Vyger Irish Genealogy

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Smiley - Smyley families in Ireland

The Irish surname Smiley is in fact of Scottish origin, and arrived in Northern Ireland in the early years of the Seventeenth Century. In Ireland the surname is generally associated with County Tyrone where it is also found in the forms Smylie, Smilie and Smiley. Curiously, today, the spelling Smyly remains only in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland and has all but died out in the North.

In Scotland the surname is native to Lanarkshire and is generally regarded as a variant of Smellie, although the exact meaning of this latter is long disputed. It has been suggested that the name Smyly or Smellie is in fact derived from an English place name such as Smalley in Derbyshire or Smeley in Essex. It is even possible that it could be derived from the French place name Semilly.

Certainly we know that the Scottish surname Smalley was born by several merchant families perhaps of Derbyshire origin. The name is recorded in Glasgow as early as 1283 when one Oliver and one Richard Smalley were landowners in the town. It is also known that one Thomas Smelie conducted his mercantile business from Glasgow in 1612 who may have been a descendant of the Smallys.

The form Symllie is first recorded in 1697. An alternative proposition is that the surname is derived from the Old English "smele" meaning "thin" or "slender". This would have adopted as a nickname for one known for his slight build. Other bearers of the surname include the Scottish surgeon William Smellie (floreat 1744) and the Edinburgh printer and naturalist William Smellie (1740 - 1795)