I'll post this to the list, since I have received a number of genealogical
questions over the past few years, and perhaps can put this out there for
Doing Welsh genealogy is not easy for the simple reason that the pool of
surnames utilized by the Welsh in the 19th century is very small. As many
folks know, the standard forms "X ap Y" or "A ferch B" (with variations), was
the normal naming practice until the 16th and 17th centuries, when many Welsh
folks began to adopt surnames.
The following is a breakdown of Welsh surnames in the mid-19th century (from
John and Shiela Rowlands, _The Surnames of Wales_ (Baltimore, 1996):
By comparison, in England, Smith only made up 1.37% of surnames for the same
What this means is that knowing the name and place of the person(s) who
emigrated is extremely important. With the place, you can check the parish
registers or the Nonconformist chapel records, many of which (at least the
parish registers) are in print. To get this piece of information, if you know
the person's name, you can try the Ellis Island records which are now on-line.
You might also see if there is an obituary from the local newspaper's
archives that gives you this information.
As for the name Owen, yes it is very old (spelled Owain in many contexts), and
includes Owain ap Urien Rheged, to whom a Taliesin poem is dedicated and who
later became subsumed in Arthurian legend, as well as a generic Owain who
appears as one of the heros listed in Welsh prophetic poetry. However, one
should be careful in assuming continuity in the name Owain, given the Welsh
patronymic naming system. In other words, unlike Ireland, there's no family
affiliation within the Welsh naming system until surnames are established.
Some other books to look at:
T.J. Morgan and Prys, Welsh Surnames (Cardiff, 1985).
C.J. Williams and J. Watts-Williams, Parish Registers of Wales (Aberystwyth,
Ellis Island Project: www.ellisiland.org
Public Record Office: www.pro.gov.uk They are still plannning on releasing a
computerized version of the 1901 census, and have large sections devoted to
19th century wills and other documents useful to family history.
>===== Original Message From "CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List."
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>I respect that we normally speak of Cornish and Welsh in rather general
>terms, but I have a personal question and will appreciate anyone with a
>comment or answer please contact me off list.
>My ancestor in Wales is Owen, often found in the US as Owens.
>We know our Owen came from Wales, but we don't know for sure what part.
>We also see in history that the name Owen goes way back, perhaps as far
>back as Roman times.
>But the instant question is, does anyone know if Owen was Welsh or
>Don Kelly, Henry Mentlo Owen was my ggfather.
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