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The 16th century was a time of great change in naming practices for Wales.
Legally, people were supposed to be using fixed surnames. But entries from Early
Chancery Proceedings Concerning Wales show a profusion of different options:
the inheritance of English-style surnames (e.g. 1601 Mary Penry the d. of Wm.
Penry), the use of true patronyms in some format or other (e.g., 1601 Mary
Myrick ye d. of Myrick Evan) even different usages for what appears to be
the same person in different records (e.g. 1607 Elizabeth ver' Owen filia Owini
Plethine; 1608 Elizabeth Plethine filia Owini Plethin).
The options for a woman upon marriage seem to have been similarly varied.
|1518||Jenett Vergh Lewys, first wife of David Apprice|
|1518||David ap Evan and Jenett Meredyth his wife, executrix and second wife of the said David Aprice [from the preceding entry]|
|1544||Jenett Vermeredethe, widow [i.e. verch Meredudd, unlikely to have been her husband's surname!]|
|1547||David ap Howell ... Elizabeth Hoell, [his] mother [two possiblities: either his mother just coincidentally happened to have the same surname as her husband's given name, or the mother may have taken her husband's given name as her surname, or the son's apparant patronym may be a hereditary surname and the mother may bear her husband's surname; difficult to tell for certain]|
|1547||Elizabeth Markham, executrix and late the wife of William Webbe|
|1556||Angharrett Howell, widow [of] Thomas ap Edward ... [her father] Howell ap Jenkyn|
|1556||Gwen James, lat the wife of James Baker [coincidence, or the husband's given name taken as a surname?]|
|1547||Elizabeth and George Owen [possibly husband and wife, but also possibly brother and sister]|
|1518||Alice Lloyd widow, daughter and heir of Thomas Englishe [Lloyd could either be a personal nickname or her husband's surname]|
|1547||Alice verch Philip ... late the wife of Walter (Watkyn) ap Gwyllym and what appears to be the same couple ...|
|1551||Alice Watkyne, late the wife of Walter ap Gwillim [making it look very much as if she is using a diminutive of her husband's given name as a surname]|
|1544||[given name missing] Morgan, alias Flemmyng, late the wife of Reynold Morgan|
|1544||Juliana Catchmayde and elsewhere what appears to be the same individual|
|1547||Juliana ... late the wife of John Cachemayd|
So on first inspection, it appears that a 16th century married Welsh woman
had the option of keeping her father's hereditary surname, using a patronym
incorporating her father's name, taking her husband's surname, taking her husband's
given name as a surname, and possibly other options (e.g. using a personal nickname).
A woman living primarily in English society might be more likely to be called
according to English fashions, a woman living primarily in Welsh society might
be more likely to retain her "maiden" name in some fashion. A woman
moving between the two might well be called any number of different things by
her different social circles.
About the Data
The data for this paper are taken from the legal cases found in An Inventory
of the Early Chancery Proceedings Concerning Wales, compiled by E. A. Lewis
(Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1937). This is a compilation of entries from
the Public Records Office index to Early Chancery Proceedings, and so is
twice removed from the original documents. There may have been an unknown amount
of "standardization" of name spelling at either of the two levels. While
the variety of spellings for some names argues against standardization (e.g.,
11 different spellings of Gwenllian among 30 different names), others are
suspiciously regular (e.g., all 35 examples of Alice are spelled alike).
The selection for the inventory was made on the basis of "Welsh" content
of the case, identified either by the location of property involved, or the residancy
or place of origin of the parties involved. So there would not appear to be any
biasing of the data on the basis of the perceived "Welshness" of the
The data in the collection as a whole cover the 15th century (with a very few entries from the end of the 14th) up through 1558 (the end of Queen Mary's reign). However only a few women's names appear prior to the 16th century, so for all practical purposes, the women's data can be said to cover the first half of the 16th century.
While the names contained in the collection can hardly be considered an exhaustive study of the women's names in use at the time, it is a random enough selection to give a fairly valid overall picture.
I have extracted every identifiable reference to a woman in the collection, and analyzed them as follows.
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