An Analysis of first names from the 1851 Glamorgan census


By Anna Brueton, Oct 2002 - an updated version of that originally submitted to the Glamorgan mailing list - based on the CD published by Glamorgan FHS.


This note describes a study of personal names in Glamorgan using the index to the 1851 census provided by Glamorgan FHS.

Most popular names:

The four most common names for men, covering 57 % of the population, were John, William, Thomas and David. For women they were Mary, Anne, Elizabeth and Margaret, accounting for 60 %. No wonder we have such trouble finding our ancestors, it's not just the surnames! Men with distinctively Welsh names accounted for only 8% of all men and a mere 2% of women. Evan (6th position) and Morgan (12th) were the most popular men's names of Welsh origin. There were far fewer numbers of women with Welsh names, and of these Gwenllian was most common, at over 90% of Welsh names for women and 11th in popularity among all women's names.

In order to see how the popularity  of names had changed over time, I looked separately at people who were aged 51 or over (i.e. born in the 18th century). Among this group the same names made up the top four for both sexes, with William coming ahead of John as the most popular name for older men. Welsh names were more common than among the whole group, but only by a very small margin.


Given names for men born before 1800 differed little in popularity from the group as a whole: nine of the top 10 names are common to both lists. Nevertheless, some patterns can be discerned. There is evidence that the more common Welsh names were being displaced by names of Old Testament origin during the first half of the 19th century: Welsh names were more popular among older men than among the whole group whereas Old Testament names were more popular among the whole group than among older men.  

Finally, there are three names in the top 50 for the whole group which are popular among people of Irish origin (Patrick, Dennis, Cornelius). Of these, only Patrick is found in the older groups, and at a much lower position (43 compared with 26). This suggests that people of Irish origin in Glamorgan in 1851, many of whom arrived in South Wales following the potato famine in the 1840s tended to be under 50.


All men  %; Men over 50  %

1    JOHN 17.6; WILLIAM 17.4

2    WILLIAM 16.1; JOHN 17.2

3    THOMAS 12.8; THOMAS 14.7

4    DAVID 10.6; DAVID 10.2

5    JAMES 3.5; EVAN 3.6

6    EVAN 3.0; RICHARD 3.3

7    RICHARD 2.8; EDWARD 3.1

8    EDWARD 2.6;  JAMES 2.7

9    DANIEL 2.3; MORGAN 2.2

10   GEORGE 2.2; GEORGE 1.7

11   HENRY 2.0; DANIEL 1.6

12   MORGAN 1.6; REES 1.6

13   JOSEPH 1.3; HENRY 1.4

14   REES 1.3; LEWIS 1.3

15   SAMUEL 1.3; SAMUEL 1.2

16   BENJAMIN 1.2; PHILLIP 1.0

17   ROBERT 1.1; JOSEPH 1.0

18   LEWIS 1.1; ROBERT 1.0

19   CHARLES 1.0; JENKIN 1.0

20   PHILLIP 0.8; BENJAMIN 0.8

21   JENKIN 0.7; CHARLES 0.7

22   ISAAC 0.7; GRIFFITH 0.7

23   GRIFFITH 0.5; EDMUND 0.5

24   MICHAEL 0.5; HOWELL 0.5


26   PATRICK 0.4; ISAAC 0.5

27   EDMUND 0.4; HOPKIN 0.4

28   HOWELL 0.4; WALTER 0.3

29   FRANCIS 0.3; TIMOTHY 0.3

30   TIMOTHY 0.3; ABRAHAM 0.3

31   FREDERICK 0.3; OWEN 0.3

32   HOPKIN 0.3; WATKIN 0.2

33   EDWIN 0.3 FRANCIS 0.2

34   WALTER 0.2; STEPHEN 0.2


36   OWEN 0.2; HUGH 0.2

37   ABRAHAM 0.2; JACOB 0.2

38   DENNIS 0.2; MICHAEL 0.2

39   STEPHEN 0.2; ROGER 0.2

40   JEREMIAH 0.2; MATTHEW 0.2

41   MATTHEW 0.2; PETER 0.2

42   WATKIN 0.2; JEREMIAH 0.2

43   EBENEZER 0.2; PATRICK 0.2

44   ALFRED 0.2; ROWLAND 0.2

45   PETER 0.2; ELIAS 0.1

46   MOSES 0.2; MILES 0.1

47   ELIAS 0.2; JOSIAH 0.1

48   HUGH 0.1; EBENEZER 0.1

49   JOB 0.1; JONAH 0.1




Altogether 96% of women had one of the top 50 names. Again I looked at women over 50 to see if there were any trends, but there seemed to be little difference; eight of the top ten names are the same for over 50s as for the whole group.

Gwenllian is the only common distinctively Welsh name.  This is true  both for women over 50 and the whole group, though it is noticeably more popular among the over 50s. Next comes G(w)ladys, held by only 0.04% of women. Of course, many women may have used Welsh versions of their names in everyday life (e.g. Marged or Mererid for Margaret), but it was very rare to find these written down in the census. Old Testament names seem to be equally popular among the older group and the whole group. Of the English women's names which refer to qualities - Charity, Mercy etc there is only one example in the top 50 - Grace - but several others occur with lesser frequency. There was no age difference in the distribution of these names.  There were two names in the top 50 with Irish connections, Bridget and Ellen.


All women  % ;  Over 50s  %

1    MARY 21.4; MARY 23.1

2    ANN/E 13.8; ANN/E 15.0


4    MARGARET 9.5; MARGARET 10.4

5    JANE 5.7; JANE 5.3

6    SARAH 5.2; CATHERINE 5.2

7    CATHERINE 5.0; SARAH 4.8

8    HANNAH 2.8; GWENLLIAN 2.2

9    RACHAEL 1.8; JENNET 2.1

10   MARTHA 1.7; HANNAH 2.1


12   ELIZA 1.6; MARTHA 1.6

13   JENNET 1.3; ELEANOR 1.2

14   ELEANOR 1.2; ESTHER 0.8

15   MARIA 1.1; MARIA 0.6


17   HARRIET 0.7; ALICE 0.6

18   ESTHER 0.6; REBECCA 0.6

19   CHARLOTTE 0.6; JOAN 0.5


21   EMMA 0.5; JOANNA 0.4

22   REBECCA 0.5; FRANCES 0.4

23   ALICE 0.5; LUCY 0.4


25   RUTH 0.4; ELIZA 0.3

26   JOANNA 0.4; CECELIA 0.3

27   SUSAN 0.4; SUSAN 0.3

28   FRANCES 0.3; CECIL 0.3

29   LOUISA 0.3; RUTH 0.3

30   LUCY 0.3; BARBARA 0.2

31   MARIAN 0.3; HARRIET 0.2

32   AMELIA 0.3; PHOEBE 0.2

33   SOPHIA 0.2; LETTICIA 0.2

34   CECELIA 0.2; AMY 0.2

35   ANNA 0.2; AMELIA 0.2

36   LYDIA 0.2; DINAH 0.2

37   JEMIMA 0.2; GRACE 0.2

38   PHOEBE 0.2; JEMIMA 0.2

39   JOAN 0.2; ANNA 0.2

40   EMILY 0.2; SOPHIA 0.2

41   MATHILDA 0.2; BRIDGET 0.2

42  BRIDGET 0.2; DIANA 0.2

43   FANNY 0.2; EMMA 0.2

44   LETTICIA 0.2; BLANCHE 0.1

45   JULIA 0.2; FANNY 0.1

46   DINAH 0.2; JUAN/NA 0.1

47   CECIL 0.1; LEAH 0.1

48   BARBARA 0.1; MATHILDA 0.1

49   MIRIAM 0.1; SELINA 0.1

50   AMY 0.1; AGNES 0.1


TOTAL % 96.0 ; 97.2


It was quite difficult to define which names were distinctively  Welsh, and others might adopt different rules. I excluded names such as Hopkin, Jenkin and Watkin because they are not Welsh in origin and also Lewis, because its origin is ambiguous.  Welsh versions of Norman names, such as Gwilym, have generally been included. Names which can have a Welsh or English spelling but sound identical, such as Beti, have been excluded because it is not possible to tell whether the choice of spelling was that of the householder or enumerator.

A particular problem was Winifred, which is an English version of Gwenfrewi. Eventually I classified this as Welsh, in spite of the Anglicisation.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here are the Welsh names found in the 1851 census in descending order of popularity:


Evan, Morgan, Rees, Griffith, Llewelyn, Hywel/Howell, Owen, Gwilym/Gwyl, Leyshon, Rosser, Ivor, Taliesin, Meredith, Meyrick, Treharne, Eynon, Illtyd, Aneurin, Gethin, Caradog, Idris, Alban, Goronwy/Groned, I(J)estyn, Mansel, Penry, Cadogan, Tudor, Ewen, Prosser, Vaughan, Cadwallader, Ioan, Caswallon, Dewi, Emrys, Pritchard, Blethyn, Brychan, Collwyn, Cuffin, Davydd, Glyn, Griffin, Gwithefyr, Gwynne, Ithel, Lleirefn(?), Lloyd, Llywarch, Parry, Powell, Protheroe (from ap Rhydderch), Riddion (Rhidian), Ynyr, Yorwarth  (Iorwerth).

A similar analysis of the 1841 census added the following:

Lloyd,  Bowen, Huw, Ieuan, Jevan, Probert, Pugh.


Gwenllian/Gwen, G(w)ladys, Angharad, (G)winifred/Winey, Tydfil, Nest, Maysod, Lyssod, Isod, Mair, Morfydd, Olwen, Ceinwed, Eira, Essyllt, Gwenhiolen, Lleucu, Mauriel, Merthyr, Nia, Olined (Eluned), Seren, Shewan (Siwan), Tegwen.

And from the 1841 census:

Annis, Mallt, Gwena, Gwenifer, Gwilia, Lowry, Rhianedd, Sioned.

Among those born 1800 or later, there are several archaic men's names, including the poets Aneirin and Taliesin, the saints Illtud, Rhidian and Brychan, and the ancient heroes Blethyn, Caswallon, Idris, Llywarch and Ynyr.  Among the women's names are some associated with the Mabinogion or Arthurian myth: Morfydd, Olwen and Essyllt.

Closer examination shows that, with the exception of Illtud, the vast majority of people with "archaic" names were under 20 at the time of the 1851 census. Probably these names were stimulated by the Welsh literary and cultural revival which began at the end of the 18th century, associated with people like Iolo Morgannwg and Lady Llanover, rather than being traditional family names. Some families used several; Richard Llewellyn, Vicar of Llangynwyd, called his children Olwen, Arthur, Ivor, Ynyr, Aneirin, Hywel, and Essyllt. Illtud is of course a major Welsh saint, who founded the monastic centre at Llantwit Major in the Vale of Glamorgan, so his name may be an example of an ongoing tradition, rather than a revival.

I was unable to identify the following names which are possibly mistranscribed and may be Welsh names:

Cenru, Cinbrid, Deinon, Deri, Sych

Unusual or surprising names (some possible mis-transcriptions!):

Men:            Curley, Napoleon, Bad, Carthage, Haddock, Tarsan, Witty

Women:  Elrows, Glarkis, Gruellock, Grinagon, Margarine


Were any of the less common Welsh personal names in the 1851 Census Index associated with particular areas?

Here are some results:

ILLTUD (13 people)

Eleven were born in the Vale of Glamorgan, and one of the remainder had a parent from the Vale. The name is particularly found in St Bride's Minor. The link with the founder of the college at Llantwit Major is obvious.

Unusually among men's names in Glamorgan this name did not occur as a surname, which suggests that it was not in common use when patronymics evolved into surnames. Was there some event say in the 18th century which had revived interest in the name?


There were two separate groups of this name. The largest was found around the lower Neath valley, from Llansamlet in the west to Margam in the east. Then there was a smaller scattering south-eastwards along the coast, from Pyle to Llanmaes. It may be significant that the name derives from Lleision, the last Abbot of Neath (1513-41). The distribution of the surname described by Rowlands & Rowlands in The Surnames of Wales (henceforth referred to as R&R), is similar to the second group, but not the first.

MEREDITH (27 people)

This is a name mainly found in the north-east of Glamorgan (Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil) and south of Breconshire (Vaynor, Ystradfellte, Llywel), with a few others in Cadoxton & Llangyfelach. This is close to the surname distribution in R&R.


A small concentration is found in Llantrisant, but it is otherwise scattered N/S from Merthyr Tydfil to Monk Nash, and E/W from Cardiff to Michaelston. R&R say "mainly centred on SE Wales".


The geographical distribution is similar to that of  Meredith, covering the NE of the county and S Breconshire, from Gelligaer to Devynock, with the largest concentration in Merthyr Tydfil, and also a scattering in the western valleys: Llangyfelach, Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, Llangiwg, Ystradgynlais.


Concentrated in the Neath and Tawe valleys, especially Llangiwg.


Neath & Tawe valleys, particularly Ystradgynlais. Morgan & Morgan in "Welsh Surnames" mention (E)Lissod in their discussion of hypocoristic(pet) names, saying it was at one time fairly common in Glamorgan, but also noting an early 17th century connection in Llywel, Brecon (where it could still be found in the mid-18th century).


Note on methods

The analysis of names from the 1851 index is not as simple as it might seem:  the transcription does not record sex, so it has to be inferred from name and relationship; an educated guess had to be made about alternative spellings, mistranscriptions etc; and lastly my PC is too small to read the entire file into a spreadsheet, so so the analysis had to be done in batches.  In addition it wasn't always easy to use the name as a guide to the sex of the person, and modern usage was not always helpful. For instance Cecil (and variants such as Sissil) was usually female, and Sidney occasionally was. As time went on I developed ad hoc rules such as labourer = male, servant (not further described) = female and sometimes relied on instinct. So it's a bit subjective, but I hope not enough to invalidate the results

Details of  a similar analysis of the 1841 census are available on request


Heini Gruffudd                  Enwau Cymraeg i Blant (Welsh Names for Children)  Lolfa 2000

T.J.Morgan & Prys Morgan        Welsh Surnames University of Wales Press 1985

John & Sheila Rowlands          The Surnames of Wales FFHS publications 1996

Anna Brueton

March 2001 (updated October 2002)


[Last Updated : 13 Oct 2002 - Gareth Hicks]