How common is your surname?

By Angharad Evans, Welsh Editor


Recently, I had to turn to the traditional way of searching through the old phone book which is now idle thanks to more convenient and fast ways of searching for something.  As I turned the pages to the appropriate letter, I stopped for a moment and realised that all types of surnames, the weird and wonderful exist.

Looking back at history, the old Welsh style was to use the father's baptism name as a surname, with the family's surname changing from generation to generation. For example, Iolo Griffith would be the son of Griffith William, and he was the son of William Dafydd, and would be written as Iolo ap Griffith ap William ap Dafydd! Quite a mouthful! Women would use the same procedure sometimes using 'ferch' instead of ‘ap’. They also kept their maiden names after getting married because surnames did not exsist.

Thanks to the aristocrats, the regime started changing in the 15th century, and in no time at all, the peasants began adopting the order of anglicization of names, so that was the start of ap Hywel (Powell), ap Rhys (Price) and ap Richard (Pritchard). John became Jones, William became Williams, David became Davis and Hugh became Hughes.

This led me to start wondering about my surnames, my maiden name, Morris and my married surname, Evans.  I wanted to know how popular the two names were compared to each other so I started researching. Whilst exploring, I came across a website, a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and undertaken by the Geography Department, University College of London.


It's a quick and easy way to give you an idea where a specific surname is popular. All you need to do is input your surname and the website mapps where there is an unusually high number of people with that name in the UK.

Researchers say it reveals much more than where people are at present - it can also say a lot about our roots. It’s amazing to see where the majority of individuals and families stay throughout the generations.

Concentrating on Wales, take a look at the two illustrations that accompany this article, one for Morris and the other for Evans. In fact, I was surprised at the small amount of Morris in Ceredigion. According to the map, you’d have to go down to Carmarthenshire or to the North East, close to the border to find the largest cluster of Morris. Evans is a whole different ball game! There are a lot more of us! It's likely that there are 231,844 people sharing the surname of Evans in the UK compared to 131,499 of Morris.

So, whether you’re a Morris, Evans, Jones, Davies, or a little bit more unusual, an Isbitt or Vanwell, take a look to see how common you are! I will always see myself as an Evans, but there's a lot of Morris there too!


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