This surname of WILESMITH appears to be an early occupational name, and has been variously explained as a corruption of weld-smith, a forger in iron, or a wheel-smith, a maker of wheels. It has also been suggested that the original bearer of the name was 'the woolsmith', and as the name is confined mainly to Yorkshire, which was the centre of the woollen trade in early times this seems to be a reasonable explanation. John Wyldesmyth was one of the jurors on an inquest on the lands of Hopkelchoc, Scotland in the year 1269, and Euota Welsmyth was documented in 1319 in County Essex. Ivo le Welsmyth appears in 1237 in Surrey. Surnames as we recognise them today are believed to have been introduced by the Normans after the Invasion of 1066. The first mention of such names appears in the Domesday Book and they were progressively adopted between the 11th and 15th centuries. It was the nobles and upper classes who first assumed a second name, setting them apart from the common people who continued to use only the single name given to them at birth. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that is became common practice to use a secondary name, originally a name reflecting the place of birth, a nickname, an occupational name or a baptismal name which had been passed on from a parent to the child, as an additional means of identification. Later instances of the name mention a Afery Welsmith who was married at Canterbury Cathedral in the year 1659, and Joshua Jones married Anne Wilesmith at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1787. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification.
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