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AstroChuck's avatar

Why is there a such high volume of Welsh surnames among African-Americans?

Asked by AstroChuck (37439points) July 30th, 2009

Evans, Jones, Owens, Thomas, Roberts, Hughes, Griffith, Perkins, Powell, Jenkins, Williams are all quite common last names in the African-American community. Why is this? I know many black slaves were given the surnames of their owners but I don’t believe there was a high percentage of Welch that were slave owners. Or am I wrong?

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11 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Make up your mind! Welsh? Or Welch? I suppose if they are borrowing names from masters, it could be considered welching?

Quick, fix it before editing time runs out!

AstroChuck's avatar

@daloon- Welch: pertaining to the people of Wales; i.e.- The Welch.
Welsh: An adjective pertaining to things of the people of Wales; i.e.- The Welsh countryside.

lloydbird's avatar

@AstroChuck Did the former disadvantaged gain an advantage elsewhere? Perhaps.

casheroo's avatar

Roberts is Welsh?! I am shocked.

I don’t know, my maiden name is very English (probably one of the most common last names) and a lot of black people share the last name, and I can trace back to when my ancestors owned slaves. That’s been my only observation, that it’s mainly English names.

aprilsimnel's avatar

That’s funny you say that! I was thinking about that yesterday when I watched my Simon Schama A History of Britain DVDs. My (mostly Af-Am) maternal family tree has a number of Welsh names (my paternal family is of Mediterranean extraction).

tinyfaery's avatar

What part of Ireland is Shaq from?

Darwin's avatar

But then Jefferson and Washington are common, too, and they aren’t Welsh names at all.

Oh, and Johnson! We’ve got Johnsons popping up all over, and they aren’t all from the same Johnson family.

AstroChuck's avatar

@Darwin- But Jefferson and Johnson were not uncommon slave holder names. There were many slaves owned by those with British surnames but not so many Welsh slave owners.

Darwin's avatar

But is everyone named Evans, Jones, Owens, Thomas, Roberts, Hughes, Griffith, Perkins, Powell, Jenkins, or Williams really Welsh? A lot of these names wandered out into the general British populace generations ago.

jones5793's avatar

If the Welsh were not numerically prominent in the ranks of the slave holders, how did African Americans come to make common use of Welsh names? In many cases these surnames just indicate the fact that African Americans shared with the Welsh the need to adopt fixed surnames at times when forenames commonly used in England had become usual in both groups. When fixed surnames became necessary, a father’s name would tend to become a surname. John could become Jones and David, Davis or Davies.
Names like this, therefore, need not necessarily be evidence of a Welsh connection.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@AstroChuck During emancipation the freed slaves took any last name they wanted. Often they took the last name of their former owners.
Matthew Henson was an African American who went with Perry to the N. Pole…my maiden name was Henson. We’re probably not related, but I’m proud, just the same!

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