Welsh surnames


Welsh surnames

Fixed family names are a recent introduction to Wales. Before they were imposed for legal purposes, patronymic surnames were used.

The Welsh used an ancient patronymic naming system whereby the children of a marriage took their father's forename as their surname. As a result surnames were not fixed, and changed from generation to generation: so that Evan son of Thomas William would be known as Evan Thomas; Evan's son, John would be John Evan; John's son Rees would be Rees John; and David's son, James, would be James David.

Names such as Edward and William sometimes added an 's', becoming Edwards and Williams. Names ending in 's' like Thomas remained unchanged. Such names may originally have been carried into Wales by English settlers, as patronymic surnames with the short -s form are recorded in various parts of England dating back to the Middle Ages.

Traditionally women kept their maiden names when they married as there was no surname for them to adopt. The terms "verch" or "ferch", meaning "daughter of", and abbreviated to "vch" or "vz", were sometimes used, though they are rarely found in parish register entries.

This practice continued up until the early 1800s in some areas, with rural areas clinging to the patronymic system longer than urban ones. Areas where English influence was strong abandoned patronymics earlier, as did town families and the wealthy.

Welsh communities are full of families bearing the same few surnames but who are completely unrelated, and it cannot be claimed that everyone named Jones or Evans must be related to everyone else named Jones or Evans.

Patronymics were essentially a genealogical history of the family, where one generation was connected to another by "ap", from "map" ("mab" in modern Welsh), meaning "son of".

Names such as Llewelyn ap Dafydd ab Ieuan ap Griffith ap Meredith were not uncommon. At the end of the 19th century, this practice ceased and "ap" was usually combined with one name to yield surnames such as Upjohn (from Apjohn) and Powell (from Aphowell).

Place in the UK today

In the United Kingdom today, Welsh surnames are some of the most common. Of the ten most common surnames in Britain, six are of Welsh origin. Jones, being the second most common name in Britain, is followed by Williams in third place, Davies in sixth place, and Evans and Thomas in eighth and ninth places respectively. Roberts, which is ranked tenth, is also of Welsh origin.

External links

* [http://www.behindthename.com/nmc/wel.php The meaning behind Welsh names ]
* [http://www.infokey.com/Surname.html General History of surnames, including Welsh]
* [http://www.welshpedia.co.uk/wiki/wales/index.php?title=Welsh_Surnames Collection of Welsh Surnames (along with Male and Female first names)]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/sites/familyhistory/pages/surnames.shtml Welsh patronymic naming system]
* [http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/talan/talanWelsh16.html Late Sixteenth Century Welsh Names ]
* [http://www.writing-world.com/sf/name.shtml What's in a name?]
* [http://shop.store.yahoo.com/4crests/samcoatofarf.html Surname meanings]
* [http://www.sog.org.uk/leaflets/surnames.pdf Interesting article on the relevance of surnames in genealogy] (PDF File)
* [http://www.users.waitrose.com/~brbeamond Welsh-Border Surnames from 'ab Edmond']


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