Searching for the marriage of Griffith Roberts and Jane Pritchard sometime between 1855 (when the groom would have been about 18 and the bride 25) and 1866 in Caernarvonshire, Wales (where they were both born and resident at the birth of their two known children in 1859 and 1866 ), I haven't found a single marriage in the GRO indices or the North Wales BMD indices (cross-checked against the parish registers that are available on-line) that exactly fits the bill.

However, I have found the marriage of Griffith Roberts to Jane Parry daughter of Henry Prichard in 1858 . The ages difference between the participants matches the age difference in later censuses (Jane 6-7 years older than Griffith). The marriage took place in in Llanllyfni, which is the parish where both children were born, and the bride's residence is the same as the family's residence in the census 3 years later.

If patronymics were still in use of this area of North Wales in 1858,and Jane might be referred to as Jane ap Harry (Jane Parry), then this is a very good match.

So: were patronymics still in use in 1859 in this part of North Wales? And would Jane have been recorded as Jane Parry, even though properly she would have been Jane verch Harry?Parish register marriage entry

Update: @Fortiter very helpfully pointed me to Rowlands, John, and Rowlands, Sheila, eds. The Surnames of Wales for Family Historians and Others, 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN: 0-80631-516-4, where I found:

As late as 1862, the marriage took place in Llangi'an, of Ellen Roberts, daughter of Robert Jones, and such an event, though by then unusual, could be replicated in other parts of rural north and west Wales.

which suggests that the timeframe is possible and also that, by then, verch wasn't always used but that a suffix 's' or prefix 'p' were used to form the second name, even for daughters.

Second update: There's a very good post on the timelines for patronymics in Wales at this Rootsweb thread, confirming that the timeframe is possible.

Third update: John and Sheila Rowlands, The Surnames of Wales Updated and Expanded, Llandysul, Ceredigion, Wales, Gomer Press in association with the National Library of Wales, 2013 includes a Survey of Transition in Wales away from patronymic naming, based on analysis of probate information from 1509 onwards. They demonstrate that, in 1858, 10% of name in my area of interest were still based on the patronymic naming system.


2 Answers 2


The usual description for the time of the conversion to static family names is from the fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. See Rowlands, John, and Rowlands, Sheila, eds. The Surnames of Wales for Family Historians and Others, 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN: 0-80631-516-4.

So if your bride was born about 1837 it is possible that she was named according to the old ways. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that a family determined to keep the patronymic tradition alive (while most others had abandoned it) would name a daughter with the masculine form.

To my mind, the very large numbers of Parry marriages in Llanllyfni during the 1850s (as per Family Search) makes your theory less likely to be correct.

  • 1
    Can you explain why the large number of Parry marriages in Llanllyfni makes it less likely to your mind? Parry was a common surname in North Wales, so it would be expected to show up frequently in marriage registers.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 14:14
  • 1
    Thank you for the pointer to Rowlands, John, and Rowlands, Sheila, eds. The Surnames of Wales for Family Historians and Others. I've bought a copy online and reviewed it, and updated my question accordingly. (It needs more space than a comment to explain what I've found).
    – user104
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 17:01
  • My reasoning (about more Parrys making the patronymic explanation less likely) was that if many others in the parish had standardised on Parry as a surname, why would Henry ap Richard choose to name his daughter in that way. The additional information about the decline of "ferch" suggests I am wrong!
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 2:54
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    How much discretion would the minister or whoever recorded the entry have had in the way the parties were identified? Certainly the spelling would be his, but could there also have been a tendency on his part to use older forms?
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 13:42

What was Jane's mother's name? Was it Parry? Could she have been born before her parents married? Or could she have been from a previous marrige of her mother's and never formally adopted by the second husband so never took the surname? Have you looked for a previous marriage of a Jane Pritchard to a Parry - the spinster may have been a lie. All possibilites should be ruled out before assuming patronymic naming as the year is getting rather late

  • Jane's patents names are unknown -- untill I find the marriage I can't go any further back with her line. And yes, I've looked for a marriage of a Jane Prichard to a Parry -- none found.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 8:28

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