Perhaps the most ancient of all descriptive surnames, and in its various forms the most popular in the Western world, this is a name of great honour, and probably not what it seems. Recorded in the spellings of Schmidt, Schmit, Shmit, Schmitt (German), de Smid and Smid (Flemish), Smidt, Smed, Smut and Smed (Scandanavian) Szmidt and Szmyt (Polish) Smid (Czech) Schmidt, Szmidt, Shmidman etc (Askenazic), Smith, Smyth (British) and in approximately one thousand four hundred other variations from Grensmidt to Brooksmith to Schmiedal to Smuts, all are forms of the ancient 'smitan', meaning 'to smite'. The conventional wisdom is to say that this means that a schmid(t) is or was originally 'a worker in iron'. This is open to question. The word 'smitan' is so ancient that it predates all known written history. It appears in all European languages. We believe that the original meaning of 'Schmid/Smith' is a soldier or warrior, but perhaps one who wore armour, which he would have had to repair. This would lead to an association of ideas. What is certain is that in the Medieval period every branch of 'schmitting' had its own distinctive terminology. An ancient coat of arms from Rothenburg in Bavaria, has the blazon of a red field charged with two battle hammers in saltire, and a tree branch palewise. Amongst the earliest German recordings of the surname are probably those of Henricus Schmitt of Rostock in 1287 and Nicolas Smedeke of Greifswald in 1388. Niclas Schmidt (also recorded as Schmid), is registered at Athens, Green County, New York, on April 26th 1739. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Johannes Schmitt, which was dated 1268, recorded in Hamburg, North Germany, during the reign of Emperor Alphonso 1 of the German Empire (1257 - 1273). 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.
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