Welsh Surnames

Hereditary surnames developed late in Wales. Surnames of Welsh origin developed in Ireland and England earlier than in Wales itself. The frequency of the surname Walsh in Ireland illustrates the Cambro- nature of the Norman Invasion, and the influence of a close neighbour upon Irish surnames.

It was during the reign of Henry VIII that surnames became hereditary among the gentry, and this spread slowly among the ordinary people. It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for a man to take his father’s personal name as his surname.

The result is that many Welsh surnames are based upon personal names that are not Welsh.

In recent times some surnames have been cymricised· thus adding to the confusion of Welsh surnames.

Patronymic surnames

Patronymic surnames predominate in Wales and as already noted the period in which these became fixed and hereditary was much later than most of Europe.

Since medieval times personal names were strongly influenced by the Bible, and as surnames were adopted after this time, they came to be based upon a small number of non-Welsh personal names.

Other derivations

Less common influences upon Welsh surnames were those related to personal characteristics and occupation. However surnames derived from place names are more common. This is because the land owning classes took the names of their estates as surnames.


Anglicised areas

Large parts of Wales became anglicised from the fourteenth century or earlier. This is particularly so in the south and the English border region. The result is that in these areas of Wales and the adjoining part of England there was an anglicised development of Welsh surnames.

Surnames developed earlier in these areas and there is a greater variety of surnames. In addition there is a greater number of surnames that are not Welsh.

Double surnames

Double surnames have developed in Wales during the past hundred years. This is because of the small number of surnames and the need to distinguish individuals in a larger population. The surname of the mother was frequently adopted for this purpose.

When descendants adopted the double surname and hyphenated it the result was a new surname. A separate list of surnames for Wales is not available. Notwithstanding that it is clear that the following surnames would predominate: Jones; Williams; Davies; Evans; Thomas; Lewis; Morgan; and as always Smith.


Table of hundred most numerous surnames in England and Wales

The table of the hundred most numerous surnames in England and Wales follows. Those surnames dealt with in the main text are highlighted in bold type. This is extracted from the official UK statistics website at: www.statistics.gov.uk/themes/compendia_reference/surnames.asp.



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