Friday, May 12, 2017

Ancient Welsh Naming System

Prior to the English system of surnames, the Welsh naming system consisted of an individual bearing one given name only.  The child was then identified as either the son of (mab, map, vap, or fab), or the daughter of (verch or ferch) the Welshman accepting responsibility under Welsh law for the child.  The terms given above were mutated in normal speech to "ap" or "ab" for the male, and "vch", "vz" or "ach" for the female.  The terms "eil" or "ail" meaning second in succession when used in a name was sometimes found.  When presented to the tribal group from which the father lived, the male child would be given the names of each earlier male ancestor to six or seven generations.  For example, a child given the name "David" who's father was "Morgan", would become "David ap Morgan".  The child's grandfather (say named "Griffith"), his great-grandfather (say named "Hugh"), his great-great-grandfather (say named "Tudor"), and his great-great-great-grandfather (say named "Rhys") under tribal custom would become "David ap Morgan ap Griffith ap Hugh ap Tudor ap Rhys"!  The new member of this tribe would then be able to recite his name as a patronymic string demonstrating his position within the tribal group.  Before written documentation, this would provide a way each individual could prove his "belonging" to a tribal group.  This was necessary since the tribe was responsible to care and protect each member, and hold them responsible for their inter-tribal activity such as injury or theft.  See past posts for more detail of this cultural organization for the ancient Welsh naming system.

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