name to the barony of Soulistoun - now Saltoun - in East Lothian. Ranulph de Soulis witnesses a Stirling charter of David I.: and either he, or one of his successors, is styled Pincerna Regis. They were frequent benefactors to Newbottle Abbey and other monasteries; and " their power," says Sir Walter Scott, "extended over the South and West Marches, where they appear to have possessed the whole district of Liddesdale, with five rich baronies in Roxburghshire.[1]

Early History of the Sowly family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Sowly research. Another 270 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1281, 1291, 1300, 1302, 1318, 1595 and 1679 are included under the topic Early Sowly History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Sowly Spelling Variations

A multitude of spelling variations characterize Norman surnames. Many variations occurred because Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England also had a pronounced effect, as did the court languages of Latin and French. Therefore, one person was often referred to by several different spellings in a single lifetime. The various spellings include Sola, Soul, Soule, Sole, Sooley, Soole, Solley, Sollee, Soully, Sully, Soley, Solney and many more.

Early Notables of the Sowly family

More information is included under the topic Early Sowly Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Sowly family to Ireland

Some of the Sowly family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Sowly migration to the United States +

Many English families left England, to avoid the chaos of their homeland and migrated to the many British colonies abroad. Although the conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and some travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute, once in the colonies, many of the families prospered and made valuable contributions to the cultures of what would become the United States and Canada. Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Sowly or a variant listed above:

Sowly Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Mr. David Sowly, aged 7, British settler who arrived in New York aboard the ship "Cynosure" in 1863
  • Mr. Isaac Sowly, aged 33, British settler who arrived in New York aboard the ship "Cynosure" in 1863
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Sowly, aged 35, British settler who arrived in New York aboard the ship "Cynosure" in 1863
  • Mr. Mark L. Sowly, aged 5, British settler who arrived in New York aboard the ship "Cynosure" in 1863
  • Miss Lydia Sowly, aged 3, British settler who arrived in New York aboard the ship "Cynosure" in 1863


  1. Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 3 of 3
  2. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)


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