Smith Surname Origin
The most common of all surnames, and might of itself furnish matter enough for a volume. The word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Smitan, to smite or strike. 'From whence comes Smith, all be he knight or squire, But from the Smith that forgeth at the fire?' Verstegan. Among the Highland clans, the smith ranked third in dignity to the chief, from his skill in fabricating military weapons, and his dexterity in teaching the use of them. In Wales there were three sciences which a villain (tenant) could not teach his son without the consent of his lord, Scholarship, Bardism, and Smithcraft. This was one of the liberal sciences, and the term had a more comprehensive sense than we give to it at this time. The smith must have united in this profession, different branches of knowledge which are now practiced separately, such as raising the ore, converting it into metal, etc. The term was originally applied to artificers in wood as well as metal, in fact, to all mechanical workmen, which accounts for the great frequency of the name. The New York City Directory for 1856 (in which the names of the heads of families only, are given,) contains the names of more than eighteen hundred Smiths, of whom seventy-four are plain James Smiths, and one hundred and seventeen, John Smiths! We see in the papers, that John Smith dies, is married, hanged, drowned, and brutally murdered, daily! John Smith doesn't identify anybody, and is therefore no name at all. This numerous family is the subject of many laughable anecdotes and witty sallies. A wag, on a certain occasion, coming late to the theater, and wishing to get a seat, shouted at the top of his voice, 'Mr. Smith's house is on fire!' The house was thinned five per cent., and the man of humor found a snug seat. In many neighborhoods the name is so frequent that it is necessary to append some soubriquet to identify the person. 'Can you tell me where Mr. Smith lives, mister?' 'Smith--Smith--what Smith? there are a good many of that name in these parts--my name is Smith.' 'Why, I don't know his t'other name, but he's a sour, crabbed sort of fellow, and they call him 'Crab Smith.' ' 'Oh, the deuce! s'pose I'm the man.' But the best piece of humor relating to the name is the following which we take from Lower, which appeared some years since in the newspapers, under the title of 'The Smiths. 'Some very learned disquisitions are just now going on in the journals touching the origin and extraordinary extension of the family of 'the Smiths.' 'Industrious explorers after derivatives and nominal roots, they say, would find in the name of John Smith a world of mystery; and a philologist in the Providence Journal, after having written some thirty columns for the enlightenment of the public thereanent, has thrown down his pen, and declared the subject exhaustless. 'From what has hitherto been discovered, it appears that the great and formidable family of the Smiths are the veritable descendants, in a direct line, from Shem, the son of Noah, the father of the Shemitish tribe, or the tribe of Shem; and it is thus derived--Shem, Shemit, Shmit, Smith. Another learned pundit, in the Philadelphia Gazette, contends for the universality of the name John Smith, not only in Great Britain and America, but among all kindred and nations on the face of the earth. Beginning with the Hebrew, he says, the Hebrews had no Christian names, consequently they had no Johns, and in Hebrew the name stood simply Shem or Shemit; but in the other nations John Smith is found at full, one and indivisible. Thus, Latin, Johannes Smithius; Italian, Giovanni Smithi; Spanish, Juan Smithas; Dutch, Hans Schmidt; French, Jean Smeets; Greek, Russian, Jonloff Skmittowski; Polish, Ivan Schmittiwciski; Chinese, Jahon Shimmit; Icelandic, Jahne Smithson; Welsh, Iihon Schmidd; Tuscarora, Ton Qa Smittia; Mexican, Jontli F'Smitti. 'And then, to prove the antiquity of the name, the same savant observes, that 'among the cartouches deciphered by Rosselini, on the temple of Osiris in Egypt, was found the name of Pharaoh Smithosis, being the ninth in the eighteenth dynasty of Theban kings. He was the founder of the celebrated temple of Smithopolis Magna.' We heartily congratulate the respectable multitude of the Smiths on these profound researches--researches which bid fair to explode the generally received opinion that the great family of the Smiths were the descendants of mere horse-shoers and hammer-men!'
Source: An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names With an Essay on their Derivation and Import; Arthur, William, M.A.; New York, NY: Sheldon, Blake, Bleeker & CO., 1857.
| For a more detailed definition for
Smith or other surnames, search the FREE Ancestry.com Name Dictionary.
Smith Last Name Meaning
There is more to
Smith family history than your surname origin:
Smith Family Tree and discover things you never knew about your own family. Construct a free family tree to trace your own genealogy and learn about your personal family history.
Start by entering what you know about yourself and your family. You can invite your parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and other family members to contribute what they know to add to your online tree - fill in names and dates, tell stories and upload photos.
Ancestry.com will use what you enter to try and find more about your family in the world's largest online collection of historical records and family trees.
Learn your Ancient Origins:
Discover your ethnic and geographic origins with DNA. Use DNAancestry Testing to learn your ancestry, discover and connect with genetic cousins, expand your family tree, and break through genealogy brick walls.
Next Steps in building the Smith family tree:
Use these genealogy databases to fill in the blanks of your Smith heritage.
Smith in Ancestry.com Records
Start your family tree and learn the story of your family in the world's largest online collection of genealogy records and family trees. Look for additional generations to add to your family history. Find details such as family relationships, age, residence, occupation, year of immigration to the U.S. & ancestral town. Other genealogy records include birth, marriage and death records as well as biographies, military records, family history books, and historical newspapers.
Smith at the Mormon LDS Database
Trace your Smith family in the vast resources of the Mormon LDS genealogy online databases which includes the Ancestral File, transcribed census records, extracted church records from around the world, family trees, and the International Genealogical Index.
Smith at RootsWeb databases
Search for your Smith ancestors in multiple RootsWeb genealogy databases including the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), RootsWeb Surname List, World Connect, vital records, cemetery listings, census records, church records. The oldest and largest free genealogy site on the internet.
Communicate with others researching the Smith surname:
It is possible as you build your own family tree to connect with distant cousins and unknown relatives via the internet. Data sharing among genealogical researchers is common, and many family trees have been published online. Learn what others know about your family tree.
Smith in RootsWeb surname mailing lists
Join others on the Smith genealogy mailing list for discussion and sharing of information regarding family histories of Smith surname and its variations. Note: Not all surnames have a mailing list. If you get the "Page is Not Available" message, no mailing list is available. Instead, check the index of mailing lists for a sound-alike name.
Smith in Ancestry Message Boards
Browse or post a query about your genealogy, surname origin, or family history in the Smith surname forum. Look for unknown cousins or relatives with whom you may have lost touch.
Look for your Smith family in stories, memories, and histories:
Smith in Ancestry Family Histories
Read online surname origin books, biographies, journals, county histories, multi-generational genealogies & family trees, memoirs and other first-hand historical narratives which pertain to the Smith family name to help add detail and personality to the pages of your family history.
Smith Self-Published Genealogy Books
Search for your Smith Family History. The original copies of self-published genealogies were usually printed in small editions - sometimes only two hundred copies or less - and they are now very rare. Today these difficult-to-find books have been reprinted for research and to pass on to your children and grandchildren as precious family heirlooms.
A Family History Thought:
'There is a history in all men's lives.' --William Shakespeare in King Henry IV, Part II
Choose the first letter of surname for history of family name:
|FREE Ancestry.com Tools
Start your own family tree with access to the largest collection of family history records online.
Quick Search Surname Finder
Surname-specific genealogy search. Great for surnames that are also common words.
Learn where to find for your ancestors.
Learn how to research your family ancestry and find your ancestors.
Register your surnames and find out who else is researching the same family names.
Record your Genealogy
Genealogy software, forms, charts and templates.
Free genealogy resources: charts, lessons, software, databases, look ups, relationship charts, form letters, translation services.