This unusual and interesting name is a dialectal variant of a name of Scottish origin, although it is thought that it was introduced into Scotland by an Englishman from "Smalley" in Derbyshire. The name "Smalley" appears early in Scottish records in the form of one Ricardus Smaley, a witness in the Glasgow Church Registers of circa 1280 - 1290. The placename means "narrow grove" or "wood", derived from the Old English pre 7th Century "smael", narrow, and "leah", a grove or clearing in a wood. "Smillie", or "Smiley" can also derive from a medieval nickname for someone of a cheerful disposition, from the Middle English word "smile", meaning smile or grin. The marriage of David Smillie and Elizabeth Rankine was recorded at Cadder, Lanarkshire, on August 23rd 1755. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Smelie, which was dated 1612, Glasgow, during the reign of King James V1 of Scotland and 1 of England, 1603 - 1625. 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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