Name Origins - Smee
That'S Me

A favourite for the Daily Telegraph's Cryptic Crossword is -
An Aquatic fowl, 4 letters
The answer of course is not "duck" but "Smew" or "Smee" a type of Sawbill (which is a complex way of saying Duck)

Some people think this is the origin of the Surname as the duck's name Smew changed to Smee or Smeath in the 17th century depending where you lived in England. Quack-Quack ! If the name really does come from the Duck, a little snigger should be allowed for at the Marriage of Samuel SMEE and Martha SHELDRAKE in 1766!

Being employed by an International Corporation, I am quite used to Dutch and Belgian colleagues telephoning me and being surprised that I don't speak Dutch, variations of the Smee name are extremely common in the lowlands of Europe and Bohemia and may indicate a Huguenot connection, however most variations are along the lines of Smeet, Smeets etc. My pet theory ascribes those variations to the Smeeth Surname

Another popular oral legend is that the Smees arrived with the Vikings circa 800, but I am not aware of any documentation to support this.

Dr Craig Smee was told the name may be of Russian origin, I think this was based on the fact the the Smew Duck is considered a native of Eurasia rather than any genealogical evidence. Dr Craig was also told the name was not Armorial, however the Coat of Arms on the left was purchased some 30 years ago.
Historically authentic or a commercial forgery? I know where I bought it, and I have my suspicions.
The motto "Marti et ingenio" means something like "Clever and aggressive"

A Different Genealogical research Company gave this Information :-

Early records of the the name mention Edward de Smye who was listed in the Yorkshire Poll tax returns of 1379. Thomas Smye was baptised at St James, Clerkenwell, London in 1573. 1574 saw John Smy of Berkshire registered at Oxford University.
Arms - Argent a Chevron between three pheons sable
Crest - A Beavers head erased argent collared holding in the mouth a branch vert.

The ‘Book of Surnames’ by Weekley has the following entry:

M.E. smethe = a level place (Simon de la Smethe, 1205, Thomas Atte Smyethe 1216) Hence also Smee and SMY, Dialect forms. All these are also nicknames from the same word used in the sense of smooth, hairless (Philip le Smeths 1273). So also the compounds SMEATHMAN and SMITHETT (smooth head) may be local or nicknames.”

Smeeth Church, near Ashford Kent. I would like to think that the Smee name in England is Anglo-Saxon and the family originated in the Village of Smeeth in Kent, the Village Church can be seen at left. Some Smee Families are still extant in Kent, although mostly along the Thames Estuary which may mean they crossed from Essex or vice-versa. However early references to the Smee name (as Opposed to Smeeth) in Kent are actually VERY rare and even the 18C entries I suspect are part of the Sudbury Smee family retiring to Kent from their labours in London. If anyone has a document indicating any Smee Families in Kent prior to 1750 I would be VERY interested

Smeeth Church, near Ashford Kent.  My own branch were around the Beaumont-cum-Moze area at the beginning of the 19th Century, the name derives from the merging of the Parishes of Beaumont and Moze in 1678, when the stone from Moze Church was re-used to restore St Leonard's Church Beaumont.

 Beaumont lies on the Cut river at Hamford Water, the inlet has been in use for transportation since Roman times. Beaumont Quay was built in 1832 by Guy's Hospital, who owned land in the parish, using stone recycled from the old London Bridge. The quay, shown at right, operated until 1925 all of the buildings except one limekiln and the store building are now gone, and the area is now a declared conservation area. This Quay was built to ease the operation of the Limekilns in the area, these kilns produced lime by burning Chalk that had been ferried across the Thames Estuary from Kent, and it is possible that this explains the Smee Family "migration" South of the river. It was at one time thought that as the Cut was improved by Dutch labourers in 1832 it may have been the Family Source, but my Patriarch appears in the Census as having been born in Essex in 1790. Looking at the locality now it is very difficult to think there was sufficient wood in the area to support such an Industry, so one has to assume the current environment is actually a post industrial effect.

The earliest traces I have of Smee families in Essex are

  • John died Wethersfield c1582
  • John died Halstead c1605

Both of the above had roots in Cambridge.

Another major Smee family tree were responsible for the presence in the Bank of England and Dr Alfred Smee, the Victorian Physicist, Surgeon and Botanist and also many members of the Smee families now in Australia. This family came from further North around Sudbury which is on the Essex/Suffolk Border. A recent discovery has been the finding that in the early 18th century Hare coursing was regularly held in Suffolk at a Place called "the Smee"

One theory was that the groups of Smee families may in fact have been separate for a very long time, with the Southern Essex groups coming from Cambridge whilst the Northern Essex groups came from Suffolk.

Some Smee families in both Australia and the USA gave Ireland as their origin, some may have been Irish but they equally may have been originally from England and either migrated to Ireland, some certainly had Military backgrounds, the number of English Settlers in Ireland who then removed to the US in the "blight years" is constantly overlooked by Family researchers seeking fashionable roots. Smee is certainly not recognisable as a Celtic name.

The Smee Name in the USA seems to have several points of origin ~
Germany / Austria / Czechoslovakia / Bohemia

A family variously spelt as Smeigh, Schmeig and a few other derivations came from the Palantine area of Germany, this was what is now known as Bavaria and some surrounding areas, and adopted the Smee spelling over a number of years.

Other US Families using Smee came from Austria / Czechoslovakia / Bohemia / Croatia according to the US Censuses, it think the point of origin depended more on their political affiliations and the timing rather than indicating a wide diaspora.

There is another theory - check out this Burial record from Halstead, Essex on the 8 November 1721

This site also has some spelling variations in the database -

Smeed and Smeeth, these are mostly those where either Census entries or BMD Indices have been poorly transcribed leading me up blind alleys, one day I may well have time to further document these families, but retirement is still a good way ahead.

The Smees Family which were in the Portsmouth, Hampshire area from the 19th Century had migrated from Staffordshire where they had used the name Smeeth

Returning to our relationship to Donald - From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :

 Smew, n. [Perhaps for ice-mew.] (Zo["o]l.)
(a) small European merganser (Mergus albellus) which has a white crest; -- called also smee, smee duck, white merganser, and white nun.
(b) The hooded merganser. [Local, U.S.]

Which is correct, if you ignore the Female Colouring, but what would you expect from a Dictionary that can't spell Colour?

Small, fish eating, diving duck-like bird, has a thick pointed bill with a jagged edge.

Male has a black face and a V-shaped black patch beneath the crest. Its back wings and buttocks are dark grey to black. The breast is white and has two lines on the side that extend forward from the back.

Females have a brownish head and a white cheek and chin patch. The breast is light grey and the rest of the body is dark grey.

Smew (Mergus albellus)
Known as
White Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Smee, Smee Duck, Smeath, White Nun, Weasel Coot, White Widgeon, Miko-aisa
Northern Europe - 1,500
Russia - 2,500
Japan/China - Rare
UK - 250
US - Very rare in America. They have been sighted in New York and Rhode Island.
The American Naturalist Audubon shot one near New Orleans which demonstrates what a fantastic Conservationist he was, the birds obviously learnt from this experience as they have never again travelled so far South.

Pete Smee or the Star formerly known as Camelopardalis RA 11h39m19.90s Dec 85° 28'