Recorded as Smy, Smye, Smyth and Smythe, this is an English surname of great antiquity. It is occupational and is one of the many forms of the pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon word "smit". This is often described as meaning a blacksmith, but literally translates as 'one who smites'. Recent research would appear to confirm that this surname, and certainly in its early days, may well have been a reference to a soldier, as much as to a smith, and that the nameholders were also trained to repair armour and weapons, although it is also true to say that the reverse could have applied. Occupational surnames were amongst the earliest to be created, although they did not usually become hereditary until a son or grandson followed the father into the same line of business. In this case the recording of Ecard Smit of County Durham in England in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of the year 975 a.d., is certainly one of the earliest, and may even be the earliest, of all known surname recordings anywhere in the world. This was during the reign of King Edward, known as 'The Martyr'. Amongst the early recordings is John Smye of Suffold in the Hearth Tax rolls of 1524, and Robert Smy who married Ann Robinson on December 20th 1719 at St. Dunstans in the East, Stepney. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was often 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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