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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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As with many research projects, I come to the end of this one wishing I had another year or so to poke into some areas further, find a few more examples of this or any examples at all of that. But I've been working on this particular project for three or four years already and it was time to make an end. There is certainly a great deal of scope for further research in the areas of "house names" and the names of commercial establishments and institutions. I have also tended to slight the later centuries of the period covered, mostly due to the biases of my own interest.

In the material I did cover, the one over-riding theme is that of personal identification: the focus on, and naming relative to, a particular individual. Everything, from tribes and kingdoms down to villages and fields, can be found named for one particular man or woman with whom it was associated. The other major pattern is names taken from natural features of the landscape, and the two can also overlap. What don't we find? Since surnames did not become fixed until late in period, we don't find early families or clans named using bynames, except when part of the whole proper name of their founder. Also, since the nearest Welsh equivalent to a "clan" was a constantly changing set, we don't find Scottish-style "clan surnames". Welsh inheritance patterns tended to fragment the holdings of noble families at each generation, so we don't find the names of large districts being associated with a particular family except in the vaguest sense, and so we don't tend to get the equivalent of "the House of York" for more than a generation at a time. I can't really speak to the question of "inn-sign" type names, whether for private houses or for business establishments, except to say that in the small amount of data that I have seen, I have seen no examples of such. (When such names are used for buildings, they tend to creep into the records of personal names, so the fact that I have never seen this type of element in a personal name is probably indicative.) The evidence I have seen indicates that trade guilds and similar social organizations were for the most part English imports, and so have little to do with Welsh naming practices.

I hope that this little study will inspire people, not only to explore period models for both SCA groups and their names, but to do similar research on the nomenclature of social groups in other cultures.

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