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Vol. 6, no. 1 1979

Welsh emigration to the United States : a note on surname evidence /

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example, supporting the North in the Civil War), God-fearing
committed to scholarship and the arts, and in their own eyes at least
ambitious and thrusting. A constant theme in the Welsh-Americar
literature is the more than proportional contribution made by tht
Welsh in the development of the republic (for example, Penn, 1899
For a classified bibliography see Hartmann, 1967). The lists o
"eminent" Welsh-Americans are long, if not invariably accurate
The Welsh were, like their idealized stereotype, little but good.
There is some substance in this view, particularly in respect o
19th. Century migration. But it ignores both the volume and wide
spread distribution of the earlier waves of Welsh emigrants, many o
whom would have travelled as individuals (and left no written record
and yet were likely to have composed a far higher proportion of tota
migrants than their better documented successors (Dodd, 1957). Th<
influence of these earlier migrants and their progeny in forming th<
basic population stock of the United states appears often to have beei
underestimated. It is for this reason that one piece of evidence, tha
of present-day American surnames, is distinctly at variance with th<
conventional view of the Welsh in the United States. If it is acceptec
that certain of these surnames (Williams, Jones, Davies, etc.) are
broadly of Welsh origin, then some interesting results emerge.
Welsh surnames the inconsistencies
An observant visitor to the United States is immediately struck botl
by the frequency and by the ubiquity of common Welsh surnames
The distribution is such that it raises some important problems
Three sample pieces of evidence will suffice to illustrate the point.
In 1964, the United States Department of Health, Education an
Welfare, Social Security Administration undertook a count of the sut
names held in its social security computer and ranked them in des
cending order (Smith, 1969). There is no reason to suppose that th
considerable sample on file (over 150 million names) was atypical
Though there are some problems in interpreting the list, it provides
fascinating view of the distribution of American surnames. Smith i
easily the most common, followed by Johnson, but then in third plac
is Williams, in fifth Jones, in seventh Davis (Davies), followed closel
by Thomas (12th.), Harris (16th.), Lewis (19th.), Roberts (34th.
Evans (39th.), Edwards (45th.), and Morris (46th.). There are sixte
distinctly Welsh names in the top 100. In the top 50 there is only on
non-British name, Rodriquez in 44th. position, and there are onl
five non-British names in the top 100, all of Spanish origin. The su
prisingly low frequency of German surnames is probably due 1
acculturation, partly from choice but partly a result of the work c
sometimes uneducated and often unsympathetic immigration offii
ials. Thus Schmidt became Smith, Bloch became Block or Blacl
Albrecht became Albert, and so on (Dohan, 1974).
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