Late Sixteenth Century Welsh Names

by Talan Gwynek
(Brian M. Scott,
© 1994 by Brian M. Scott; all rights reserved.

Early in the course of compiling the data for my article on late sixteeen century English names, I was struck by a number of Welsh names of what seemed a very traditional nature and began to keep a separate record of Welsh names. Had the distribution of names in Wales been my primary interest, I should have recorded every name for which a Welsh address was given. I was more interested in noting the names that seemed to be characteristically Welsh, however, so my data are undoubtedly incomplete. I recorded all names containing ap, including those in which it appears fused with the patronym, e.g., Powell (for ap Hywel), and all names containing verch and its variants. I recorded names containing elements clearly of Welsh origin, like Griffith, Meredith, Lloyd, Tydder, and Vaughan; in almost all cases these were associated with one of the Welsh counties or with neighboring Herefordshire or Gloucestershire. Finally, whenever I noticed that an address was Welsh, I recorded the associated name. I may have missed a few, but I will at least have noted all of the names with a patronymic surname based on a given name common in Wales. I was particularly looking for examples of double given names, so I should also have noted any apparent Welsh instances. Thus, any names that I missed should be of the standard English form <forename> <surname> and should have no obvious Welsh characteristics.

In the end I recorded 197 names, 181 of men and 16 of women, which I have analyzed according to length and types of elements. For a few of these people an alternative surname, or alias, is given. In every case but one I have counted this as two names. Thus, for example, Thomas Moyell alias Lewes is counted both as Thomas Moyell and as Thomas Lewes. The exception is John Guylte alias Gwilt, in which the two names are merely spelling variants. I have treated Elizabeth Gunter, vergh Thomas the same way, i.e., as if it were both Elizabeth Gunter and Elizabeth vergh Thomas. (The lady was a widow; doubtless Gunter was her husband's surname.) By this procedure I have increased the total number of names to 213, of which 192 are men's and 21 are women's.

A handful of names are particularly noteworthy. John ap William ap Griffith ap Edneved and Roger ap Ress ap Dd. ap John, for example, are unmistakably four-generation names, and the same would appear to be true of Morgan William David ap Yeorathe. Among the women there are no names of more than two generations, but one of the two-generation names is interesting in that it shows a relatively unfamiliar aspect of the breakdown of the old patronymic system: besides the expected Alice verch Jevann, Catherine verch Thomas, and Margarete verch Daind we find Catherine ap Owen. Elizabeth verch John alias Jenkins is interesting in showing what must be a true patronymic in both Welsh (verch John) and English (Jenkins) syntax.

For the purposes of structural analysis I have assigned each element of each name to one of seven categories according to the following key.

G         An unmodified given name. The first element of each name is assumed to belong to this category even if, as in the case of Goughe ap David Gittinus, it is normally in some other category. However, I have taken Gunter in Elizabeth Gunter, vergh Thomas, to be an English surname (E) despite its patronymic origin (see DES). I have tentatively taken Avan to be a variant of Evan.
S A possessive patronymic formed in the English style by addition of -s: Davies, Evans, Gittinus, Griffeths, Gwatkins, Gwilliams, Istans, Jenkins, Jones, Williams.
B A Welsh byname: Dee (du `black'), Geathen (cethin `swarthy'), Gough, Goz (coch `red(-haired)'), (G)wyn (gwyn `white, fair'), Lloyd (llwyd `grey; mouse-brown'), Moyell (moel `bare, bald'), Vaughan (bychan `small'). Note, however, that Gwyn and Llwyd were also used as forenames.
L Welsh locatives: Kemis (Cemais), Myvod (Meifod), Penburie (perhaps Penbre?).
E `English' surnames, regardless of type, except those already included in type S: Gerned(?), Gregor, Gunter, Harding, Piers, Renn(?), Taylor, White, Young.
F Fused Welsh patronymics: Abevan and Byvan (ap Evan), Appowell and Powell (ap Hywel), Parry (ap Harry), Prichard (ap Richard), Price (ap Rhys), Probert (ap Robert), Pugh (ap Hugh).
P A Welsh patronymic of the form ap G or verch G. (There are two names containing ap that do not quite fit this form. They are Griffin ap Powell and James ap Pryce, in which the patronym is written with an intrusive initial P; I have nevertheless counted these as belonging to the type GP.

Once the name elements have been assigned to these categories, the resulting tabulations can be organized in several useful ways. At an earlier period it would be useful to count the number of generations mentioned in each name. For these names, however, there seems to be no way to distinguish Vaughan as a hereditary surname from fychan as a contemporary byname. On the first interpretation Howell Vaughan would be best classified as a two-generation name; on the second, however, it mentions only Howell himself. The simplest solution is to classify the names not by generation but by number of elements. This classification shows that although a significant number of the Welsh names have more than two elements and are therefore longer than almost all English names, the two-element name predominates even among the Welsh data. (Note that any omissions in extracting the Welsh data from PCCA are likely to be in the two-element group, which if anything is therefore underestimated here.)

Two-Element Names. There are 158 of these (74.2%).
GG: 43 GS: 23 GB: 26 GL: 3 GE: 8 GF: 21 GP: 34
Three-Element Names. There are 48 of these (22.5%).
GGG: 6 GGS: 2 GGB: 2 GGL: 1 GGE: 2 GGF: 1 GGP: 7
GSP: 1 GBP: 2 GPG: 4 GPS: 1 GPB: 6 GPF: 1 GPP: 12
Four-Element Names. There are 7 of these (3.3%).

A similar distinction may be drawn between names of `English' type and those of distinctively Welsh form. By a name of `English' type I mean any two-element name not of the form GP. Thus, I count Simon Maddock and Ludwig Vaughan as being of `English' type even though the specific elements mark them as Welsh. I include names of the type GF, like David Price and even John Abevan, because they too have been made to conform with English style. Conversely, a name is of Welsh type if and only if it contains a P element. On this basis the data contain 124 Welsh names of `English' type, 73 of Welsh type, and 16 that fall into neither of these categories. Of these 14 unclassified names, 14 are of one of the forms GGX with X equal to something other than P; given the existence of a pair of possible English examples of names of this form, these 12 names must be classified as ambiguous with respect to this distinction. I know of no evidence for four-element English names c. 1600, so the remaining two names, of types GGGB and GGFB, should probably be added to the category of names of Welsh type. The final totals are as follows:

`English' type 124 (58.2%)
Welsh type 75 (35.2%)
Ambiguous type 14 (6.6%)

These data strongly suggest that at the end of the sixteenth century Welsh naming practice was well on its way to conforming with English practice, although the differences were evidently still significant. At the same time it should be noted that these are English records and that the persons named must have been of at least moderate substance.

The names containing elements of type P contain a number of given names and spellings thereof not found as forenames in these data. It seems likely that these names and forms would occur as forenames in a larger corpus. In addition there are several given names and spellings found only in surnames of type G. For the sake of completeness I list all of these additional forms below. Those found in PCCA only as surnames of type G are marked with an asterisk, since it is possible that they show spellings not found in forename usage. Consult MM at the Welsh forms for more information.

Bedoe* A pet form of Maredudd; Welsh Bedo.
Daind Probably a pet form of Dafydd; see MM.
Dd. A standard abbreviation for Dafydd.
Edneved Welsh Ednyfed.
Elizey See MM at Elis. Occurs in Name List as Eliza.
Griffeth* See Name List at Griffith.
Gronoe Welsh Goronwy.
Gryffin* See Name List at Griffin.
Gwalter* Welsh Gwallter < Walter.
Gwilliam Welsh Gwilym, corresponding to English William.
Harrie* See Name List at Harry.
Humfrey See Name List at Humphrey.
Jevan(n) Welsh Ieuan; Jenn is a derivative.
Lewes* See Name List at Lewis; the -es appears to be characteristic of the type S surname.
Llewellyn Welsh Llywelyn.
      Ll. An abbreviation of Llywelyn.
      Llen Either an abbreviation of Llywelyn or a pet form.
Lloid Welsh Llwyd, usually a byname, used as a given name.
Madock(e) Welsh Madog.
Mereddith See Name List at Meredith.
Merricke* Welsh Meurig.
Phillipp* See Name List at Phillip.
Reeice See Name List at Rees.
Roberte See Name List at Robert; Robin is a pet form.
Yeorathe Welsh Iorwerth.

Abbreviations and Bibliography

DES Reaney, P.H. & Wilson, R.M. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991.
MM Morgan, T.J. & Morgan, Prys. Welsh Surnames. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1985.
PCCA Ridge, C. Harold, ed. Index to Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Vol. III, 1581-1595. London: The British Record Society, Limited, 1954.

Editted & published by Arval Benicoeur