Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sons of Beli mawr

It is believed that the "Mabinogi", which appears first in "The Red Book of Hergest", was first written down in the 1100s (twelfth century or thereabouts). This would mean that the Welsh began recording their oral history (stories) some 1000years after they are reported to have occured. Two Welsh manuscript collections still exist. The first is called "The White Book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) written down about 1300-1325. The second is called "The Red Book of Hergest" (Llyfr Coch Hergest) which copy is dated 1375-1425. It is generally believed that portions of various accounts were written down a hundred years before these collections were recorded. It is in these collections that my direct JONES line is recorded.

The sons of Beli Mawr; Lludd, Caswallawn, Nyniaw, and Llefwlys are clearly recorded in the sources listed above. The lineage of Beli Mawr is recorded by Lewys Dwnn, Vol. I, pp. xv, xvi, and gives a son Afflech. This may be a fifth son or an attempt at spelling Llefwlys. [A = Ll, f = ef, fle = fwl, ch = ys ?] At any rate, Lewys Dwnn gives the ancestry of another Jones grandfather named Vortiger (Vortigern) who has direct discent from Beli Mawr. This direct disent is as follows:

"Vortiger was son to Rhydern ap Deheufraint ap Eidigant, ap Eudeirn ap Enid ap Endos ap Enddolan ap Afallach ap Afflech ap Beli mawr...". My direct JONES line.

1.Jones G.,Jones, T. The Mabinogion. Everyman, London, 1949. pp.21,71,75.

2.Morus, C. The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed. Aryan Theosophical Press, London, 1914

3.Dwnn, L. Heraldic Visitations of Wales and part of the Marches. Vol. I, printed and published by William Rees, Chester, London, 1846.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First JONES

The first of my direct JONES line that is recorded among the pages of history is Beli Mawr, son of Manogan. His name first appears in the most ancient of Welsh documents called "The Mabinogion". [A translation by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, Everyman Press, is available.] In the manuscript known as "The Four Independent Native Tales", a story titled "Lludd and Llefelys" is told. He is recorded here as having four sons; Lludd, Caswallawn, Nyniaw, and Llefelys. A daughter is given by the name Penarddun in another story titled "Branwen Daughter of Llyr". Now Ashley in his book "British Kings & Queens" states that Beli was a "semi-legendary British king who was probably an historical ruler" (p. 69) He dates him to around 100 BC and notes that he was from the Silures (southern tribal group), and was "High King" of the Britons. This would place my JONES line 50 years before those Latin writers were to show up. According to the "Historia Brittonum", he is identified as the "King of the Britons" in the time of Julius Caesar. Well, by any account, he was early in the history of Wales. According to Stephens in her book "The New Companion to the Literature of Wales", early heraldry of Wales shows that the eminent families in and the "Old North" claimed descent from Beli Mawr.(p.44) Not a bad start for a JONES line, hey?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

North to South

From north to south, the Celtic tribal groups that formed the major part of our JONES DNA were the Deceangli, the Ordovices, the Cornovii, the Demetae, and the Silures. For my particular JONES family it would prove to be the Cornovii, Deceangli, and Ordovicies, that made most of the family tree. Always fighting among themselves, and between each other, they produced an extensive network of family fortifications, called hill-forts. These hill-forts were scattered all along the landscape, varying in size from just a few acres, to forts containing more than 15 acres. They most likely started as fortified family farms and were added onto generation by generation. My Jones family's area of the world yet to come, was dotted with the largest and most impressive. The heart of this land was centered around one fort called "Oswestry Old Fort". It guarded the land access route between the rich lands of the middle Severn valley, and the grazing land of the uplands. It also must have served as a central trading post and animal management center, for to go from the lowlands to the uplands, you would have to cross this narrow strip of land. What a deal. Fight, fight, and more fighting was the name of survival. Perhaps for my family, trade, trade, and more trading was the name of survival. It would appear that my Jones family would live to fight another day, or trade to live another day, or perhaps a little of both.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Empire Without Limit

The Latin writers who were to arrive on our island between 55 B.C. and 84 A.D., [the conquest of northern Britain and Wales was completed in 84 A.D.], had the following mindset: according to Virgil, Jupiter himself decrees,

"I set upon the Romans bounds neither of space nor of time:
I have bestowed on them empire without limit."

These Latin writers describe a Celtic culture divided geographically. They named multiple social groups, scattered about the island. We have come to call these "tribes". The tribal groups that came to occupy that part of the island from which our JONES surname originates are five in number. The Cornovii centered its land around the land bridge between the head waters of the Dee and Severn. At one point they were thought to have occupied what was to become present day Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, the Clwyd valley and eastern Powys. The Deceangli occupied the northern coastal area being the extreme north of our JONES family land. The Ordovices claimed what was to become Gwynedd. The Demetae spread over what was to become Dyfed. Finally, the Silures were settled in what was to become Galmorgan and Gwent. Within these five Celtic tribal groups our JONES surname was hidden. It would take another 500 years before the tribes that survived the "empire without limit" would be identified as "Walas".

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sure Kin

What the Celts had to say about themselves had to wait until many generations later when the spread of Christianity had reached to the end of the world. The Irish appear to be the earliest writers. Most of this record was written by priests who were the most educated, and were familiar with biblical and classical writers of the day. The earliest records were law tracts which had to deal with social organization. A tract called "Crith Gablach" deals mostly with various grades of farmer! Social rank was very important often demonstrated by their burial traditions, which included decorated jewelery of gold or bronze. It appears that there were distinct class divisions. [Caesar himself used the term "rex" (king) to describe the leaders.] Under the kings were nobles, then warriors, then the "aes dana" (the smart guys), then the freeman (small farmers and craftsmen), and then the slaves. "Brehon law" was followed under the judges known as "brithem".

Central to this society's organization was the "tuatha" (tuath=tribe, or people, or clan). Each was ruled by a head (ri, or king) who in turn could be "under king" to a greater "ri" called "ri ruirech"... so on and so on, up the line to a provincial king. The under king would give hostages to the higher king in return for protection. This hostage giving was to become a key element in our JONES family, but that is yet to come. Thus the "tauth" was the political unit.

The social unit was the "fine" (kin group). This was an extended family of all males with a great grandfather in common. It would include second cousins and all the female members as well. This family grouping become the "derbfine" (sure kin). The family to five generations was called "ira-fine", and to six generations was called the "indfine". The custom inherited from the Celts was that the "fine" (kin group) was responsible for the actions of its individual members. This Celtic inheritance was to become the foundation for our own Welsh Laws collected by a JONES father-in-law, Hywel Dda!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Story Telling Gene

Just as the artist can choose which colors to place on the palate and mix, or the photographer can pick the angles and time of day to contrast his shadows, or the sculptor can choose the medium in which to carve, so can the historian pick the words and attitudes in which to write. This has been true since Cesar wrote his own account of The Conquest of Gaul recounting his personal triumphs and describing the Celtic society which he encountered. On the other side, the Celts had a real problem since they did not choose to write anything down! In their culture its was taboo to write anything down. This seemed to be due to the social structure which placed a priest, bard, and poet in charge of the history and tradition of the society. Of course the priest dealt with the supernatural phenomena and the life and death issues which the Celts faced everyday. The poet was responsible for formalizing the heroic acts of the leaders, warriors, and successful battles. It was the bard who was responsible for verbalizing these events with story telling around the hearth on cold winter nights. Of course this was all done by memory. The culture of the bards thus depended upon the fact that no one wrote anything down. Memorize, memorize, memorize was the motto. The oral tradition and social stories were transmitted from one generation to the next by these story tellers. A bard would spend his lifetime memorizing and telling the heroic stories of the tribe. Thus there are no written records of the Celts until the Irish began to write down their own history after those Latin writers arrived.

The JONES surname carries this Celtic gene...the story telling gene. I suspect that the bard spoke with their hands much like my own story telling family. [see] What colors they could paint.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


As the Roman Empire gradually conquered the known world, they produced a new Celtic culture that spoke both a Celtic language and a Latin language. The Germanic tribes that resisted the Roman advance remained mostly north of the Danube. [They were ultimately able to get their revenge sacking the city of Rome some 500 years later.] Those tribes remaining true to their German roots had a word for those Celtic folks to the south. These folks had betrayed their German roots and had become "Romanized". These Celts had taken on Latin, and of course, this was not acceptable to the true Germanic tribes. The Germans used the term "walas" to denote those "foreigners" who spoke Celtic languages but were also Latin-speaking. It was this term that was later applied to Celts in general. Little did these Germans know that years later, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, would apply this term to describe the Britons who occupied the island yet to come, and the country yet to be, Wales. It is Wales that is home to our surname JONES.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mind your P's and Q's

Now when the Celtic social and cultural groups reached the northwestern most tip of the continent, they faced the ocean. To the west was water for as long as you could go. To the north and northeast was a number of islands that had yet to be settled by the Celts. Their language had, pretty much, been uniform until the migration across this water generated a branch. There were those who used their lips versus those who used their hard palate to form their sounds and words. The sounds "B" and "P" became dominate in the group that moved to the southwestern tip of the larger island. The sounds "Q" and "Mu" dominated among those who migrated to the smaller island. As these Celtic cultures settled and soon dominated the folks already there, this branching came to be called P-Celtic (Brythonic) and Q-Celtic (Gaulish) by the linguists who study such a thing today. The P-Celtic then moved along the western coastal area northward, and the Q-Celtic settled among the folks on the island to become Ireland. The Scots who first arrived at the smaller island picked up this dialect, and continued to form the Gaelic tongue. The bilabial folks (who used opposing lips to make sounds) formed the Brythonic tongue; these also formed, on a return trip to the continent, the Breton tongue. There was another branch of the Celtic language to form on the smallest island in the Irish Sea, The Isle of Man. This language root called Manx is extinct today.

Now the Germanic groups that remained north of the Danube formed their northern and western language branches. It was the western branch that became the root for English, Flemish, Dutch, Afrikaans,Low German, and High German.

Again, understanding this distinction between the two language roots is the beginning to really understand the true origin of our JONES surname.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Latin terms

Before the beginning of the Roman Empire, the territories occupied by the Celts eastward, included present day Turkey, known then by the name Galatae. Westward the Celts came to occupy Spain, then known as Iberia. Their culture and influence spread gradually along the Iberian peninsula, up the Atlantic coast to the channel that separated the mainland from the island known as Albion. Thus the "Celtiberians" became the major genetic root of those cultures yet to be established among those who where first to occupy the island. This genetic migration certainly appears to have occurred gradually with a mixture of Hallstatt and la Tene influence. Both bronze and iron appear in the weapons and art of the day. Certainly, the political, economic, and social order had been well established forming what came to be called Celtic society. Of course it would not be until the writers of history arrived some 300-400 years later that the Latin language and its vocabulary named those tribal groups formed over the centuries.

When these Latin writers arrived to the island, they recorded their own history through their own eyes. The first historian to arrive was Caesar, 55 BC. Caesar's regular word for large or political groupings was "civitas". This word became translated into English as "tribe". These tribes contained smaller groups for which Caesar's term was "pagus". It is unclear how Caesar used these terms in his own mind, for the Latin had other terms for family (gens), and people (populus). However, it is clear that when Caesar arrived, he saw distinct levels of our "Island society". First there was a large cultural group, geographically identified, which was then made up of much smaller units. These terms certainly applied to the concept of ethic groups centered upon distinct social and cultural organization and identity. Our JONES surname had it's roots hidden within these Latin terms.