Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Radnorshire Names

A minor celeb - I think a pit lane reporter for Radio Five still counts as minor - got engaged last week to someone called Walbyoff - a Russian mafia boss perhaps or a Polish plumber? No, Walbyoff and Walbeoff are Welsh names, as Welsh as Evans or Lloyd. They are found mainly in southern Breconshire and Monmouthshire and if you go back nearly a thousand years originated with a Norman French settler in the old kingdom of Brycheiniog.

I don't know if the Walbeoff's ever made it into Radnorshire, but other Cambro-Norman families certainly did: the Havards, the Baskervilles, the Gunters, the Aubreys and even an occasional Turberville. There were others who although Norman in origin took the name of their possessions in the March, such as the Cliffords and the Whitneys. Indeed Whitney was the most common "English" surname in Radnorshire at the time of the 1670 Hearth Tax.

Of course Radnorshire had far fewer such names than the more French influenced counties of South East Wales. It's also true that some families became so Cymricised that they forgot their original surname and adopted the patronymic system.

The Welsh bards detailed these people in their genealogies, many of them being upholders of the traditional bardic culture. In addition they reveal other surnames that at first glance give an impression of being English rather than Welsh. The digitization of the Bartrum collection of these bardic genealogies can be found here. Radnorshire families listed who fall or seem to fall outside the traditional patronymic naming system include names such as Baskerville, Bull, Gunter, Havard, Hergest, Hoby, Holl, Knyll, Philpot, Sollers and Whitney.


Marc Makers said...

A valuable resource to have on-line, but how the devil do you use it?

radnorian said...

Good question! I'm hoping it's a work in progress as at the moment it appears to be just scans of pages of Bartrum's work.

The index to placenames would be a goodplace to start and then browse the appropriate page.

The pages of Radnorshire interest are Elystan Glodrydd, everything really from 1 to 4, Rhys ap Tewdwr 14 to 26, Bleddyn ap Cynfyn 5 & 46, Cogfran, Y Dean Du, Drymbenog 1 & 2, Einion ap Llywarch 11, Gwirfaeth, Herast, Hywel Athro, Hywel Fain, Ieuan Ddu of Maelienydd, Irien, Llowdden 7, Llywarch ap Bran 9, Madog Cristyn, Padriarc 1 & 2, Paen of Ludlow, Philip Baker, Rhirid Flaidd 2.

Some more:

Aubrey, Baskerville, Bull, Havard, Heilin Du, Hoby, Holl of Harpton, Hywel Gethin, Llywarch ap Bran 10, 11 & 12, Philpot, Whitney

Another source to work with at the moment is the Salt Lake City's Family Search for "Wales: Records Primarily of the Nobility and Gentry" Link here:

radnorian said...

Elystan Goldrydd should be 1 to 48 not 1 to 4

Anonymous said...

Sorry but how are surnames with norman roots as "welsh" as the albeit anglicised evans and jones etc?

I probably have norman surname Sear in me but I dont pretend its that welsh in origin ;)

Btw more celtic obscure surnames from that area are ones such as kemeys from the word Cemais.

Love your blog by the way its a real asset. As a genetical historian I would be fascinated by where you get your sources for the timneline of language shift and also for people movements/migrations


radnorian said...

A surname like Walbeoff has been found in Wales for 800 years or more, far longer than patronymical surnames like Evans or Jones. For me that qualifies it as a Welsh surname of Norman origin.

In the same way Radnorshire surnames like Mantle, Bufton, Harding etc appear in the county in the late 16th and eraly 17th - at a time when many Radnorshire families were still using patronyms and hadn't adopted the Jones or Davies surname they use today. For me names like that are Radnorshire/Welsh surnames of English origin.

Of course there are many families with a name like Mantle who have no connection with Wales whatsoever. Just as there may be families with names like Jones, Thomas or Williams whose surnames did not originate with the Welsh patronym system.

So just as the likes of Reaney in studies such as "The Origins Of English Surnames" and "A Dictionary of English Surnames" treat names of Welsh and Norman origin as English surnames, I would class any family surname that has been used in the Welsh community for any length of time as a Welsh surname - albeit a surname of Norman or English origin.

At the same time I would make no claim that those Buftons or Havards or Joneses with no historic connection to Wales are the bearers of Welsh surnames.

radnorian said...

On the subject of language shift. The final stages of language shift in Radnorshire can be found in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census returns, where you can still find individuals and families in western parishes such as Cwmteuddwr, Rhayader, St Harmon and parts of Nantmel recorded as being able to speak Welsh. And by this I mean folk of a wholly local origin.

Before the census returns you have to rely contemporary references in newspapers, books and church visitations. Although I believe that church visitations - in Radnorshire at least - are a sign of a widespread and temporary bilingualism and not necessarily a completed language shift.

Now I don't claim any expertise on the topic of language shift I'm just a bloke pottering about on the internet. I do think that a lot of the references to language shift in Radnorshire you find in some academic works are just throw away remarks and not based on any research, common sense or even a basic knowledge of the geography of the county.

One source I'd like to know more about are the slander cases in the Court of Great Sessions investigated by Richad Suggett.

radnorian said...

On surnames which I guess is evidence of migration, sources I use are the Lay Subsidy and Hearth Tax for Radnorshire - see the Radnorshire Society transactions here:

Radnorshire wills 1670-1858 are here, you can actually find the indexed name if not the will itself back to 1543:

Marriage Bonds can also be searched on the National Library site:

This is a very interesting article on the 16C English settlement in Arwystl. Many of the surnames introduced there drifted down into western Radnorshire over the years:

BTW Radnorian would welcome more comments, disagreements, leads to fresh information etc.