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Period Welsh Models for SCA Households and the Nomenclature Thereof

copyright © 1994 Heather Rose Jones, all rights reserved

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Hereditary Surnames

In later medieval times and increasingly through the Renaissance, as English social patterns came to dominate Wales, the habit of taking a permanent family surname began to catch on among the upper classes and the upperwardly mobile. (This process was far from complete - there are examples of families that disdained such things as late as the 19th century.) It was probably more prevalent among the uchelwyr - the nobility - than among ordinary folk.

Such a surname might derive from a patronymic, as in the case of the descendents of Owen ap Tudor, who married Henry V's widow Catherine. Living among English society there must have been a tendency for his associates to "translate" his name into a more familiar format - Owen Tudor - for his sons are not called Edmund and Jasper ab Owen, as they would have been in Wales, but Edmund and Jasper Tudor, treating the father's patronymic as an hereditary surname.

Other examples of hereditary surnames include the Blainey family of Montgomershire who adopted the name in the 15th century, deriving it from the place name Blaenau ("uplands") [Morgan & Morgan 1985 p.92] and the Cecil family, notable in Elizabethan England, who derive their surname from the Welsh given name Seisyllt. [Williams 1987 p.239]

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