By Anne Gibson
There are several reasons why Smith is such a numerous and widespread surname, leaving behind in frequency other surnames such as Jones and Brown. It is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon names, so Smiths have been around longer, multiplying with each generation. Over one thousand years ago an unidentified Anglo-Saxon used the old English word Smith to describe his occupation as a worker in iron, then over time a ‘smith’ became known as a worker in metals. The Smiths (blacksmiths) were, by necessity, a strong vigorous race and an integral part of their communities, so would have had the means available to survive and reproduce further generations.
To distinguish between a worker with iron and a worker with tin the terms blacksmith and whitesmith came into use. Later in the Middle Ages with increasing population came further specialisation and new crafts that created new descriptions and hence surnames. Brownsmith (worker in brass): Greensmith (worker in copper): Goldsmith (worker in gold and silver): Naismith (knife maker), Arrowsmith (maker of iron-tipped arrows): Sixsmith (sickle and scythe maker) and Shoesmith (maker of horseshoes).
There were twenty-one persons named Smith who arrived at New South Wales in 1788 with the First Fleet. These were made up of sixteen convicts, both women and men, two were crew members, two were marines, and the other was James Smith, perhaps a stow-away. Surgeon Bowes recorded the Governor sent for Mr J Smith in our Ship, and told him that though he knew nothing of his being in the fleet till he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, he would allow him, on the recommendation of several officers to go on shore on Monday, by wh. time there should be a Tent erected for him, a piece of ground shd be allotted to him for a garden, he wd. Be suppy’d with every necessary sort of seeds, he was to officiate as headborough (petty constable) and the chief duty he wd. Have to do at present wd. be to superintend the Convicts who were at work. In February 1789 James Smith was appointed to assist the commissary at Rose Hill and sworn in as peace officer. His knowledge of agriculture proved to be inadequate and his advancing age and infirmity led to dismissal, he returned to England by Gorgon leaving 18 December 1791 from Port Jackson.
Of those with the surname Smith on the First Fleet, four had the given name Ann. One Ann Smith, born c 1756 was charged at the Old Bailey on 30 August 1786 with theft of a pewter pint pot and embarked on Lady Penrhyn to sail on the First Fleet. Surgeon Bowes recorded her as a nurse but said she always behaved amiss. At Port Jackson she refused to wear the slop clothing provided by the commissary. On the voyage she had said many times that she would abscond as soon as she could after landing, which she did on 14th February and was not seen again.
On 7 June 1788, Captain David Collins sat as magistrate. A female convict, Ann Smith, was charged by Mr Smith, the constable, with insolence and abuse to him while in the execution of his office. He said that on Wednesday night he told Ann Smith to put her fire out. She replied that she would do so if he would go the Governor and get her a pair of shoes. She said that he was a very busy person, and that, though on the ship she took him for a gentleman, she now found quite the contrary. The prisoner begged Mr Smiths’ pardon, and said she would not have spoken to him in that fashion and she not known him on the ship, and thought she might take such a liberty. She was found guilty and sentenced to be flogged, but the sentence was remitted by Governor Phillip.
Another Ann Smith ‘wife of John Smith’ was sentenced to transportation at Winchester, Hants and embarked on Charlotte. On 4 March 1790 she was sent to Norfolk Island on Sirius and returned to Port Jackson on Kitty three years later. She appears in later records married to one of the six William Smiths who arrived on the First Fleet. This William was sentenced at Dorchester, Dorset and embarked on the Charlotte also. William Smith received a land grant on the Hawkesbury and he and Ann were recorded as living there off stores by 1802. In his 1820 Will he left a 250 acre farm at Seven Hills called Ann’s Place to his wife Ann, which would then pass to Ann’s son Thomas Burn Smith.
Compiled by Anne Gibson
Article featured in the First Fleet Folio, April 2013, Issue 165
The Triumph of Smith by Kenneth Allan, Descent Vol.23 No.3, September 1993
The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen
Sydney Cove 1788, ed by Dr John Cobley