Women's Names in the First Half of 16th Century Wales: Origins Of Women's Surnames
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Women's Names in the First Half of 16th Century Wales

Origins Of Women's Surnames

by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
(Heather Rose Jones, contact@heatherrosejones.com)
copyright c 1998, all rights reserved

Origins Of Women's Surnames

Because so many of the court cases desribed in this source make reference to multiple members of the same family, in a number of cases, we can compare women's names to those of their husbands, children, siblings, and parents. This can give us a great deal of insight into the process of fixing surnames, the use and nature of married names, and the ways in which these interacted with the traditional Welsh systems of naming. This is the sort of data that is better understood by example, so I will be listing the actual names involved as well as giving summaries of the patterns.

Women Listed With Husbands

There are 85 entries with women whose full names are recorded along with a husband's name. A noteworthy number of women seem to have gone through several husbands in the course of their life. The total numbers may not appear to add up to 85 because I have tried to count each woman only once, even when she appears in several entries.

In 31 cases, both bear a patronym of some type and the two are not identical. In only two of these cases does the woman's byname include ap rather than verch.

Gwen verch Ieuan Meredith ap David ap Tuder
Lowrye verch Res Hoell ap Morgan
Lowry vergh Ranold Kydwaller Robert Approthydie
Guenllean vergh Rice John Meddock Floyd
Eleanor ap (sic) James Res ap John
Katherine verch William Ieuan ap Ieuan ap Jankyn
Annes verch Lewis David Robert
Gwen verch Eden Fulk [Salesbury]
Katherine Vaughan alias Verch Edward Llewelyn ap Tuder
Eva verch Morgan David ap Madoc ap Dicus
Margaret verch Jenet Fowke ap Thomas
Katherine verch Hugh Morgan ap John ap Jollyn Gogh
Katherine verch Rees ap Gruffith ap Pella William ap John
Margaret verch David John Llewelyn
Matilde verch Rosser Richard Peyten
Margaret verch Thomas ap rosser John Geffrey
Gwenllian verch Rise Henry ap Ieuan ap Guillim
Alice verch Bedo David ap David
Joan verch John Ieuan Thomas ap Grono
Wenllean verch John William ap Richard, Robert Corser
Annete verch Ieuan Lloyde Jenkyn ap Ieuan
Joan vergh David Gwillim Ieuan Vaughan
Alice ap (sic) Thomas James David ap Richard Philpott
Jenett Vergh Lewys David Apprice
Jenet vergh Meredith John Ward
Elizabeth verch Thomas Jenkin ap William
Margaret verch John Llewelyn ap David
Gwervyl verch Meredith Roger Meredith William
Mevanwy verch David Thomas ap Ieuan ap Maddoc

Two examples in this group are worth a special look, for they give two versions of the wife's name -- one that ties in with the husband's and one that does not.

Alice verch Philip Walter (Watkyn) ap Gwyllym
also found as:
Alice Watkyne Walter ap Gwillim
Elizabeth ap William Howell ap William
Elizabeth verch ellys ap Tona

In 8 cases, the wife has an explicit patronym that matches the husband's patronym, whether explicit or not. It should be noted that coincidence cannot be ruled out in these cases. In the case of Dyle ap verge David (written by a confused clerk who has made her both son and daughter), her husband's patronym is ap David, but her father's name is also David. Three of these eight use (or include) ap in the woman's name. What is interesting is tha six do not. If this were simply a matter of using the husband's surname, one would expect it to be completely identical. If, indeed, these are examples of transfer of the husband's name, non-Welsh speakers may be interpreting verch as simply a feminine prefix added to any surname, or perhaps understanding it as "the feminine equivalent of ap" but not taking the actual meaning of those elements into account.

Gwenllian verch Lewis John Lewis
Dyle ap verge (sic) David Edward ap David
Anne ap Ryce Robert [ap Ryce] ("concubine")
Gwen verch Ieuan John ap Ieuan
Katherine ap John William (ap) John ap Howell
Anne verch Richard John ap Richard
Margery verch Hoell John Hoell
Christian Johns alias Crislye ver. John Le(onard?) Johns

In 20 cases, the wife has some form of surname, other than an explicit patronym, that in no way matches any element of her husband's name. (The extreme example being Joan Meryke alias Coyll, neither of whose names match any element in any of her three husbands' names!) Six of the women have a surname derived originally from a given name, one has a descriptive byname of Welsh origin, the others are all of non-Welsh origin. This last is hardly surprising. Welsh-origin surnames other than those derived from patronyms are extremely rare in the data.

Elizabth Karver Ieuan ap Gwillym Goughe
Sybell Garway Ryce Tucker
Joan Meryke alias Coyll Thomas Blake
" Jermyn Gryffyth
" Nicholas Bowys
Beton Peucoke Harry Row
" Dave Willyam
Jenet Rogers John Walter
Ellen Lloid Rise ap Kenwrike ap John
Mary Salisbury William Parre
Rose Hanmar David Lloyd
Anne Powes Randall Hauworth [note: her father was a duke]
Anne Broughton John ap John ap Richard Trevour
Tanglust Lewes Ivan ap Wakyn
Jenett Elton Clement ap Howell
Gwenllian Howell Rice ap Griffith
Dame Katherine Gordon Sir Mathew Cradock
Agnes Hewar Henry Evann
Catherine Stevyn Thomas [Morrys]
Elizabeth (nee Barbar) Roger Codogan
Eleanor, formerly Eleanor Mutton Thomas Heyward
Jenett Meredyth David ap Evan
" David Aprice
Elizabeth Markham William Webbe

In three cases, the wife is listed with an alias and one of the names matches her husband's surname, while the other is unrelated.

Margaret Sanders, alias Bruer John Bruer
Margaret Pykton alias Philpe Thomas Philpe
[...] Morgan, alias Flemmyng Reynold Morgan

In 8 cases, the wife bears a surname that matches her husband's surname. In only one case is the name of Welsh origin.

Katherine Blees Makyn Blees
Dame Mary Owen James Owen, knight
Margaret Chambre William Chambre
Margaret Billington Thomas [Billington]
Maude Hanmer Sir Thomas [Hanmer]
Anne Schoreley Hugh [Schoreley, presumably]
Anne Harper Henry Harper
Johan Kayns Robert [Kayns, presumably]

In six cases, the wife has a surname that matches the husband's given name. As before, coincidence cannot entirely be ruled out, particularly in the case of Joan verch John, given that John was the most popular name during this period.

Alice Griffeth Griffith Lloit
Angharrett Howell Howell ap Jenkyn
Gwen James James Baker
Elizabeth Hoell Hoell ap Matthew
Joan verch John John ap Thomas ap Richard

One of these we have seen before:

Alice verch Philip Walter (Watkyn) ap Gwyllym
also found as
Alice Watkyne Walter ap Gwillim

Here is a summary of the data:

  • 31 f. & m. both have explicit patronym, no match, 2 ap
  • 8 f. explicit patronym matches m. patronym, 3 ap
  • 20 f. other surname, no match, mostly non-Welsh
  • 8 f. other surname, matches m. surname, mostly non-Welsh
  • 3 entries with both the preceding present
  • 6 f. non-explicit patronym, matches m. given name
For a total of:
  • 51 no connection shown between wife's surname and husband's name
  • 25 repeated elements between wife's surname and husband's name
We cannot know for certain, in most of these cases, whether the repeated elements actually represent an adoption of a married name or whether coincidence is at work. In the case of the non- Welsh surnames, coincidence seems more unlikely. But in the case of the possible transfers of a husband's patronym, it cannot be ruled out that the wife and husband may simply have had fathers with the same name. The clearest arguments for the use of married names are those where two forms of the wife's name are given, one of which matches the husband's name in some way. But these examples also show that the use of a married name was an option, not a rule.

Women Listed With Parents (Or Other Ancestors)

In 32 cases, a woman's name is given in combination with that of one or more parents (or grandparents). In a couple of cases, several children were listed for the same parents, but I have counted each as a separate entry. In four cases, the parent was a mother or grandmother. In all these, both women bore an explicit patronym. If they are all true patronyms, there would be no expectation of overlap. In two cases, the daughter and mother/grandmother bear the same patronym, but coincidence cannot be ruled out, and in the case of one, the fact that three generations of patronym are provided for the daughter strongly implies that she is using a functional patronym.

Woman (Grand)mother
Loure verch Moryce Katherine verch Hoell
Katherine verch William Gwenllian verch William (grandmother)
Margaret verch Gruffith ap Gwyn Cristyan [verch Ieuan]
Margaret verch David ap Res ap Tona Eva verch David

In 12 cases, the woman bears a patronym (8 explicit, 4 not) that matches her father's given name. Matches in this case is extended to cover Evan/Ieuan as there is no reason to suppose that this spelling difference is significant. In the last of this group, two sisters are mentioned, one of whom bears their father's name as an unmarked patronym, the other of whom bears an unrelated patronym using ap. The reasonable assumption in this case is that it is a married name.

Woman Father  
Gwenlliam verch John John ap Jankyn
Dyle ap verge (sic) David David ap Griffith ap Yellen the younger
Annes verch William ap Howell William ap Howell
Ellen verch Griffeth Griffith Lloit
Joan Johans John Richard
Gwladyse ap (sic) Thomas Thomas ap John
Maude Evan Ieuan ap John
Gwenllian verch Rise Rice ap Ieuan
Maude Ieuan Ieuan ap Griffith
Wenthlyan Johnez John Christopher Williamz
Alice vergh William Wylliam ap David
Margaret ap Lewis and Katherine Rice Rice ap Jenkyn
In six cases the woman has a non-patronymic surname that matches her father's surname. (Note that this includes one woman who is noted as a bastard in the record.)
Alice Blake William Blake
Margaret and Gwervyl Lyea Griffith Lyea
Margaret Kynaston (bastard) Ralph Kynaston
Alice Harvey William Harvey
Agnes Salysbury Thomas Salysbury
Nest and Jenett Carne Richard Carne
Ten cases fall in other categories. The largest group is of four women who bear a non-patronymic surname while their fathers (or grandfather) bear a patronym. (Although in one case, the father is also listed with a different non-patronymic surname.) Two of the women bear surnames that could be personal nicknames of Welsh origin (Igham = bychan "small", Lloyd = llwyd "grey/brown"). Or the women's surnames could be married names. Or they could be family surnames that the father simply isn't using in this case (the weakest argument, especially in the case of Thomas Englisshe).
Lleyke Igham Meredith ap Thomas
Gwenlliam Payne John ap Howell
Alice Lloyd Thomas Englisshe, alias Thomas ap Griffith Tuppa
Ellen Hanmer Richard ap Evan (grandfather)
One woman bears a patronym going back to her grandfather, while the man she is mentioned in context with is her great-grandfather. Nothing is proven, but there is no reason to suppose this isn't a true patronym.
Isabel verch Ieuan ap Griffith Gough Howell ap Inon [great-grandfather]
In two entries, all the parties have non-patronymic surnames but none of them match -- including those of the two sisters in the second entry. These are very likely to be married names.
Margaret Erwe Johan Wogan
Katherine Poole, Margaret Bayley Humphrey Vernon
In one entry, the daughter appears to bear her father's patronym, complete with ap. This would appear to be a case of the fossilization of the patronym into a hereditary surname (if it isn't simply a misinterpretation of an English scribe who expects a hereditary surname).
Margaret ap (sic) Yevan Grono app Yevan
In one entry (which we have already noted above) one sister bears an explicit patronym (using ap) unrelated to her father's name, while the other sister appears to bear a true patronym (although unmarked).
Margaret ap Lewis and Katherine Rice Rice ap Jenkyn
In yet one more case, no surname is given for the father, only his title. (In this case, we also know that the woman's husband bore a different surname.)
Anne Powes Charles, late Duke of Suffolk

In summary, we have:

  • 4 f. patronym, no context for origin
  • 12 f. patronym, matches father's given name
  • 6 f. non-patronymic surname, matches father's
  • 10 other including
  • 7 possible married names
This condenses down to 18 cases where a woman's byname clearly comes from her father, 7 where it probably comes from her father, and 7 where it probably comes from her husband. It should be noted, however, that it may be much more likely for a woman's father to be noted in cases where she is unmarried.

Woman And Children/Descendents

In 43 cases, a woman is listed with one or more of her children (with full names given). In 23 cases, the children bear a patronym that is either explicit or that is known to contain the father's given name; in 20 they bear other types of surnames (although a few of these may be unmarked patronyms). In 5 cases, the father's given name is known, the children bear it in a patronym, and the mother bears an unrelated explicit patronym.
Katherine verch Rees ap Gruffith ap Pella Howell ap William  
(father's name is William)
Margery verch Hoell Hyggyn John Hoell
(father is John Hoell)
Joan vergh David Philip and John Gwillim
(father's given name is Gwillim)
Margaret verch John John ap Llewelyn
(father's name is Llewelyn)
Mevanwy verch David Ieuan ap Thomas ap Ieuan
(father is Thomas ap Ieuan ap Maddoc)
In 6 cases the children bear an explicit patronym and the mother bears the same patronym in some form, whether by coincidence or not. In two cases, we know that the father's given name was the same as the patronym, in the others, we don't know the father's name.
Gwyrevell verch Rees Morgan and William ap Res
Gwenllian verch William Katherine verch William (granddaughter)
Eva verch David Margaret verch David ap Res ap Tona
Guinevere ap Res William ap Rees (grandson)
Alice Griffeth Ellen verch Griffeth
(father is Griffeth)
Elizabeth Hoell David ap Howell
(father is Hoell ap Matthew)
In 11 cases, the children bear an explicit patronym that does not match the mother's name in any elements, but nothing is known about the father's name.
Katherine verch Hoell Loure verch Moryce
Katherine verch Griffith Thomas ap Llewelyn ap Evan ap Griffith
Cristyan [verch Ieuan] Margaret verch Gruffith ap Gwyn
Gwen verch Richard ap Yevan ap Ywollyn

Richard, John, and Elize ap Rice, and Robert ap Rice
Gwenllian verch Rees John ap Madoc
Ingharat verch Varragh John, David, and Owyn ap Morys (paternal grandsons)
Margaret verch Ieuan Res ap Hoell
Syslye verch Meredith Ieuan ap Rees Bedo
Jenett Elton Piers ap John
(grandson, her husband is Clement ap Howell)
Katherine Gryffyth, alias Heyre David ap Evan Gwynne
There is one case of a possible metronym. No information about the parents is given. The name might also be a variant of masculine Rosser (i.e. Roger).
??Rose?? John ap Rosse
Among the entries where the children do not have an explicit patronym (or an unmarked patronym matching a known father's name), there are 10 cases where they bear the same surname as the mother. In two cases, we know that the child's father bears the same surname. In one case, we see three generations all bearing the same surname.
Katherine Blees William Blees
(stepson, father's surname is Blees)
Maude lloid Jenkyn, Thomas, and Rice Lloid (sons)
Thomas Lloid (grandson)
Alice Rice Thomas Ryce
Katherine Almer Edward Almer
Margaret Crookes John Crookes
Elynor Walker John Walker (her brother has a patronym)
Anne Schoreley John Schoreley (father has same surname)
Agnes Gyle John Gyle
Elizabeth Hoper John Hoper
Alice Robertes Matthew Robertes
In 7 cases, the mother and children have different surnames. In one case, we know that the mother has a brother with the same surname. In one case, we know that the father bears an explicit patronym ending in the child's surname.
Katherin Peak Nicholas Mellers
(Peak is her brother's surname too)
Mabiley Howell Griffith Jones
Jane B(r)ereton Edward Trevour
Anne Broughton John Trevour
(father is John ap John ap Richard Trevour)
Wenllyan William Morgan Thomas
Joan Mathew Charles Hoskyns
Anne Jenkyn Reynold Johns
There is one entry where the mother is given two different surnames, one of which matches the children.
Margery Butler alias Hewes John, Robert, Richard and Edward Hewes
And there are two cases where the mother bears an explicit patronym while the children have an unrelated non-patronymic surname.
Rose verch Mores ap Edward John Donne
Gwen verch Llewelyn David Gough
So in summary, we have:
  • 5 child's patronym = father's given name, f. has unrelated patronym
  • 6 child's patronym = mother's patronym
  • 11 child's patronym <> mother's, but no info on father
  • 1 possible metronym
  • 10 child's surname = mother's surname
  • 7 child's surname <> mother's surname
  • 1 mother has two surnames, one matches child's, one doesn't
  • 2 child has surname, mother has unrelated patronym
This cannot be broken down well into a simple statement. In cases where the child's surname shows no overlap with the mother's, it can be assumed to come from the father in some fashion. There are 26 examples where this is probably the case. There are 16 examples where the mother and child share a surname and we either know the father bears the same name or know nothing about the father. There is one case which may be a metronym. (There is also one example that is clearly metronym in format, but the mother is not mentioned separately by name.)

Women And Miscellaneous Other Relationships

There are 11 entries where a woman's brother is named. In nine cases, the woman has the same surname (whether patronymic or not) as her sibling, even though a husband or child may be noted with a different surname. (Note that in one case, the woman and her brother have the same ap patronym.)
Woman Brother  
Agnes verch Robert Tuder ap Robert
Gwenllian verch Rees David ap Res
Margaret verch Ieuan ap Tedder Thomas ap Ieuan ap Tedder (presumed)
Syslye verch Meredith Thomas Bedo (Bedo < Meredith)
Gwenllian David Ieuan David Poell ap William
Isabel ap (sic) David Ieuan ap David Hoell
Katherin Peak John Peake
(her husband and son have different surname)
Lekey Powell Hugh Powell
Margery Butler alias Hewes William butler
(her children bear the surname Hewes)
In two entries, this is not the case. In one, the woman appears to bear her husband's surname, while her brother has a patronym. In the other, the woman bears a surname that is completely different from that of either her brother or either of her two husbands. It is possible that Peucoke is a family but that her brother is using a patronym instead, but it is also possible that it is a personal nickname.
Elynor Walker David ap Rosser
(her son's surname is Walker)
Beton Peucoke Harry William
(her surname is different from that of either of her husbands)

To summarize:

  • 6 share patronym with brother (one ap)
  • 3 share non-patronym with brother
  • 1 bears husband's surname instead
  • 1 surname unrelated to brother or husbands
The ratio between birth-family surnames and married surnames is rather high in this group, but we have no way of knowing whether all the women were married. Of the women for whom husbands are mentioned (or implied), one bears the husband's surname and three do not. It may be (as mentioned above regarding parents) that an unmarried woman was more likely to participate in lawsuits with a brother (whether with or against), but this too is speculation.

There are 5 other records with relationships mentioned -- either a generic "kinsmen" or cousins. In one case, the two share a non- patronymic surname, but nothing of use can be concluded from those that share no name elements.

Elyn vaurgh Morgan Lewis and Ieuan ap John (kinsmen and heirs)
Gwenne verch Edward Edward Mathewe (first cousin)
Katherine Dunne Peter Dunne (cousin)
Margaret ap Ieuan Gronno (ap) Jenkyn [ap Ieuan] (cousin)
Maud Cornell Thomas Dio, alias Davy (cousin)

When Multiple Relatives Are Mentioned

Although I have mentioned in passing examples where there is enough data to evaluate the origin of a woman's surname more conclusively, it may be worth collecting those examples together and looking at them in more detail. There are 16 examples that name multiple relationships for a woman. (Naturally, the source document has many more entries that would shed light on the inheritance of surnames from father to son, but those are outside the scope of this paper.) The first thing that these relationships help point out is the danger of assuming that "identical" name elements must be derived from the same source.

1.                  _________________________________
                   |                                 |
Harry Row =2 Beton Peucoke 1= Dave Willyam        Harry William

Beton's surname does not match that of either of her husbands, nor of her brother. However, her brother's surname is the same as that of her first husband. If she had shared her brother's surname, but we only had access to the names of her husbands, we might have concluded that she had taken her first husband's name. The same is shown in the next item, where the woman's father had the same name as appears in her husband's patronym.

2. David ap Griffith ap Yellen the younger
Dyle ap verge David = Edward ap David

3. Alice Griffeth = Griffith Lloit
         Ellen verch Griffeth

4.  _____________
   |             |
Thomas Bedo   Syslye verch Meredith
              Ieuan ap Rees Bedo
            Thomas Lloyd alias Ieuan

Bedo is a diminutive of Maredudd. If Syslye bears a true patronym, then it's likely that the elder Thomas does too -- but using the diminutive of their father's name. But there is no reason to suppose that the Bedo in Syslye's son's name has anything to do with these, but rather may be from his paternal grandfather.

In several groups, we see the workings of true patronyms, whether marked with an explicit particle or not.

5. Gwenllian verch William
Katherine verch William = Ieuan ap Ieuan ap Jankyn

Given the popularity of the name William, there is no particular reason to suppose that there is any inheritance of any sort going on. Here we see people with clearly Welsh-style names using what are almost certainly true patronyms.

6.                            Rice ap Ieuan
Henry ap Ieuan ap Guillim = Gwenllian verch Rice

7. Gwillim Ieuan Vaughan = Joan vergh David
       |            |             |
John Gwillim     Philip and John Gwillim

In several cases involving multiple marriages, we see women with surnames completely unrelated to that of any of their husbands, whether the surnames are of patronymic origin or not. The names involved are a mixture of Welsh and English forms.

8. Joan Meryke alias Coyll =1= Nicholas Bowys
                           =2= Jermyn Gryffyth
                           =3= Thomas Blake

9. Wenllean verch John 1) = Robert Corser
                       2) = William ap Richard

10. David Apprice 1) = Jenett vergh Lewys
                  2) = Jenett Meredyth  2) = David ap Evan

In a similar set of cases, we see children (even illegitimate ones) taking the father's surname, while the mother may take that surname or not (or be listed with both). Again, the names involved are of both Welsh and English origin.

11.       ________________
         |                |
John Peake of Conway   Katherin Peak
         |                |
    Hugh Peake        Nicholas Mellers
         |                |
  Richard Peycke       John Mellers

12.         _____________________________________
           |                                     |
Margery Butler alias Hewes                 William butler
John, Robert, Richard and Edward Hewes

13. John ap John ap Richard Trevour = Anne Broughton
                              John Trevour

Finally, we see examples (with the caveats noted above) that appear to show women taking their husbands' surnames, whether of patronymic origin or not.

14.   ______________
     |              |
Elynor Walker   David ap Rosser
John Walker

15. Katherine verch Rees ap Grufith ap Pella = William ap John
Elizabeth verch ellys ap Tona                |
alias Elizabeth ap William        = Howell ap William

And in some cases, we have no clue at all to what is going on.

16. Johan Wogan =1 <mother> 2= Hugh Manxell
         Margaret Erwe

There is no clue to where Margaret's surname came from, not from her father or her stepfather. (I'm not even certain what it derives from.)


In a number of examples, a woman is listed with more than one surname, using alias (otherwise). These are a useful link in showing the various possible sources of surnames for a woman. They also show that surnames were not by any means "fixed", either in the sense that a person used only one surname all the time, or in the sense that there was a formula that dictated what surname would be taken.

In one case, we have clues to the origin of both versions.

Margery Butler alias Hewes
(brother is surnamed Butler, children are surnamed Hewes)

In others, we only have a clue to one of the elements. In these examples, the identifiable element is shared either with a husband or with children (and presumably a husband).

Christian Johns alias Crislye ver. John
(husband's surname is Johns)
Margaret Pykton alias Philpe
(husband's surname was Philpe)
Elizabeth ap William alias Elizabeth verch ellys ap Tona
(husband bears ap William as true patronym)
Margaret Sanders, alias Bruer
(her husband appears to have been John Bruer)
[...] Morgan, alias Flemmyng
(husband's surname is Morgan)

However, in other cases, we have a son's or husband's name available and no element in it matches either of the woman's surnames.

Katherine Gryffyth, alias Heyre
(neither is son's surname)
Joan Meryke alias Coyll
(neither name matches anything in the names of any of her three husbands)
Katherine Vaughan alias Verch Edward
(husband's name did not include Vaughan)
Katherine Gryffyth, alias Heyre
(neither is element in son's name)

For a few, we have no context for conclusions, although it seems quite reasonable to suppose that one surname in each case may be a true patronym.

Gwenllyen vergh David alias Margaret Harreys
Gwenllian Lewis alias Gwenllian verch Henry