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Gwyn Family History
The surnames Wynne and Gwynne, along with variants Wyn, Wynn, Winn, Gwynn and Gwyn, are primarily of Welsh origin, in that they derive from 'gwyn', the Welsh word for white, fair and pure. In this sense both surnames first appeared as a nickname (for someone of pale complexion or who had fair hair) and, in some cases, as a personal name.
Other theories, which mainly relate to Wynne families of English extraction, relate to the Old English words 'wine', meaning 'the friend' and 'wynn' meaning 'joy', as well as to the Norse-Viking word 'hvin', which translates literally as 'gorse' and was probably a nickname for a prickly person.
Hereditary surnames such as Wynne had been adopted in England by 1400. But in Wales, patronymic surnames remained predominant for much longer, and hereditary surnames were only gradually adopted by the majority of the population between the 16th and 19th centuries, depending on where in the country families lived and on their social status.
Families of higher social status were the first to adopt hereditary surnames in Wales, mostly during the 16th and 17th centuries. Among the most prominent of these families was the Wynn family of Gwydir near Llanrwst in north Wales who established a network of estates during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. John Wyn ap Maredudd ap Ieuan (d. 1559) was the first member of this family to bear the name Wyn, in his case as a nickname. It was his son, Maurice Wynn (d. 1580) a Member of Parliament for Caernarvonshire, who first adopted 'Wynn' as an actual surname. Maurice's son, Sir John Wynn (1553–1627), was a prominent public figure. He became a Member of Parliament, was knighted in 1606 and was made a Baronet in 1611. Sir John Wynn was an ancestor of the powerful Williams-Wynn family of Wynnstay, Ruabon, Denbighshire.
Another prominent Welsh Wynne family were the Wynnes of Peniarth, Merionethshire. The first member of this family to bear the Wynne name was Robert Wyn ap John of Glyn (d. 1580) – 'Wyn' was once again a nickname which was adopted by his son, William Wynne (d. 1685) as a surname.
The Wynne/Wynn surname was most commonly seen in north Wales, while it is the Gwynne/Gwynn version that was mostly associated with south Wales, in particular Breconshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire, and this is certainly a pattern evident on the 19th century censuses.
Some prominent Gwynne/Gwynn families include the Gwynne family of Garth, Breconshire, and of Glanbrân near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire whose ancestors first used 'Gwyn' as a surname in around 1545. Another Gwynne family founded the Monachty estate in Cardiganshire – it was a member of this family, the Rev Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne (1751–1819), who developed the town of Aberaeron during the early 19th century.
1841 & 1851 censuses
Dictionary of Welsh Biography, National Library of Wales, https://biography.wales/
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain (1890) by Henry Brougham Guppy
Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912) by Henry Harrison
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