This interesting and unusual surname is of Irish origin, and is the Anglicized form of two Irish sept names, the first being the Gaelic "O'Spealain", composed of the elements "O", descendant of, with the personal name "Spealan", representing a diminutive of "speal", scythe. This sept possessed territory in the barony of Eliogarty (Co. Tipperary) in early medieval times, but were dispossessed by their neighbours the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh, and were subsequently to be found chiefly in Counties Cork and Kerry, which is their principal location today.The surname may also be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Smollain", "descendant of Smolan", a byname from "smalan", stump, billet, and would have been given to a heavy, thick-set man. This sept is mainly found in the midland counties of Leinster. One Ann Smullin, 16 yrs., a famine emigrant, departed from Liverpool aboard the "Franconia" bound for New York on June 22nd 1847. Recordings of the surname from Irish Church Registers include: the christening of Pat, son or Barney and Mary Smullen, on May 25th 1864 at Rhode, Kings County (Offaly); the christening of Andrew, son of William and Elizabeth Smullen, on June 22nd 1865 at Crossroads, Co. Donegal; and the christening of Emily, daughter of Michael and Catherine Smullen, on April 3rd 1866 in Dublin. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Smullin, which was dated April 17th 1834, marriage to Jane Johnston, at Killyman, Co. Tyrone, during the reign of King William 1V, known as "The Sailor King", 1830 - 1837. 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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