Jones Family Name History

Origins of the Jones suname were derived from the first name of John (or Jon) (1) through a naming convention called patronymics. In fact, many surnames can also be traced back to the given name of John. Examples of this include the surnames of Johnson, Johansen, and many others.

What makes the Jones surname unique is that it is primarily an English name, which was later adopted by others due to historical change and cultural influence.

One country in which the Jones surname was most widely adopted was the country of Wales. The most likely reason for this was due to passage of "The Act of Union" in 1536 which prohibited the use of the Welsh language in all official records. This meant that Welsh names needed to be registered in an anglicised (English) form. As a result, many Welsh family names like "Johnnes", "Ieuan" or "Sion" were translated to "Jones" because it was closest anglicized version of many Welsh family names.

Although the above provides some insight and explanation for the origin of the Jones surname in Wales, it is a fairly general overview. Your own Jones family name may have originated in a different location or for different reasons. Typically, Jones was a name that was adopted by a family for a variety of cultural and historical reasons.

The following is a timeline of events that took place in the UK which had an impact on the formation of Jones as a family name.

Year(s) Event
1066 Norman Conquest. William the Conqueror invades England and is crowned King. The use of a last name to identify a family is introduced by Norman landowners. (2)

Most individuals up to this time had been using a single given name such as Bealdwine, Cuthbert, Eadgyth. After the Norman invasion, given names like John, Richard and William would become more prominent in the generations to come. (9)
1086 The first "census" of England is commissioned by William the Conqueror in order to assess the value of his lands and resources.

Referred to as the "Doomsday Book", it contained extensive records about landowners, tenants and properties including names and values. (3). The Jones surname is not mentioned.
1279 The first documented recording of the Jones surname (Matilda Jones) appears in Huntingdonshire, England, in the Hundred Rolls of Buckinghamshire. (4)
1282-1536 Portions of Wales are consolidated and placed under English rule. Resistance from the Welsh is strong and it takes hundreds of years for the English to gain control.

The Welsh, which had been using patronymics to name individuals, begin to use the English styled (or anglicized) naming convention which combined a given name (first name) with a last name.
1536 England and Wales unite politically. The Acts of Union of 1536 and 1542 are introduced which prohibits the use of the Welsh language and requires the use of English for all official documents. This would have a profound impact on how Welsh names were recorded, because most were created and based on the Welsh language.
1538 Thomas Cromwell orders all parishes to record christenings, marriages, and burials in England and Wales.
1539 In Wales, the wealthier classes began to take surnames (last names) by decree. Most Welsh continued on with the patronymic naming convention and did not settle on a last name (including Jones) until a much later date. (5)
1587 First documented Jones living in America (Virginia). (6)
1790 First census taken in the United States. Names of the heads of households were taken. A total of 2,214 Joneses were documented in this first census. (7)
1837 Civil Registration in England and Wales begins.
1841 The first genealogically useful census is taken in the United Kingdom.

References and Sources:
1. Jones Last Name Origins (JonesGenealogy.com)
2. Family Names And Family HistoryOpens New Window by David Hey
3. The Doomsday Book OnlineOpens New Window at www.domesdaybook.co.uk
4. The Origin of English SurnamesOpens New Window by P. H. Reaney
5. The Surnames of WalesOpens New Window by John and Sheila Rowlands
6. The First Colonists, Documents on the Planting of the First English Settlements in North America, 1584-1590. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History, 1982.
7. 1790 US Census at Ancestry.comOpens New Window
8. What's in a Name? (www.bbc.co.uk)Opens New Window
9. Before Surnames (www.bbc.co.uk)Opens New Window