Patronymic naming conventions are complex, in which children are identified by the name of thier father. The terms ap (or "ab") and ferch (or "verch") are Welsh terms meaning "son of" or "daughter of," respectively, as in Madog ap Rhys and Gwenllian ferch Rhys. In Ireland, the "son of" patronymic is Mc and Mac. In Scandinavia, the "son of" patronymic is the suffix "sen" or "son," such that David son of Lars becomes David Larson or Larsen.
The Welsh patronymic system continued into the 18th and 19th centuries, and may be encountered in researching early Welsh records. In some cultures, patronymics gave way to fixed names such that the entire family became known by one family name. Sometimes an "s" was added to the father's given name, and the family of William took on the surname Williams. A study of the naming conventions and the evolution of names within a particular culture, over time, is important to researchers, not only in understanding the the use of terms such as "ap" and "ferch," but also to identify and link families through the generations.
Help us improve this frequently asked questions area. Please send us feedback or additional questions.