Griffiths Surname Genealogy

The elements griff, thought
to mean “strong grip” and iudd
meaning “chief” or “lord” helped form the Welsh name
Gruffydd, a fit name therefore for a Welsh prince or leader. The
first standard-bearer of the name was probably Gruffydd
ap Cynan, a descendant of Rhodri Mawr, who rallied the Welsh against
the Norman invaders in the 12th century.
The normal pronunciation of the name in Wales was “Griffidd,”
which medieval scribes who were not Welsh generally wrote “Griffith” as
being the closest phonetic spelling in their writing system.
Griffith and Griffiths
exist as surnames, as well as,
occasionally, Griffis. Griffith used to be the main spelling (and
still is in America), but has given way to Griffiths in both Wales and
England. The Griffin surname has a different origin.

Resources on

Griffiths Ancestry

The Griffith name in Wales started out in north Wales and worked its
way south.

North Wales The
Griffith family of Penrhyn in Carnarvon, descended from Welsh
royal and princely houses, was probably the first family in Wales to
emerge as landed gentry. As the leading family of north Wales in
the 15th century, they were appointed Chamberlain of the
region. However, the line came to an end with the adventurer
Piers Griffith

in the late 16th century, although a branch of the family did last
longer at Carreglwyd
in Anglesey.

There were two other early Griffith families in north Wales:

  • one at
    Cefn Amwich in
  • and the other at Garn in
    Denbighshire (in Glenn’s 1934 book The
    Family of
    Griffith of Garn and Plasnewydd

Generally, these
Griffiths were Anglican by persuasion, opposing the radical Puritans
and only returning to favor with the Restoration.

Although the ancient Griffith families came from north Wales, there
were in fact more Griffiths in south Wales and across the border in

South Wales The
Griffith surname generally came about during the 16th century as
Welsh families began to adopt English-style surnames and the first-name
Griffith then became the last-named Griffith. This happened, for
instance, with the Griffiths
of Penybenglog
in Pembrokeshire and with Jenkin ap Griffith
and his son Hugh Jenkin Geriffith at Llanddeiniol in

The Griffith and Griffiths names
cropped up in a number of parish records in Carmerthenshire during the
17th and 18th centuries:

  • one family history traced itself back to
    Llangunnor near
    the town of Carmarthen in
    the 1750’s.
  • another account began in the early 1800’s with William and
    Catherine Griffiths
    in the same village. David
    Griffiths, a blacksmith in nearby Cydweli, lived to be 95, and his wife
    Mary to be 105.
  • there were also Griffiths in and around
  • and there were the Griffiths who worked in the Ammanford
    coal mines
    in the
    eastern part of the county (Jim Griffiths, a miner from Ammanford, rose
    through Labour party ranks to become the first Secretary of State for
    Wales in the 1960’s).

Many Griffiths from Carmarthen migrated to Swansea or to the other
industrial towns of Glamorgan. Glamorgan had the largest number of
Griffiths in Wales by the end of the 19th century.

Across the border there has been a Griffiths family (originally spelt
Griffit) at Ruardean in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire from the
17th century and Griffiths elsewhere in the county from the 18th
century. Griffiths arrived into Lancashire, mainly from north
Wales into Liverpool, somewhat later; but the numbers there built up in
the 19th century.

Ireland. Welsh Griffiths
also came to Ireland although there is scant record of them – except
for two famous Dubliners:

  • one was Richard Griffith who devoted
    himself to land valuation in Ireland. His epic work, Griffith’s Valuations, was
    undertaken in the 1840’s and 1850’s.
  • the other was Arthur
    Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein and the man who led the Irish
    delegation that produced the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. Griffith
    Park and Griffith College in Dublin were named after him.

America. There were early
Griffith settlers in Maryland possibly by 1651 (Samuel Griffith) and
more definitely by 1675 (William Griffith in Anne Arundel

More Griffiths then arrived into Pennsylvania which under Penn had
opened its doors to religious nonconformity. Among the arrivals

  • Hugh Griffith who had come with
    a group of families from north Wales in the late 1600’s. They
    settled in Brecknock township.
  • The Rev. Thomas Griffith from Carmarthenshire in 1701. He
    was to be the first Baptist minister for the Welsh tract at Pennepek.
  • Benjamin Griffith from
    Carmarthenshire with his father in 1710. He became a member of
    the Baptist church at Pennepek and later was a chronicler of the
    Baptist churches in the region.
  • Three Griffith brothers,
    William, John and Griffith, from Cardiganshire in 1717 (a book on their
    pedigree was written by T.A. Glenn in 1905). They settled in
    Chester county.
  • Walter Griffith, who married Martha Cox in Philadelphia in 1720.

Virginia furnished a number of Griffith officers in the Revolutionary
War. Captain David Griffith who fought against the British in
1812 was the forbear, via a Confederate war veteran, of the film maker
D.W. Griffith
of The
of a Nation

Griffith Griffiths joined the fledgling Welsh
community in Patagonia in 1881, arriving there late in the year on the Monte Leon. His bardic name
was Gutyn Ebrill and he established a Welsh Gorsedd of the bards in the
region. The Griffiths name has lived on in Patagonia after his
death in 1909.

Rene Griffiths, born in Patagonia, was an
Argentine pop star of the 1970’s who sang in both Spanish and
Welsh. And local resident Orwig Griiffiths met the Princess of Wales
when she made an unexpected visit to Gaiman in 1995.

Australia. Many Welsh
Griffiths migrated to Australia, but two of the most entrepreneurial
were English, both from Gloucestershire.

Jonathan Griffiths was transported there as a convict in 1790. He
became a successful shipowner and builder in New South Wales and
Tasmania, marrying twice and fathering at least nine children.
Then there was George Griffiths. He had come to Queensland in
1870 and, by the turn of the century, had built up his small ironmonger
business into a large foundry company at Toowoomba making metal
windmills and railway rolling stock.

The city of Griffith in New South Wales was named after Sir Arthur
Griffith, its first Minister of Public Works. He had been an immigrant
from Ireland in the 1870’s. Sir Samuel Griffith, the drafter of
the Australian constitution, had been born in Wales; but his family was

Griffiths Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Griffiths Names

Griffith of Penrhyn was appointed Chamberlain for North Wales
in 1483 and fought for his cousin Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth
, born into an Irish family, was an 18th century
actress, writer, and London playwright.
Griffith J. Griffith was a
Welshman who made a fortune in silver mining in Mexico and became a
benefactor to the new city of Los Angeles. Griffith Park
and Griffith Observatory are named after him.
D.W Griffith was the American
film director who gave us The Birth
of a Nation
in 1915.
Arthur Griffith was the Sinn
Fein leader who led the Irish delegation
that produced the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921.
Frederick Griffith was the
English medical researcher who discovered DNA in 1928.
J. Gwyn Griffiths was a
Classics professor, poet and political activist for Wales.
Jim Griffiths was a Welsh
Labour politician who rose to become the first Secretary of State for
Wales in the 1960’s.

Select Griffiths

  • 104,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in West Midlands)
  • 36,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 56,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).




Click here for return to front page

Leave a Reply