|‘Is it French?’ a question I am sure many of us have been asked and the simple answer is ‘Who knows?’.
It was the French who introduced the ‘surnom’ (meaning above or over name) to England, in the mid 11th century. Used mainly by the lords and landed gentry, the surname gradually became an accepted practice throughout the country, but it wasn't until 1250 that it became law to have a second name. Before this, peasants were usually identified as Godfrey of Aston or James, son of John. Later they simply became Godfrey Aston or James Johnson.
Less obvious is the development of Simon(et). According to an old book of English names, Simonet is derived from ‘son of Simon’. Apparently ‘et’ was used at the end of the father's name and given to the younger members of the family (the ‘little ones’) as a sign of affection. So 'little Simon' was known as Simon-et, eventually becoming a name in it’s own right, later to become the surname. It is worth noting that in other European countries ‘son of’ and 'little' were used in much the same way. In Lithuania son of Simon became Simoneit and in Poland Simonic.
But is it French? It is possible, considering the earliest Symonetts we have found to date, were recorded in the census of Paris in 1292. Four entries with their respective occupations and differing spellings are Simonnet (Fuiz unknown), Simmonete (chambriere Chamber maid), Symonet (Taupin mole trapper), Symonnet (cervoisier beer maker).
‘Were they Huguenots?’. That obviously depends on the family line. The Huguenots came to this country around the mid 17th century travelling to the south and north of England and to Scotland, but not to the Midlands, according to the Huguenot Society. There were Huguenot Symonetts here, especially in London and these can be identified in the records of the church they attended.
The book of English names mentioned earlier, suggests the name Symonet is from the 14th century, much earlier than the arrival of the Huguenots. Evidence can be found in the early records of the Tower of London which mentions 'Simonetts Mercator' (a merchant). In Stafford there is a record of a William Symonet dated 1327 and the British Chancery Records of 14591466 shows a dispute with a William and Agnes Symonet of Kent.
We have also come across a number of names which are apparently biblical, they include: Simmonete, Simonetta, Simonette and Simonnet. Possibly found in the New Testament as the only reference we've found that comes close to the name is from the Old Testament of the Bible in the Third Book of Moses, Numbers 26:14: These are the families of the Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred.
I doubt if we will ever have an answer to the question ‘Is it French?’, but those who would like to think they have French ancestry can take comfort in the fact that the records show that the earliest Symonett name (to date) was indeed from France.
For me I like the ‘ET’ theory!