During the Middle Ages surnames were first used in order to distinguish between numbers of people bearing the same christian name. As taxation, under William The Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066, became the law, documentation became essential, and names were chosen from a man's trade, his father's name, some personal physical characteristic, or from his place of residence. In the case of the name SMOOT it was a locational name from Smaithwaite in Keswick, Cumberland or from Smerthwayt in Guiseley in County Yorkshire. The name was originally rendered in the Old Norman form SMAR, and brought into England from Scandinavia during the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. The name has numerous variant spellings which include SMETWAYT, SMYTE, SMERT SMOOT and SMORFIT. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Henry de SMETWAYT, who was documented in 1285 in Lancashire, and Thomas de SMURT appears in 1327 in County Yorkshire. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. Matthew SMURTWAITE of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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