The concept of "a Welsh name" is rather imprecise. It refers to the group of names which depend on the Welsh language for their origin (and which are so ably documented by the historians T.J. and P. Morgan in their "Welsh Surnames") but must also include names like Jenkins which had their origins in another language but in time came to be regarded as being as Welsh as Caerphilly cheese. The best authority for this second group is "The Surnames of Wales" by John and Sheila Rowlands.*
Jenkins is a surname of the type very common in England, the double diminutive. Jenkin was originally a forename with the meaning of "son of John" or "little John". The "kin" suffix was apparently a Flemish import which for some reason became popular in England. It also led to names like Daykin (son of David) and Perkin (son of Peter). Perhaps the best known bearer of this type of forename was the unfortunate Perkin Warbeck, who became a pretender the English crown in 1491. After the capture of some of his followers in 1495, an observer described the prisoners he saw as ".. most(ly) Flemings and other outlandish men as gunners and other such as lived by theft and ravine".
J. and S. Rowlands point out that Jankin or Jenkin had been adopted from the English and become a popular forename in Wales by the 15th century . Hundreds of years later, when the fixed surname became necessary, a son of Jenkin would adopt his father's name as a surname and add the final "s". The double diminutive stage was reached. The Rowlands note that by the early 19th century, Jenkins was a surname of "south and south west Wales, it is almost totally absent from north west Wales".
* The Surnames of Wales by John
and Sheila Rowlands, 1966, The Federation of Family History Societies. ISBN 1
86006 025 0 . An interesting read for anyone with Welsh connections. Contains
excellent research into surname distribution in Wales.
|© John Weston / Data Wales, 2002|