For several years I’ve been off and on doing some genealogical research on my family. Others in my family have been doing the same thing, and we’ve managed to come up with some interesting information. One that really intrigued me is that of the Davis line itself. I had little confidence in being able to trace such a common name as Davis. It means “son of David,” so any dude named David could start calling his son “Davis.” And David, being Biblical, is fairly common in a wide range of countries.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when my dad, after hours of online research, presented me with an extensive genealogy of our Davis line all the way back to Wales. Wales! That’s pretty cool. And we have records going back to a guy named Daffydd ap Goronwy (David, son of Gorony) who was born in 1370. His son, Ieuan ap Daffydd, was the first we know of in our line to use “son of David” as a patronymic (a component of a personal name based on the name of one’s father).
It so happens that the patron saint of Wales is St. David, hence the popularity of the name David, and the proliferation of Davises in the world. St. David is to Wales what St. Patrick is to Ireland. St. David’s Day (March 1) is a huge cultural celebration in Wales.
It takes several generations, with a little bit of variation, for David to become permanently linked to the family as a true surname. The first of the line to do this was Morgan David, born in 1622 in Llanwit Farde, Glamorgan, South Wales. He immigrated to a Welsh colony in Pennsylvania, which may have prompted the Anglicization of his name. The first to use the modern form, Davis, was Evan Davis, born 1686 in Pennsylvania.
It’s interesting because Ieuan (modernly pronounced “yeh-vahn” in Welsh or “eye-ahn” in English) is a variation of the biblical name John, but due to differing pronunciations and Anglicization, it has produced modern names such as Ivan, Ian, Ewan, Evan, John and the surnames Jones (son of John) and Evans (son of Evan).
My great-grandfather’s name was Ivan Davis. Is it a coincidence that his name happened to be that of the very first Davis? There is at least one other in the family to use a form of that name, Evan Davis, born in 1686. So it’s possible that the name became a family tradition. It’s also interesting that Richard (my grandfather’s name), Edward (my uncle’s name), and (of course) David have also recurred, though those are much more common names.
I’ve learned a bit about Wales and the Welsh language over the years, starting with some unknown fascination when I first started college (before I even knew of the Davis link). And being the linguistics nut that I am, I thought I’d share a few words of Welsh with you.
Davis family motto (in old Welsh): “Heb Dhuw Heb Ddym, Dhuw a Digon.” “Without God there is nothing; God is enough/everything.”
Cymru: Wales (pronounced kum-ree)
Cymru am byth!: Wales forever!
I wish I could learn Welsh, it’s a very interesting kind of language, very soft and lilting. But geez, my Spanish is atrocious and some days I can barely speak English. So I’ll just be content with memorizing a few words and phrases, without getting into the nitty gritty of grammar.