According to both of my sources, surnames are the challenge of Welsh research. Parts of Wales began using fixed surnames in the 16th and 17th centuries. The last areas of Wales adopted fixed surnames in the early 1800s. Before then, a patronymic system was in place where a male child was given a first name followed by the syllable ab, ap, mab or map, then his father’s name was added. For example, Llywelyn ab Owain should be thought of as Llywelyn son of Owen. A daughter had a first name, the syllable verch, ferch or ach, and then her father’s name.Some documents may list several generations back in a chain of abs and aps. Which syllable meaning ‘son of’ was inserted depended on whether the first letter of the father’s name was a vowel or a consonant. So it is ab Owen and ap Richard. As time passed, shortened forms appeared so that ab Owen was “Bowen” and ap Richard became “Pritchard.” Some Welsh simply added an “s” to their father’s name. As a result we now have the surnames Johns, Jones, Jenkins, or Richards, Williams and Davies. Many documents were written in Latin or English, but occasionally, they would insert the Welsh spelling of a name; for example, Dafydd for David. In a recent sense of national pride, some Welsh are going back to the old naming patterns.
The resources listed below can help you through the name maze, including the meaning of names and the meaning of place names. All of the Rowlands’ books are available from their publisher at www.genealogical.com.Resources:
Morgan, T.J. and Prys Morgan. Welsh Surnames. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1985.Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. The Surnames of Wales for Family Historians and Others. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996.
Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008 (Second Edition).Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999.
Sources for this blog:Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004 Second Edition.
Nevius, Erin and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine, The Family Tree Guide Book to Europe. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2003.©2013, Susan Lewis Well