That's good advice -- however, that would assume most people are actually consulting
the parish registers or Bishop's Transcripts in their research and not relying solely
on online indexes, census entries and lookups by others ;-)
----- Original Message -----
From: Alwyn ap Huw
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 9:31 AM
Subject: ATB: [Dyfed] General - Patronymics
I may have mentioned this on the Dyfed list before, if I have
sorry for the repeat.
One way of checking if patronymic surnames were being used in a particular
parish at a given time is to look for infant deaths. If you find an entry
that looks like:
John Williams of the Smithy, infant, was buried on ....
Look for a baptism for the child.
If you find John the son of William xxxx of the Smithy was baptised - then
patronymics were being used.
If you find John the son of xxxxx Williams etc, then surnames were being
All the best
-----Neges Wreiddiol-----/-----Original Message-----
Oddi wrth/From: Anna Brueton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Anfonwyd/Sent: 28 February 2006 10:21
Pwnc/Subject: Re: [Dyfed] General - Patronymics
Apologies for the late follow-up to this query - I've been away and am only
just catching up!
It's impossible to be specific about dates relating to the use of
patronymics as it varied so much with the location and class of the person.
I've found them as late as 1851 (there are a couple of examples in the
Llanddeusant CMN census), but only in remote areas. My experience is that
smaller tenant farmers tended to be the last to give them up. To try and
answer your questions:
** patronymics survived longest in remote areas among smaller tenant farmers
** members of the same family generally took the same fixed surname, though
not always in the same generation, and there are rare documented examples
** In my experience it is as common for families to adopt their father's
second name as a fixed surname as the first
** once having adopted a surname families rarely went back to patronymics,
though I think there are documented examples of English incomers adopting
the Welsh system (but much earlier than the period you are looking at)
The easiest way to find out whether patronymics are still being used in
your areas of interest is to study the baptismal and burial registers. If
you find people with more than 2 names (ie a baptismal name and a
"surname") then it's very likely that patronymics are still in use -
ordinary people rarely had more than one baptismal name before the early
nineteenth century. Also, if you find large numbers of people with the
second name David, John, William etc and few with Davies, Jones, Williams,
then again you might conclude that patronymics are still in use.
Finally, when you do come across patronymics, you need to bear in mind that
the transition was not usually instantaneous - a person might be known by
either his patronymic or his surname depending on the context. You might
find the word "alias" being used to indicate this eg "John Davies alias
John David Rees".
Hope this helps
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