Derivation of Welsh Surnames

Basis of page below thanks to Roy Jones.

Surnames were not widely used until the Tudor period. Previously, a person was identified by describing him as "son of" his father ("ab" before a name beginning with a vowel, "ap" before a consonant or consonantal "i"), as in Dafydd ap Gwilym, Hywel ab Owain, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. The later surnames were for the most part formed in one of two ways. The "ab" or "ap" could be fused with the father's name: "ab Owain", "ap Hywel", "ap Rhys", etc. became "Bowen", "Powel(l)", "Prys" (Preece, Price). Or more commonly the English possessive "s" was added to the father's name, as in Roberts, Williams, etc. Older "ap Ieuan" and "ap John" have given us not only "Johns" but in far too many instances "Jones". Medieval appellations which were not, strictly speaking, surnames - such as "Gwyn" or "Llwyd" have frozen into surnames - "Lloyd", "Gwyn(n)", "Gwynne", "Wyn(n)", "Wynne".

By long established and still prevalent custom, poets and sometimes writers of prose as well, have adopted or have had conferred upon them "bardic names' or pseudonyms under which their works may be published, and which may be the most widely known name associated with the individual. Thus, a reference to one of your ancestors as "Islwyn" may indeed be his bardic name, even though you thought it was the Reverend William Thomas.

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Last Update: Sunday, December 30, 2007 Monday, 18-Jun-2001 22:48:44 MDT