Last name: Smart

Recorded as Smart and Smartman, this is an English surname. In origin it was either a medieval nickname surname for a brisk or active person, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th century word "smeart", meaning quick, or it may be an occupational name for a person who was probably a handyman or similar. It is an example of a sizeable group of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of skills or characteristics, or even in some cases physical or mental characteristics, some highly offensive! Even a supposed resemblance to an animal or bird's appearance or disposition was usefully employed in the creation of such names. One of the earliest examples of this surname recording, was that of William Smert in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Worcester in the year 1275. Later examples include William Smart, aged 20, who was one of the earliest settlers in the English colonies of the New World. He embarked from the port of London on the ship "Thomas and John" bound for the colony of Virgina, in June 1635, whilst a recording from the surviving church registers of the city of London is that of Benjamin Smart, the son of John and Martha Smart, christened on October 6th 1642, at St. Benet Fink. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lifwinus Smart. This was dated 1180, in the archives of Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

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