There are a few names synonymous with the people of Wales. There are countless numbers of Rees’, Williams’ and Davies’ in ever village, although one surname stands out above the rest.
Jones is the most common surname in Wales, with 5.6% of the popular sharing the popular surname – nearly 180,000 people in Wales alone!
Despite being the most common name in Wales, it does not come from the countries humble beginnings as a Celtic nation.
The name “Jones” does not come from the Celts. It originated years after the Roman Invasion, before Wales even became a country and joined the United Kingdom.
Hundreds of years before the Welsh Dragon became a symbol of a nation, Jones’ covered the nation from Anglesey to the Vale of Glamorgan.
With nearly 200,000 people in Wales named Jones, the question goes begging about the origin of the name. Where does the name Jones come from, and why do so many people share the most common name in Wales?
Why Are So Many People In Wales Called Jones?
The old naming system brought into Wales in 1542 is the reason why so many people have the surname “Jones”.
Up until 1542, Wales had a patronymic naming system. This is similar to what is still used today in countries like Iceland, where children take the first name of their father as the basis of their surname, rather than a uniform surname throughout their family.
Boys born would take their father’s first name as their surname with the prefix ap, which is a contraction of the Welsh word ‘mab’, which means son.
For example, a boy born named Dafydd to a father named Llewellyn would be given the name “Dafydd ap Llewellyn” – literally, “David, Son of Llewellyn/Llewellyn’s son”.
Girls born would take their father’s first name as their surname with the prefix Ferch, which is a Welsh word which means daughter.
For example, a daughter born named Seren to a father named Llewellyn would be given the name “Seren Ferch Llewellyn” – literally “Seren, Daughter of Llewllyn/Llewellyn’s Daughter”.
This naming convention came to an end in most of Wales through the 1542 act of Parliament that united England and Wales as a country for the first time.
King Henry VIII enacted this power to greatly reduce the freedom and powers of Wales, despite hailing from the country himself. This was in part to quell any rebellion brewing in Wales, who did not want to be united with England under the crown in any manner.
The country then became subject to any English laws and customs that were in place in England. This included the need for a fixed surname (the same style that we use today) in order to interact with any legal frameworks in the country (for example, to purchase property).
Due to this act, the people of Wales needed to adopt this new naming convention, and sharpish. They did this very simply, by taking their original surnames, and removing the “ap”.
It wasn’t quite that simple, but you get the idea.
Anybody with a father named Rhys, who was previously known “ap Rhys” suddenly took the surname “Rhys” or “Rees” (the anglicised spelling of Rhys), which was then passed down to their children, ignoring future fathers’ first names as consideration for their surname.
This would have made record keeping a lot easier, had an incredible amount of the country not been given the name “John”. John was a biblical name that was incredibly popular in Wales at the time (and still is), and became the basis of the surname “Jones” in Wales.
The name was also not one coveted by royalty. One could not tie the name “John” to any of the King’s and Queen’s at the time, so it was a safe name to show your disassociation with the Royal Family at the time.
Instead of taking Ap John, surnames simply became “John”. Sadly, that did not always work, as many children were then subsequently also named John, whether after a father or a grandfather.
To differentiate between the names, there was a slight mutation (which is common in the Welsh language) that altered “John” to “Jones”, to avoid the confusion of children being named “John John”.
As a consequence, the surname Jones was created, and soon swept the nation. Because of the sheer amount of people named John in Wales during the 16th century, the name “Jones” became the most popular surname in Wales – remaining so to this day.
Where Does The Name Jones Come From?
The surname Jones comes from a mutation of the surname John, to avoid the confusion of a child being named “John John”.
What Is The Most Common Name In Wales?
The most common surname in Wales is “Jones”, with 5.6% of the population sharing the surname.
Other common Surnames in Wales include Williams, Davies and Rees (Rhys).
Who Are The Most Famous Welsh Jones?
Here are some of the most famous Jones to come from Wales:
- Tom Jones (Famous singer)
- Alun Wyn Jones (Record-breaking former Wales rugby captain)
- Catherine Zeta-Jones (Actress who married Michael Douglas)
- Ruth Jones (Writer and star of BBC comedy “Gavin and Stacey)