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Welsh Names

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  • Daniela Moneta
    Hello, I belong to the PA-WELSH-EARLY mailing list at RootsWeb and have George s permission to share this. It may be something most of you already know but it
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2006
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      Tracing Pugh Origins

      Hello,

      I belong to the PA-WELSH-EARLY mailing list at RootsWeb and have George’s permission to share this. It may be something most of you already know but it is good to read again.

       

      Message: 1

      Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2006 16:29:07 -0800

      From: "George Prothro Coulter" <prothro2@...>

      Subject: [PA-WELSH-EARLY] Welsh words and Surnames - Tyson, Dill,

            Barcominsa

      To: <PA-WELSH-EARLY@...>

      Message-ID: <003101c71bf2$351a7370$3344cd18@georget8jj19k5>

      Content-Type: text/plain;     charset="Windows-1252"

       

      In response to earlier postings to this site:  The place (farm?) name of Barcominsa has no meaning in the Welsh language, and the Tyson and Dill surnames are not characteristically Welsh.  There may have been people of those surnames who lived in Wales, but they almost certainly did not descend from the Celtic Britons who began to adopt fixed surnames only after the English-Welsh Acts of Union (1536 and 1542).  The Welsh were slow to adopt the English practice of use of fixed surnames after the Acts of Union.  Those who did so first were the ones in closest contact with the English.  Most of the others continued to adhere to the time-honored patronymics, some families even well into to the 19th century.  Those who migrated to America generally adopted fixed surnames upon arrival in the New World, if not earlier, but we see many instances where the patronymics were used as alternates in America during the early days of Penn's colony.

       

      Before surnames came into vogue among the Welsh, a male would bear a given name, followed by a Welsh patronymic indicator (ap or ab, both of which are contractions of the Welsh word, map or mab, which means "son of"), and then the given name of the father.

      The patronymic name could be fairly long string, like John ap James ap Lewis ap Thomas, etc., inasmuch as the Welsh were devoted to pedigree.  Rights of ownership of lands, and proportional liability for blood fines (or the right to share in the same) under traditional Welsh law and custom, depended on the ability to determine kinship to the seventh degree.

       

      More than 90% of all (truly) Welsh surnames derive either from a common given name, or from an epithet (something like a nickname) of an ancestor. A son or descendant of Howel(l) would select the surname of Howel, or Howell, or Powell.  A son of Owen would select Owen, or Owens, or Bowen. A son of a Welsh Robert would become Roberts, or Robert, or Probert (seldom Robertson, which was too "English" for a Welshman's taste). A son of Evan, which is the Welsh "equivalent" of John, could become Evan, or Evans, or Bevan, or even Jo(h)nes (by "borrowing" from the English the letter "J" which does not occur in the Welsh alphabet, and using the angicised form of the given name). A son of Rhys (Rees or Rice) could become Pryse, or Prees(e), or Price, or Brees(e).  The "P" or "B" at the beginning of a surname so derived is simply the vestige of the patronymic indicator, but the indicator was dropped for such given names as Lewis, James, Thomas, and the like. The surname selected might !

       be the given name of the father, or of the grandfather, of the first user.  Often, one son would adopt a fixed surname, while one or more of his brothers continued to use the patronymic. And it was not unusual for brothers to adopt surnames fashioned from different patronymics (one using the father's given name, the other using the given name of the grandfather). 

       

      The epithets, which were descriptive of appearance or personality traits of an individual, gave rise to such names as Gwynn(e) or Gwinn, Vaughan or Vaughn, LLoyd (or Floyd, an anglicised version of the same Welsh word), etc.  Gwyn is the Welsh word for "white," so the bearer of that epithet would be pale or white-haired. Vaugh(a)n derives from the Welsh word fychan, meaning "small."  Lloyd derives from the Welsh word llwyd, meaning "pale" or "grey." Similar epithet surnames could use the Welsh word for any physical characteristic or character trait, or occasionally, even an occupation or an activity of the person to whom the epithet was applied.

       

      There were a few non-patronymic and non-epithet surnames adopted in Wales, but for the most part, those were selected by advenae ("newcomers" or "adventurers"), like the Normans and Flemish living in Wales, not by the indigenous Celtic Britons. The vast majority are recognizable as either deriving from given names or epithets.

       

      George Prothro Coulter

       

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