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Smiley Family History

Origin of the Smiley name

One theory of the origin of the Smiley name is that it was originally English, before being used (and modified) by family members in Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

The Internet Surname Database website says, in part, the Smiley surname name is a variant of a name of Scottish origin, although it is thought that it was introduced into Scotland by an Englishman from "Smalley" in Derbyshire.

The name "Smalley" appears early in Scottish records in the form of one "Ricardus Smaley", a witness in the Glasgow Church Registers of circa 1280 - 1290. The place name means "narrow grove" or "wood", derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "smael", meaning "narrow", and "leah", a grove or clearing in a wood.

However, "Smillie" or "Smiley" can also derive from a medieval nickname for someone of a cheerful disposition. Examples of church recordings include Alexander Smelley at the church of St. Mary Somerset on 12th April 1574, Simon Smiley at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 11th September 1681, and Margaret Smellie, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, on 5th October 1648.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Thomas Smelie, which was dated 1612, Glasgow, during the reign of King James V1 of Scotland and 1 of England, 1603 - 1625.

Some other detail is included in the Book of Irish Families Great & Small by Mike 0'Laughlin (2007): The Smyly family of Camus and Castlederg, Co. Tyrone, descend from John Smyly who came from Scotland and settled at Carrygullion near Camus in 1628. This family is given in the Irish Book of Arms. The birth index of 1890 finds the family centered in Antrim.

For more detail, see:
Internet Surname Database website
The Book of Irish Families, Great and Small

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