The Surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202. 1996. 217 pp. Maps, tables and index. Softcover. $19.95 plus $3.50 p&h.

You know that your Jones and Davies ancestors came from Wales but you don't know where. This book gives you hope, even when you have common Welsh names on your family tree.

The book discusses thoroughly the transition from patronymics to the adoption of surnames, showing how that the time period of change varied depending upon the location within Wales. Those areas under English influence adopted the names earlier than the strong Welsh speaking areas. The completion of the transition to surnames was forced by the beginning of civil registration in 1837. The effect of this transition is well illustrated with individuals often being known by many different names, and children of a couple appearing to have different surnames. Good examples for researchers struggling with Welsh naming patterns.

There is a large section that discusses in detail many surnames associated with Wales and where they are to be found. The distribution of surnames is based on analysis of all 1813-1837 marriage records. Surname distribution is well illustrated by maps showing the percentage of people within a geographic hundred with a particular name. The authors contend that statistically their hypothesis about the distribution of a surname is likely to remain valid over the 1780-1880 period.

The two chapters entitled Further Uses of the Survey and Migration, Emigration and Place of Origin give good examples on how to apply the information found in this book to find your ancestors. The authors provide a service for researchers who want to know the probability of where in Wales their ancestors originated, assuming they have at least two connected Welsh surnames.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.3 no.5, 1996