This is a very interesting English medieval surname of pre 7th century origins, and not at all what it seems. Recorded in various spellings including Smaleman, Smallman, Smalman, and Smallsman, it has nothing whatsoever to do with a persons physical build! It is a status surname, and formerly was part of the Anglo Saxon order of seniority. At the top of the structure was the earldorman, a hereditary nobleman, followed by the thane, a hereditary knight, the dreng, a free holder, and the smaelman, who was a small holder and probably a freeman, but who may have owed some service to the lord of the manor. Below the smaelman was the servile class of villein and the serf, who owned nothing, and in effect were almost slaves. These ranking were largely lost after the 1066 Norman Invasion, only surviving in isolated communities such as East Anglia, which was cut off by the fens, and County Durham, an area ruled by the church, and retaining the original social structure. Early examples of the surname recording include Richard Smaleman in the 1275 Hundred Rolls of the county of Suffolk, and John Smallemanslond, in the 1367 pipe rolls of Essex. The first recorded example of the surname is probably that of Hubert Smaleman, in the 1209 court register of Essex, known as the "Feet of Fines". This was during the reign of King John of England, 1199 to 1216.
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