Welsh Naming Conventions

+7 votes
I've been working on Welsh Settlements in Ohio and have a couple brothers who were born in South Wales in the 1770s.  The surname they carried to the U.S. is Gwilym.  Now, their father is an unknown "Gwilym".  I'm wondering. . . in the 1770s, would their father have been a Gwilym ap (his father's name) or would he have considered Gwilym to be his surname?

When did the Welsh adopt the English surname standard?
WikiTree profile: Morgan Gwilym
in WikiTree Tech by Saundra Stewart G2G6 Mach 6 (63.0k points)

1 Answer

+9 votes
Best answer
There were two ways that patronymic (“son of”) surnames were rendered in Wales; firstly the “Dewi ap Gwilym” form that you mention (more common up to the 1600s) and the anglicised “David Williams, son of William Lewis” that was probably restricted to official records (due to the parish records being written often by monoglot English officials).

The fixing of surnames was a gradual process, starting with the upper classes and being complete in the middle of the 19th century with the advent of extensive record-keeping in all areas of life.

Since surviving records are typically official ones, the recorded names generally transition between the old “ap” form to the anglicised form to a fixed surname. However, it's interesting that Morgan has a typically Welsh surname (Gwilym = William) so it's likely the surname that he used in day-to-day life rather than the surname found in official (anglicised) records. As such I'm inclined to believe it to be a patronymic surname, and that Gwilym was his father's forename. However, if one were to search for him in official records in Wales, you'd likely find him under “Morgan Williams” or “Morgan William”.

Incidentally “Cevmaman” is almost certainly a mistranscription; no place exists of that name. I would guess it to be Cwmaman, or possibly Cefnaman (if such a place exists; I can only find a farm of that name in northern Wales so not likely relevant to Morgan).
by Anonymous Jones G2G6 Mach 1 (17.0k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard

Thanks!  That's exactly the info I was looking for.  So, a "Williams" of Wales had two sons Morgan and William who removed to the United States during their young adulthood.  Hmmmm.  Finding the parents is going to be difficult. smiley


Actually in this case it may not be so difficult. Looking in the Welsh Newspapers site, it appears that Morgan originally came from Cwmllynfell north of Swansea (in Llangiwg parish) [1], and there appear to be a number of Gwilyms living in that area. So it seems that this may be one of the rare cases where a Welsh name stuck as the inherited surname.

In particular it seems one of them (Ann, daughter of Richard and Hannah Gwilym) emigrated in 1851 and settled in Ohio to be near her father's relatives (presumably Morgan and William) [2].

[1] http://papuraunewydd.llyfrgell.cymru/view/4285728/4285732/8/

[2] http://papuraunewydd.llyfrgell.cymru/view/3775844/3775851/42/
Wow! Great research work!
Helps when you can read Welsh, huh?
That's one of the things I love about WikiTree! I have had SO much help from our Welsh-speaking members!

The Cymru Project's Resource Page has a Language section with links that I've found really helpful - see https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Cymru_Project_Resources#Language

Cheers, Liz

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