Sybil Ferch Huw Gwyn
Relationship to Fawn: 10th great grandmother

In When Allens and Gwynnes Came Together, we introduced one of our primary ancestors, Anne Gwynne.  The Gwynne family had been based in what was then called Montgomeryshire, Wales for centuries.  The Gwynnes of the 18th century were a farming and merchant family.

In this essay we look at some of the Gwynne ancestors to elucidate two main topics:

1. The changing circumstances of women’s surnames in the 16th and 17th centuries.

2. The Welsh Quaker migration to the American Colonies, a topic that will become elaborated upon in a future essay.

Changing Patterns of Naming in 16th & 17th Century Wales

We’ll start with how men and women were named during Sybil’s time.  I think it will give context up front for what the reader sees.  What is offered here is very elementary and broad.  For a more comprehensive look at the formation of fixed surnames in Wales the reader can refer to Welsh Surnames, by T. J Morgan and Prys Morgan (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1985).

“The 16th century was a time of great change in naming practices for Wales. Legally, people were supposed to be using fixed surnames. But entries from Early Chancery Proceedings Concerning Wales show a profusion of different options . . . even different usages for what appears to be the same person in different records . . . ” Women’s Names in the First Half of 16th Century Wales, Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn, 1998)

Fixed surnames became important to governments for purposes of taxation.  Standard surnames had long been a feature of English society.  However, Wales in the outset of the 16th century still retained its traditional system of naming, which did not included fixed surnames.  That is not to say that English influence had not penetrated Wales earlier.  Welsh families serving the Crown may have adopted the English custom much earlier, and English influence penetrated through the border areas where a bi-lingual population existed with its own unique border culture.  However, “The movement towards the fixed surname gathered momentum during the Tudor reigns, and in the seventeenth century covered most of Wales despite the . . . survival in the eighteenth century of remnants of the older system.” (Welsh Surnames, T. J Morgan and Prys Morgan, p. 16)

A standard Welsh name would start with the given name, then ap (son of) or ferch (daughter of), followed by the father’s given name, sometimes followed by the grandfather’s given name, and sometimes concluded with the name of where the person was from.  At times, you might find the mother’s given name or family incorporated, particularly with daughters, or if the mother held higher status than the father.

In the 16th century, the central government began to require standard surnames.  The fact that individuals appear in records with multiple styles of names indicates the shifting naming patterns in Wales as Welsh families sought to meet legal requirements while maintaining Welsh traditions.  A particular challenge was for women.  In England by that time women were assuming their husbands surname upon marriage. However, that was not the case in either Gaelic or Welsh societies.

As we examine Sybil’s family, the varied styles of naming being used almost simultaneously will be evident. Wherever I use a forward slash ( / ) it means that those two names are used interchangeably in documents.

Sixteenth century married Welsh women seem to have employed a number of options:

  • keeping her father’s hereditary surname,
  • using a traditional patronym incorporating her father’s name,
  • taking her husband’s surname,
  • taking her husband’s given name as a surname, and
  • a number of other options (e.g. using a personal nickname; incorporating her father’s and mother’s names; using a property name; either her own, her husband’s, or a new property of their own).

Women or men might be more likely to be called by a name according to English fashions when in an English setting, while in Welsh society to be referred in traditional Welsh fashion and, for a woman, retain her own family name. 

According to T. J. Morgan and Prys Morgan in Welsh Surnames (page 12), “. . . the wife continued to be known by the name she had before marriage, and this custom continued well into the eighteenth century.” 

The Morgans also point to a custom rooted in Gwynedd where “The inclusion of the mother’s name together with the father’s patronymic was in use as much and as naturally as the father’s.” (p. 13) Examples of this approach show hyphenated names while others are not hyphenated.  They include examples of the custom continuing throughout Wales even in the 1980s when they were writing.

This all led to men and woman appearing in different records under different names.

Sybil and her family

Sybil (also spelled Sibill) is Anne Gwynne’s great-great-great grandmother.  The name is regarded as the Welsh version of Isabel.  This lady had several forms of her name, but for ease, we’ll start by calling her Sybil ferch Huw Gwyn; that is to say, Sybil, daughter of Huw Gwyn, whose name translates as Fair Hugh.

Sybil was the daughter of Huw/Hugh Gywnn of Pennardd/Penarth and Jane ferch Owen/Owain ap Huw Owen/Owain. Sibyl was born in 1570 in Pennardd, Carnarvonshire, north Wales.  Pennardd was probably the name of her parent’s property.

Lets look briefly at each of these people:

Jane was born before 1550 in Bodowen (Bodeon), Llangadwaladr, Ynys Môn (Anglesey), Carnarvonshire, Wales.

Hugh Gwyn of Pennardd (Peniarth) was born in 1538 in Pennardd, Llanarmon, Abererch Parish, Lleyn Penninsula, Carnarvonshire, Wales and died in 1620. He was the son of Ieuan (John) Wynne ap Gwilym (William) and Jonet ferch Gruffudd.  Huw was appointed High Sheriff of Caernarfonshire on 2 December 1599 for a one-year term of service, then later Justice of the Peace on 11 May 1611.

Huw and Jane married in 1565 at his family’s estate in Pennardd or Peniarth,  Caernarfonshire, Wales.

Huw appears in records as Huw/Hugh Gwyn of Bodfel, Hugh ap Gwyn of Peniarth, Hugh Gwynn, Huw/Hugh Gwyn Wynne, and Huw/Hugh Gwyn ap Ieuan/John Wynne ap Gwilyn/Williams of Pennard.

Hugh’s long proper name comes from the ancient Welsh naming system wherein sons have a given first name (Huw Gwyn) followed by “ap” (= son of) their father’s name (Ieuan/John Wynne). In some cases, to keep important genealogies alive, the name would include the grandfather’s name and location (ap William) (o = of) Pennardd or Peniarth/Penarth.  In English, he was called Hugh Gwyn or Hugh Gwyn Wynne.

Jane appears in records as Jane Owen, Jane ferch Owen/Owain, Jane ferch Owen/Owain of Bodowen/Bodeon, Jane ferch Owen/Owain ap Huw/Hugh.

Sybil herself is listed in different records before and after marriage as Sybil ferch Huw Gwyn, Sybil Powell, Sybil Gwyn, Sybil Gwyn Owain, Sybil ferch Huw Gwyn ap Ieuan Wynne.

The ancient history of their families

Both of Sybil’s parents were of ancient Welsh families.  The following excerpts describe their ancestry:

From: The History of the Gwydir Family by Sir John Wynne (Oswestry, 1878), p. 78

“…in Evioneth of old there were two sects or kindred, the one lineally descended of Owen Gwynedd, Prince of Wales, consisting then and now of four houses, viz. Keselgyfarch, y Llys ynghefn y fann, now called Ystimkegid, Clenenny, and Brynkir, Glasfrin or Cwmstrallyn; the other sect descended of Collwyn, whereof are five houses or more; viz. Whelog, Bron y foel, Berkin, Gwnfryn, Talhenbont, and the house of Hugh Gwyn ap John Wynne ap William called Pennardd, all descended of their common ancestor, Jevan ap Einion ap Gruffith.”

From: Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania, by T A Glenn, (1911), pg. 43:

“Hugh Gwyn, of Penarth, was High Sheriff of Caernaronshire, Wales in 1600. He married Jane, daughter of Owen ap Hugh, of Boden, in Anglesey. He was descended from Gollwyn ap Tango from both his paternal and maternal grandfathers. Hugh Gwyn was the son of John Wynn of Peniarth, Lleyn, Caernarfonshire and Jonet ferch Gruffudd of Tahlenbont, Lleyn, Caernarfonshire. He was descended from the tribe of Gollwyn ap Tango from both his paternal and maternal grandfathers…”

From: Reifsnyder-Gillam Ancestry, edited by Thomas Allen Glenn (Philadelphia, 1902); online:, p. 47:

“John Powell, aka John ap Howell Gôch married Sibill, daughter (seventh child) of Hugh Gwyn, Esquire, of Peniarth, Caernarvonshire, by Jane, daughter of Owen ap Hugh, of Bodeon, Anglesey, sister unto Sir Hugh Owen, Barrister-at-Law and Recorder of Caermarthen, ancestor to the Owens, Baronets, of Orielton, Pembrokeshire. Hugh Gwyn was High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire from 2 December 1599-1600, and was commissioned one of the Justices of the Peace for that county, 11 May, 1611…

“Owen ap Hugh, of Bodeon, Anglesey, was High Sheriff of Anglesey, 30 November, 1562-63, 1579-80 (30 November), and died 1613. His second wife, mother of Jane, who married Hugh Gwyn, was Sibill, youngest daughter of Sir William Griffith, Knt., of Penrhyn, Caernarvonshire, Chamberlain of North Wales, by his second wife, Jane, daughter of John Puleston, of Bers and Havod y Wern.”

From p. 59:

“X. JANE OWEN, who married Hugh Gwyn, of Peniarth, High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire from 2 December, 1599-1600, and Justice of the Peace 11 May, 1611. Their daughter, Sibill (XI), married John Powell, of Gadfa, Llanwddyn, Montygomeryshire, and had Elizabeth (XII), who married Humphrey ap Hugh, of Llwyn…”

Hugh Gwyn’s Public Roles

To give some context for Hugh’s role in the northwest Wales I’ll briefly describe the two positions for which there is evidence, High Sheriff and Justice of the Peace.

Justices of the Peace

Justices of the Peace (or magistrates) were unpaid laymen in the court system. They had no formal legal training, though a stipendiary magistrate in the busier courts was salaried and legally qualified. Magistrates were appointed by the Crown and in order to qualify during hugh’s time, by an Act of 1439, they had to have an estate within the county in which they served worth at least £20 a year.  So, they had to be at least modest landowners and have come to the attention of officials.

High Sheriff

The Sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown. In Hugh’s day, the Sheriff was the principal law enforcement officer in a county, but over the centuries most of the responsibilities associated with the post have been transferred elsewhere or are now defunct, so that its functions are now largely ceremonial. The position is still today a one year appointment.

For information on the role of High Sherriff, go to: The High Sheriffs’ Association of England and Wales.

The Welsh Quaker Migration

In the late 17th century, Quakers came under persecution in Britain. Laws prohibiting their public worship were enacted.  The Quakers in Wales were not exempted from this persecution.  This untenable state and the charter William Penn received in 1681 for a colony called Penn Sylvania or Penn’s Woods prompted a Welsh Quaker migration.

A Lower Merion History indicates that the first Welsh Quakers came frmo was called then County Merionthshire in North Wales.  They arrived in August 1682 on the ship, Lyon, which came up the Schuylkill River, then then immigrants trekked to Pencoyd on the west bank of the river between present day City Avenue and Righters Ferry Road in Bala Cynwyd.  These settlers ended up purchasing 5,000 acres from William Penn following his arrival in October 1682, and writing back to others in Wales praising the countryside.


I am introducing the Welsh Quaker migration now as it will become important when I discuss our Johns and Richardson families in a later essay.

For now, how does it connect to Sybil?

Sybil married John Powell, or John ap Hwyl/Howell, of Gadfa, Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire before 20 Sep 1588 in Llanwyddn, Montgomeryshire, Wales.  He was the son of Hwyl/Howell Gôch ap Merrududd/Meredith ap Bedo of Gadfa and Margaret ferch Ifan/Evan. John was born about 1567 in Gadfa, Rhiwargor, Llanwyddn, Montgomeryshire, Wales and was buried on 24 Jul 1636 in Llanwddyn Parish Church, Montgomeryshire, Wales. He was also known as John ap Hwyl/Howell Gôch of Gadfa.

Sybil and John lived outside the village of Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire, Wales. They had at least two daughters, and here is where their family feeds into the Welsh Quaker migration.

1. Margaret ferch John ap Howell was born in 1596 in Penarth, Carnarvonshire, Wales. She married Ellis Williams. Two of their sons converted to the Quaker faith and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1686.

2. Elizabeth ferch John ap Howell was in born 1593, in Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire, Wales. She married Humphrey ap Hugh. Two of their sons, Owen Humphrey & Samuel Humphrey, converted to the Quaker faith and were persecuted for it in Wales. Both died in Wales but three of their oldest son’s children emigrated to Pennsylvania as part of the Welsh Quaker migration.

Connecting Sybil to our modern family

Sybil’s marriage to John brought her Gwyn family to Montgomeryshire.  We are descended from Sybil and John’s daughter, Mary, who married John David Lloyd, also in Montgomeryshire.  They daughter, Elizabeth married Evan Gwynne, a different family from Sybil’s Gwyn family of North Wales.  Their son David was Anne Gwynne’s grandfather.

Views of Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire, Wales

Llanwddyn was a small village.  Sybil and John lived on a farm, Gadfa, outside the village.  Below are artists renditions on the village in the late 19th century.

Fishing Street, Llanwddyn (1880s)

Fishing Street, Llanwddyn (1880s)


Llanwddyn. The inn and post. (1881)


The below picture of Llanwddyn shows the parish church of St. John in the distance where John Powell was buried, and the Powis Arms hotel to the right.

Llanwddyn. The parish church of St. John in the distance, and the Powis Arms hotel to the right.