Like Icelandic Surnames, Wales has a history of patronymic naming. The practice died out in the early 17th century in urban areas, and up to the early 19th century in outlying rural areas.

95% of the Welsh population are covered by only 39 surnames.

There are four common classes of Welsh surname:
  1. Straight Patronym - These come from the name of the father, with an s appended. Examples include Jones, Williams, Evans.
  2. 'Son of' - Like the Gaelic Mac or Mc, Welsh used ap to mean son of. "John ap Richard" is John, son of Richard. This developed to Pritchard. Further examples include Bowen (ap Owen) and Pugh (ap Huw).
  3. Purely Celtic names - Often describing the person, their occupation, or a place. Examples are Lloyd, Llewelyn.
  4. Imported English names.
The practice died out as wealthy and stylish families began to carry their surname to future generations. This is, of course, a minor nightmare for genealogists with Welsh ancestors.

Sources:
http://www.data-wales.co.uk/names.htm
http://www.melcombe.freeserve.co.uk/helps/patronym.htm

I looked some figures up on this a year or two for a school project. These figures are from a study totalling names from the 6 Wales telephone directories.

Here are the most common 40 surnames:

  1. Jones - 60.57 per thousand
  2. Williams - 37.81 per thousand
  3. Davies - 36.76 per thousand
  4. Evans - 24.66 per thousand
  5. Thomas - 22.97 per thousand
  6. Roberts - 17.14 per thousand
  7. Hughes - 13.38 per thousand
  8. Lewis - 12.96 per thousand
  9. Morgan - 11.7 per thousand
  10. Griffiths - 10.9 per thousand
  11. Edwards - 10.33 per thousand
  12. Owen - 8.85 per thousand
  13. James - 7.66 per thousand
  14. Morris - 7.5 per thousand
  15. Price - 7.5 per thousand
  16. Rees - 7.3 per thousand
  17. Phillips - 6.34 per thousand
  18. Jenkins - 6.23 per thousand
  19. Harris - 5.79 per thousand
  20. Lloyd - 5.64 per thousand
  21. Richards - 5.51 per thousand
  22. Powell - 4.72 per thousand
  23. Parry - 4.49 per thousand
  24. John - 3.65 per thousand
  25. Watkins - 3.39 per thousand
  26. Howells - 3.25 per thousand
  27. Pritchard - 3.14 per thousand
  28. Rogers - 2.71 per thousand
  29. Matthews - 2.37 per thousand
  30. Rowlands - 2.35 per thousand
  31. Humphreys - 2.22 per thousand
  32. Pugh - 2.19 per thousand
  33. Ellis - 2.17 per thousand
  34. Bowen - 2.17 per thousand
  35. Hopkins - 2.14 per thousand
  36. Martin - 1.91 per thousand
  37. Bennett - 1.86 per thousand
  38. Bevan - 1.69 per thousand
  39. Pearse - 1.65 per thousand
  40. Adams - 1.61 per thousand

These top 40 surnames only cover 38% of the welsh population, but this could easily be explained by varying numbers of people per telephone, studies taken from different eras, et cetera.

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