Proof of different spellings
Many have long-held the belief that there are many ways to spell the same 'Spybey' / 'Spiby' etc surname. Research has revealed numerous cases of surname spelling changes between offspring and father and even within the lifetime of individuals. My own great grandfather William Spybey (1836-1894) of Lambley appears to be a good example. His birth certificate spells his surname Spibey, whilst his marriage certificate has the spelling Spybey, whilst his father (Alfred Spiby) was Spyby in Lambley Parish Records and Spiby in another record.
It is well nigh impossible to state which is the most likely original spelling of the surname. Certainly, there are more Spiby's than any other spellings, however, many spellings can be found as far back as the 1500s. Back in such times the name is more likely to have been passed down verbally rather than in the written form.
As yet we have no proof that the 'Spivey' surname is related to the 'Spiby's.
2 distinct UK branches
By extensively analysing pre-20th Century records, we can safely conclude that the 'Spiby' surname was most popular in two regions - Nottinghamshire & Lancashire. In particular, the Lambley, Nottinghamshire branch and the Croston, Lancashire branch are the two areas that are best recorded. We've managed to trace these two branches of the family back to the 1600s. Why they ended up in these places is not known, but we cannot find a link between the Nottinghamshire & Lancashire Spiby's.
The Leicestershire Spiby's are quite possibly linked to the Nottinghamshire branch. Though again, more research is required to establish this possibility.
Meaning of 'Spiby'
Several theories are abound about the meaning of the 'Spybey' / 'Spiby' etc surname.
- It is of Viking origin - this theory derives from the fact that placenames ending 'by' were settlements created by the Vikings.
- Derived from Spurway Barton - this is derived from the theory that alternative spellings are Spurway, Spurvey, Spurrvey, Spurways, Spurrier and others. First found in Devonshire where they were seated from very ancient times, as Lords of the manor of Spurway Barton, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D. Some of the first settlers of this name or some of its variants were: William Spuraway who settled in Virginia in 1663; Robert Spurway settled in the Barbados in 1685; John Spurway settled in Virginia in 1687; Michael Spurrier settled in Virginia in 1635. In Newfoundland, Richard Spurway was a Boat keeper of Bay Bulls in 1681.
This theory doesn't explain why most Spiby's originate from Lancashire or Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire.
- According to John H. Downing the Spivey surname is of Scottish origin meaning a person who is deformed or a cripple. The old French word "espavain" means an inflamation of the hock-joint of a horse. In the Middle English, the word became "Sapvin" and in Middle Scottish, it became "Spavin". Colloquial pronunciation could have produced the spellings "spive" and spivey" - thus, the nickname Spivey.
This theory may be specific to the Spivey surname and not the 'Spiby' surname. It also doesn't explain why most 'Spivey's can be to Lancashire and not Scotland.