This unusual name is an English locational name of Anglo-Saxon origin, or it can be a topographical name. If the former, the name comes from the place called "Southwood" in Norfolk, which is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Suthuuide" and "Sudwda" and means "the southern wood". The derivation is from the Old English pre 7th Century "sudth", south and "wudu", wood. The topographical surname has the same derivation and meaning but used independently anywhere in the country to denote residence in or by "the southern wood". The modern surname has two forms "Southwood" and "Sowood" both of which are early recorded, as in "William de Suthwud", (1225, Essex) and "Margaret Suwode" (1296, Sussex). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elfere de Sudwude, which was dated 1202, The Norfolk Pipe Rolls, during the reign of King John "Lackland, 1199 - 1216. 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.