Ancestor IndexAncestor Index

Access the Smythe IndexAn Introduction to Sm*th/e - use the unicorn image to access the current Smythe Index

As is the nature of the Internet, a number of links used in the "Family Vault" - like our ancestors - have gone. Sometimes, by using a reputable web-search engine and a phrase (set between inverted commas) from the quoted material on this site, the information can be retrieved - either from cache or from its new location.
It has also been found that some link destinations have been cyber-jacked and replaced or diverted to pages of questionable repute. The link was correct at the time of research/writing. If you are as indignant as we are then please file a complaint with the original link host - and let this site know so that the link may be expunged.

Much of the material in the Smythe Index has been gleaned from electronic files available on the internet or from private family records - or from volumes/records in the public domain. Thanks are extended to so many people - family members and strangers alike - who have so generously contributed to the information in this Family Vault.

It is one of the tragedies of youth that family history becomes associated with grandpapa, false teeth and fusty old tweeds; life is for now and not for delving into how we got to where we are. By the time we are old enough to want to know and to appreciate it, everyone seems to have dropped off the perch - except for the old African Grey parrot, whose favourite phrase is "Have another gin, darling." 

Having crossed that bar of so-called middle age, the whole "Family Vault" project came about as a form of "Year 2000" focal point - a moment of reflection - triggered by a dimly remembered suggestion that the maternal line - Anstruther - had branches that sprouted under Charlemagne and the Saxon "Royals", taking in the ubiquitous Nevilles and Henry Tudor along the way. On this side, game, set and match. On the other ...

The old firm of Smith - Smithe - Smyth & Smythe
... an ancestral dynasty.

Whilst no guarantee can be made as to accuracy, there are reasonable grounds to suppose that by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the various members of the Smith/e-Smyth/e family - at least those who were participating in public office or who served in the sundry royal and noble households of their time - were lineal or collateral descendants of a common "Smith/e-Smyth/e" ancestry.

This is not to suggest that there should be a search made for "Super-Smyth", which would be a virtual impossibility given the common application of the surname as well as the variations found within it, sometimes even between siblings. Rather, it is a suggestion that each of the Yorkist/Lancastrian, Tudor and Stuart Smith/e-Smyth/e families was connected in some way with one or more of the others.  Smith (Smythe) 1800s

As to where current holders of the family name "plug in to the loop", it must be a matter for individual research, going back one generation at a time.

In the particular case of this family line - Drew-Smythe - the Smythe element became associated with Drew when Baptist Minister, Frank Tompson Smythe married Ada Josephine Drew (family originally from Radnorshire) in 1890, the daughter of a wealthy London hosier. The generation prior to that was baptised Smith - perhaps born Smyth (in Bristol) and changed or reverted to the format, Smythe. This man - also a Baptist Minister, was James Francis (Smith) Smythe whose father was Francis Smyth (Smith). It is with the father of the latter, one Thomas Smith - or Thomas Smyth or Thomas Smythe - that current research has met the proverbial "brick wall".

Thomas, who must have been born in about 1780, is reputed to have been a cooper. His son, Francis, was apprenticed as a cooper in Bristol in 1823 and "qualified" as such in 1830. Francis Smyth - who became (according to his son's marriage certificate) a "Cooper Master" - was born in Bristol in about 1807 and died in Middlesex in 1883.

Family anecdote - which there is no reason to disbelieve - places this line of Smith/Smythe as a cousin branch of the Irish Smyth line of Barbavilla - either cousins within the branch or cousins to the branch - and it was this anecdotal relationship that prompted detailed research. However, to date, it has not been possible to find any link with the Irish lines currently investigated. Nevertheless, if Thomas the cooper was a descendant of any one of these Irish lines then, like so many other Smyth/es, this family, too, can trace back to the branch that left Rosedale Abbey in Yorkshire for Ireland in about 1630.


One of the main lessons learned from Smyth history is that the two parents of posterity are power and wealth. Smyths appear to have been competent social engineers. Direct line and cadet branches of the family used the conventions of the "game" - grace and favour, marriage, inheritance and dowry - to confirm and strengthen their positions in society - with greater or lesser success, depending upon the agility of that branch to walk a political or religious tightrope. Further, the success of the branch would have depended on the readiness of family individuals to exploit the inventions, geographical expansions and the scientific discoveries of the day. Fertility, health and the successful provision of male offspring would have completed the equation but by no means overlooking the power of the female line to cement important family alliances or to exert direct and lasting influences on the destiny of any one particular branch. It was often a Smyth daughter who wielded power from within her marriage and who advanced the fortunes of her Smyth relations.

Of Smith/e-Smyth/e in general, it would seem that by Tudor times, the various branches of the family were spread throughout Britain. The Kingdom of Scotland, the Isles and Ireland - and Man (some say descendants of the Picts) and also Wales, to some extent, produced Smith/e-Smyth/es of note. Several English counties, with their various dukedoms, earldoms or bishoprics, held their quota of "interesting" Smyths - many of whom were powerfully connected and some married or were married by the aristocratic or even royal families of the day. Henry VIII's son, the boy king, Edward, for example, had a first cousin named John Smith/Smythe through the marriage of Clemment Smythe to Edward's aunt, Dorothy Wentworth. When the liaison (marriage) between Maria Smythe and (later) King George IV is considered then further connections can be made.

Maria was descended from the staunchly Catholic Smythe family of Eshe Hall in Durham and Acton Burnell in Shropshire. For nineteen years, the Smythes of Acton Burnell housed what later became Downside School after the original Benedictine school of St. Gregory’s at Douai, was expelled from France during the French Revolution. Sir Edward Smythe had been a pupil there. Today, there is a Smythe House at Downside named in his honour. At the same time, George, Prince of Wales and Maria Smythe were instrumental in re-establishing an order of French refugee nuns. After a perilous escape, the sisters managed to reach England and the order was subsequently settled at Old Heath Hall, in Yorkshire, seat of a Smyth branch of the family reputed to be the senior branch of the same family to which Dame Ethel Smyth, under-rated composer and active suffragette, claimed descent. Hers was also a line that returned from Ireland to England and which was directly descended from the Smyth family of Rosedale.

Dame Ethel was something of a rebel as a child – and remained so for most of her life. Her maternal great grandfather was Sir Josias Stracey. The Dame’s line features minor political, strong military and many ecclesiastical connections – as well as a Professor of History at Cambridge, connected to the Sheridan family. William Smyth (1765–1849) was Regius Professor of History 1807–1849 and private tutor to Tom Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's eldest son between 1793 and 1806.

Indeed, Smyth connections to writing and the stage are several – with Smyths (Smiths) featured in Stratford-on-Avon at the time of Shakespeare (leaving aside any debate over the possibility that Edward de Vere - who spent some of his formative years in the household of Secretary of State, Sir Thomas Smythe, of Hill Hall. Essex - is strongly championed as having written many of the plays attributed to the bard) and with the city of Lichfield’s son, David Garrick – who organised the first ever festival at Stratford-on-Avon to honour William Shakespeare.

This fascination for the stage and for the arts in general goes through to more modern times. Another interesting family line was closely associated with the Dublin company, Joseph Smyth and Co. - the world-renowned makers of fine hosiery - now closed but in business from 1780 onwards and trading for some 200 years. This was the line of Hatton Smyth who studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin but who died at an early age, leaving one son, Clive Hatton Pelham Smyth. The exploits of this latter included a stint in America, trying his hand as a movie star.

Other Smith/e-Smyth/es became church leaders in their chosen faith. Some became aristocracy itself by deed or service to country or monarch; many became powerful estate administrators. One such man was John Smythe of Nibley who was from a family line that originated in Lincolnshire, moving to Leicestershire where he was born in 1568 and from where he moved to Nibley in Gloucestershire, his wife’s county. The writings of John Smyth provide some of the most valuable historical records available today. He was steward to the Berkeley family of Berkeley Castle – and a prime mover of the Virginia settlement in America. He died in 1641.

Individuals within the family chose, or were born to, different paths; they were lawyers, soldiers and statesmen; they were priests and parsons, pastors and pirates; they were scholars, writers, publishers, printers, architects and artists; they were millers and farmers, coopers and clerks; they were exploiters of minerals and staple commodities and they were drapers and mercers too, at a time when to be in cloth and clothing was tantamount to being oil rich at the dawn of the age of the internal combustion engine. 

They took risks and they gained and lost fortunes. They were generous with their genes both in and out of marriage; they were colonisers, builders and bankers; brave in battle, gracious in victory and spectacular in military disgrace; secret as spies - for better or worse - looters and losers or faithful in service to a point where it suited them to be so - and when it did not, they seem to have been adept at building bridges of reconciliation or at simply sliding out of trouble by good connection or by paying fines which hardly seemed to touch the sides of bulging family coffers. They could be corrupt or corrupted - and some were.

John Smyth, merchant of Bristol, and principal progenitor of the Ashton Court line, was something of a smuggler and was part of a ring that has recently been exposed by Dr. Jones of Bristol.  Even the renowned Thomas (Customer) Smyth burnt his fingers with his accounts for customs and excise. However, in an age when corruption was viewed more in terms of a commercial or political expedience – Smyths appear to have been painstakingly honest in their underhand dealings.

In the world of writing, it is not without some foundation that the name Smith-Smyth-Smythe has become a head upon which to place the wig of wisdom or the cap of fools - a vehicle for authority and the tool of comedy. Either way, it is a name that is noticed and which remains a device that makes its mark - as recognisable a mark as the origins of the name itself, ranking as one of the more indispensable of callings - with each of its allied professions - arrowsmith and goldsmith, for example - in contributing to the development of civilisation.

That household name, “W.H. Smith” is part of this equation too. This is the line of Henry Walton Smith. His family disowned him when he married Anna Eastaugh, a London servant girl from Suffolk. His paternal line has yet to be identified. All that is known is that he was born in about 1738 and that his father was a naval officer. However, it is known that he was closely connected with the actor, David Garrick and with the artist Joshua Reynolds. Henry Walton Smith was also connected to the Rogers and to the Cotton families – celebrated collectors of their day. His grandson, William Henry, was the founder of the High Street dynasty. This much-honoured man died in 1891. For his success as a public figure, philanthropist and man of business, Queen Victoria created the Hambleden Viscountcy. His widow, Emily Danvers Smith, was named 1st Viscountess Hambleden and upon her death, in 1913, their only surviving son, William Frederick Danvers Smith, became 2nd Viscount Hambleden. The Danvers family, it has been discovered, is related through the paternal ancestry of Jullion – which had earlier been de Julien, of the Principality of Orange in Southern France. Descendant brothers of this family crossed to England with William of Orange – but that is another mysterious ancestral story in its own right.

No matter whether Smyth was an explorer who sailed far from the shores of England or whether he was accustomed to sit for hours in the shade of a leafy tree at home and read the scriptures with doting wife and child beside him or whether he went out to till the soil, shoe the local horses, grind the corn or judge a complex case at law, ancestor Smith-Smyth/e was there. History may judge him harshly for it but whether the Smyth in question was a contributor to the shameful business of slavery or whether he was on the jury at the inquest into the mysterious death of the unfortunate Amy Robsart, he was there. Whether our (Carrington) Smyth was at Acre or Agincourt, Balaclava or Verdun, he was there - in the thick of it - and living the life or suffering the death of his time.

All this family history was probably recorded in just a handful of family books, documents, bibles or letters - some of which survive into the modern era - but few of which would have been known about, perhaps even by collateral families living just two counties apart. As more and more early records become available - transcribed, indexed, transmitted and stored - so more "Fabers" will be able to access this information to research the complex and often enigmatic descendancies in question.

We can now make the quantum leap from a daughter Smythe named at Leyden in Holland - with clear Baptist or non-conformist connections - to the Smiths of the Americas, or we can follow the Smyths from Suffolk who removed to Lincolnshire or from Norfolk to Nova Scotia where the name was sometimes changed to Smythe - as happened in Ireland too.  Families throughout the world can now immerse themselves in 'the quest' and so make new connections. The "tyranny of distance" is overthrown.

This is the age of "the immediate", where searching for a name or a phrase embedded somewhere in the multi-mega million paged collection called the Internet, means that we can celebrate the swift discovery of a cousin Smyth from way back when; but we can just as quickly see it all go 'pop'  - like a big soap bubble - when it is revealed that, circa 1560, our supposed long-lost cousin (who signed himself as Smithe) married his third wife who was, co-incidentally, his second cousin twice removed, called Smith and who, we find, gave birth to the ancestor of our dreams at the ripe old age of 125 at Smyth Hall near Lyttle Woppynge - a tiny Blankfordshire village - a village which, it so transpires, never existed anyway and where the surrounding countryside was nothing more than a murky swamp in fifteen sixty something - all this confirmed by the evidence of some recently released local land record.

Such are the joys - and the frustrations - of genealogy in this cyber age.Access the Smythe Index

This text updated
January 2004