The origins of the last name “Jones” can be traced back to the United Kingdom and more specifically, the countries of England and Wales. The Jones surname (last name) is derived from the English given name (first name) of “John” or the Welsh names “Sion” or “Ieuan”.
Even though the surname “Jones” is often thought to have originated in Wales, the earliest documented mention of “Jones” is actually found in 13th century records for England. 1
Joneses of British Descent
In Wales, the use of surnames (last names) did not begin until about the 16th century. This is about the time when the Welsh first adopted the use of surnames as a naming convention. 2. Up until that point, most individuals used only a first name when referring to someone.
Similar to England at an earlier time, in 16th and 17th century Wales, the “Jones” surname was most likely derived from a father’s first name of “John”, “Sion” or “Ieuen” through a naming convention called Patronymics. Patronymics was a common method for naming (and referring to) offspring in England, Wales and many other countries throughout the world. Our article titled Jones Patronymics provides an in depth explanation of how the Jones surname was derived from a father’s first name through the use of the patronymics naming convention.
Joneses of Non-British Descent
Not all Jones families can trace their roots back to Wales or the United Kingdom. There are many Jones families of non-Welsh or English descent who acquired the last name of Jones for a variety of reasons. Our article titled Name Derivation goes into some of the reasons for this.
If you are a Jones of African descent, it’s highly likely that at some point your ancestors began using a surname like Jones OR more likely, that your last name was assigned to your family at an earlier time. There are many reasons why this would have occurred. Some of these are outlined in our article titled Name Derivations. Other possible reasons are mentioned in the article, The Welsh and Slavery in America, although there were far more non-Welsh slave owners.
If you are really interested in exploring African-American family genealogy, one of the best family history authors focused on this area is Tony Burroughs. He has written a great book titled Black Roots: A Beginners Guide To Tracing The African American Family Tree.
References and Sources:
1. The Origin of English Surnames by P. H. Reaney
2. The Surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands