This unusual surname recorded as Smitham, Smithen, Smitherham and Smitheram, is locational and recorded almost entirely in Cornwall and Devon. It derives from a place called 'Smitham,' however what is not proven is which Smitham. There are three places in Britain so called, two in Surrey and one in Somerset, although there is no specific evidence to support the claim that any of these places was the originator of the surname. It is possible that the name derives from a now 'lost' medieval village, of which it is known over five thousand examples existed. Of these places the only reminder today is the surname. 'Smitham' derives from the Olde English pre 7th century 'smepe', but pronounced 'smith', means 'smooth', and probably referred to an area of cleared grassland on a hill, plus 'ham', a homestead or hamlet. The surname has absolutely no connection with the surname Smith or the occupation of smithing. The intrusive 'er' in the mainly Cornish spellings, is probably dialectal and an aid to pronunciation. The early recordings include Amee Smitham of Bideford on December 4th 1573, with John Smitheram, the son of Thomas Smitheram, being christened at Tywardreath, Cornwall, on February 4th 1701. This is believed to be the first recording of the surname. Other recordings include Mary Smithen, who married Peter Couch at Pelynt on September 25th 1740, and Prudence Smitheram, who married John Trounce at Breage, Cornwall, on January 1st 1762. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Smitham, which was dated June 25th 1564, a witness at Hatherleigh, Devon, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as 'Good Queen Bess', 1558 - 1603. 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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