This is an English locational surname. It originates from a 'lost' village which was probably in the county of Derbyshire, but may have been in Yorkshire. According to the famous Victorian etymologist Canon Charles Bardsley, this village was called 'Smythley' or similar. This suggests a meaning of 'Smith's farm' from the Olde English pre 7th century 'smid', meaning 'smith' and 'leah', a fenced enclosure suitable for agriculture - a farm. An examination of the available gazetters back to the 16th century has failed to identify the place, although there have been a number of places called 'Smithy', which may have been the source.Some five thousand British surnames originate from now 'lost' medieval sites of which the only reminder in the 20th century, is the surviving surname.The first known recordings are believed to be that of Willelmus de Smthlay, and Margota de Smythlay, who may have been his wife, in the Poll Tax rolls of Yorkshire for the year 1379. This was during the reign of King Richard 11nd. of England, 1377 to 1399. The subsequent surname was recorded in London in 1693, when Thomas Smedley was a witness at St James church, Clerkenwell, but in England the surname is generally more widely recorded in Derbyshire than anywhere else. Curiously the highest number of recordings in the world since 1800 have been in Philadelphia, USA, to where large numbers of English nameholders emigrated in the mid 19th century.
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