Saturday, January 27, 2007

Patronymic Naming in Wales

BBC - South East Wales Family history - Patronymic Naming: "The ancient Welsh patronymic naming system can cause significant problems for genealogists.

Patronymics describes the process of giving a male child the father's given, or forename, as a surname. This means that a family's name changes in successive generations.

Such names are not uncommon in modern day Wales, with BBC Wales correspondents Iolo ap Dafydd (above) and Rhun ap Iorwerth being well-known examples.

But the process of conversion to the system of fixed surnames in Wales began in the fifteenth century and continued through to the middle of the eighteenth century. The trend was stratified socially - the higher classes in society began the process, which then was passed on to the lower classes.

Consequently, genealogists whose search has reached this period in Welsh history can sometimes find that their search grinds to a halt as family names 'disappear' into the patronymic system of naming.

The Welsh patronymic system describes family trees in terms of the male line only and records the family association in the 'ap' or 'ab' prefix - 'ap' is a contraction of the Welsh word mab, which means son. So, Rhys ap Dafydd means, in English, Rhys son of David.

Modern Welsh surnames such as Powell, Price and Prichard are the result of this contraction and a progressive tendency to Anglicise Welsh names: under the patronymic system they would have been ap Hywel; ap Rhys and ap Richard. The names Bowen and Bevan were derived in the same way.

Women's names sometimes entered the patronymic system using the 'ferch' (daughter of) prefix. So, Rhiannon ferch Dafydd ap Iorwerth would be Rhiannon, daughter of David, son of Edward. When they married, women usually kept their maiden names as there was no surname for them to adopt.

The range of Welsh surnames is very small, due in part to this drawn-out process of conversion, but also because of the growing tendency to adopt English forenames (usually taken from Christian saints), particularly in towns like Hereford on the Welsh borders. Names such as John, William, David, Thomas and Hugh, became Jones, Williams, Davis, Thomas and Hughes.

In north Wales, place names were frequently adopted, and in mid Wales families adopted nicknames for surnames. Jenkins is possibly derived from two different sources: as a corruption of a Flemish version of John, and as a result of the popularity of the name Ieuan in Wales during this period. Ieuan also gave rise to Evan(s) and Jones.

"welsh patronymics - Google Search

but do ignore the idiotic DNA testing project and the Welsh baby names

Macca + Psychotherapy - Page 3 - - Mac Support: "Incidentally, on the subject of Welsh patronymics, it's not widely realised that America owes its name to a Welsh patronymic.

Although it has been widely taught that America was named after Amerigo Vespucci there has always been little evidence to support this.

A more cogent argument is that America was named after the King's Customs Agent in Bristol, a wealthy shipping magnate called Richard Americ (sometimes spelt Ameryk or Amerike). It was Americ who funded John Cabot's voyages to the New World and Cabot is known to have been the first to make landfall on the continental mainland (in what is now Newfoundland).

However Americ's fishing fleets had been plying the north atlantic waters for many years before either Columbus or Cabot and it is believed from examination of contemporary accounts that the crews of his fleet were aware of the existence of a landmass to the west of their fishing field which they already informally referred to as 'America'.

Americ was born in Ross-on-Wye and his name derives from the patronymic 'Ap Meurig' except this is elided by the Welsh rules of soft mutation into 'Amheurig' which, on his settling in Brigstow (as Bristol as then known) became corrupted into Americ (or Americk, Ameryk, Amerike etc). The name suvives in England as Merrick."


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