The surname of SCHMITT was an occupational name 'the smith' a worker in metals, one who worked on a lathe. The name was common to every village in during medieval times. Medieval smiths were important not only in making horseshoes, ploughshares, and other domestic articles, but above all for their skill in forging swords, other weapons and armour. The name has many variant spellings some of which include SCHMID, SCHMIDT, SMET, SMIDTH, SZMID, SZMYT, SCHMIEDLE, SCHMEDEKE and SCHMIDER, to name but a few. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. A notable member of the name includes Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954) the German priest and ethnologist, born in Horde, Westphalia. He joined the society of the Divine Word Missionary order in 1883, and was ordained a priest in 1892. After studying oriental languages at Berlin Universtity, he became professor in the St. Gabriel Mission Seminary at Modling, where he remained until 1938. This surname has been Anglized in England to Smith. Early records of the name in England mention Philip le Smethe, 1273 County Huntingdonshire. Johannes Tagge Smyght, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Sydney Smith (1771-1845) English churchman and essayist, author of 'Letters of Peter Plymley' in defence of Catholic emancipation. Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was the founder of the Morman Sect. A notable member of the name was Dame Ethel Mary Smith born in 1858, the English composer and suffragette. After studying at Leipzig, she composed symphonies, choral works and operas. As a crusader for woman's suffrage she composed the battle-song of the Women's Social and Political Union 'The March of the Women' (1911). She was imprisoned for three months, but created a DBE in 1922. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour. In addition to its frequency as a native English surname, Smith is also one of the commonest surnames adopted by Gypsies in Britain, in part translating Romany Petulengro, which means 'smith'.
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