Jones Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Jones Surname Meaning

The surname Jones is a patronymic (son of) name from Jon or John.  John had become the most popular first name in England by the beginning of the 14th century; and Jones was the most common surname in Wales by the 18th century.

Jones is also one of the most common surnames in the English-speaking world – popularized by such expressions as “keeping up with the Joneses” and in fictional characters such as Indiana Jones.

Jones Surname Resources on The Internet

Jones Surname Ancestry

  • from Wales and England (the West and London)
  • to America, Canada, South Africa and Argentina

Wales.  The name has been particularly common in Wales – although the name Jones originated in England and the letter “J” does not even exist in the Welsh language (John is Ieuan instead).  John became popular through the John in the Welsh Authorized version of the Bible.

Glamorgan was the only county in Wales to have the Jones name to appear (and then only once) before the Act of Union in 1536. The names Jevan and Jonys then began to appear and then the first Jones elsewhere in Wales.  But it was only in the 1600’s that Jones as a surname started to spread.

Some old Welsh families who claimed long and noble lineages adopted the Jones name:

  • the Jones of Llanerchrugog in Wrexham (from Lord Bleddynap Cynfyn and, before that, from Rhodri Mawr)
  • the Jones of Cadwgan in Denbighshire (from Cynwrigap Rhiwallon, Lord of Maelor Gymraeg)
  • the Jones of Albemarlis in Carmarthen (from Lord Dynevor of Carmarthen)
  • and the Jones of Dol-yn-Edeirnon in Glamorgan (from Jeslynap Gwrgant, Lord of Glamorgan).  

Edward Jones of Cadwgan was a conspirator caught up in an anti-Elizabeth plot and was executed for treason in 1586.  

Later Jones  There was at one time a high concentration of the name on the island of Anglesey in north Wales.

William Jones, the son of Sion Sior, was born in 1675 to a poor Welsh family in Anglesey.  He made his mark in London as a mathematician and was a friend to Isaac Newton.  His son, also William, excelled in the study of language.  An Anglesey family history began with another William Jones, in this case a blacksmith, who had his forge in the 1750’s at Penrhosllugwy on the east coast.

However, the population drift in Wales was towards south Wales and more Joneses were to be found there.  The list below gives a sampling of these Joneses from the 18th century onwards:

  • Colonel Philip Jones prospered as a Parliamentarian under Cromwell and acquired the Fonmon castle estate in Glamorgan in 1658.  It stayed with his family until the late 19th century.   
  • Calvert Jones through inheritance became a sizeable landowner in Swansea in the late 1700’s.  His grandson, also named Calvert, was a painter and took some of the earliest photographs in Wales in the 1840’s.
  • Edward Jones began a legal practice in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire in the 1770’s which continued with his descendants until the 1960’s.
  • David Jones started a bank in Llandovery in 1799.  This bank passed to his grandsons David and John in 1839,  They were in turn MP’s for Carmarthenshire.
  • Richard Jones, born around 1810, was a coal miner in the Taibach area of Glamorgan, as were many of his sons and grandsons.
  • while Daniel Jones and his family moved from Cardiganshire to Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan in the 1840’s.  He was a barber, although other relatives were coal miners.

The Welsh Joneses were outnumbering the English Joneses by approximately two to one at the beginning of the 19th century. Jones today is the most common surname in Wales.  Roughly one in ten people in Wales is called Jones.

England.  There were Welsh Jones that had extended into England.  Henry Jones of Middleton in Lancashire was descended from an old Monmouth line.  His son Thomas Jones was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1605.  Later Jones were made Viscount Ranelagh.  The family, now extinct, left the Ranelagh name to many places in London.

West Country.  The Jones name first appeared in Shropshire in 1551.  A Jones family in Shrewsbury prospered from the Welsh cloth trade, first through William Jones in the early 1600’s and then through his son Thomas who was Shrewsbury’s first mayor in 1638.  A descendant was Sir Thomas Jones, Chief Justice in the 1680’s.

The Jones name appeared in Bristol among tradespeople from the 1530’s onwards.  Later on, James and Thomas Jones were merchants from Wales who moved to Bristol in the 1770’s and became active in the slave trade.  Pero Jones (unrelated) was an African slave who lived and died in the city.

Henry Jones from Monmouth was the Bristol baker who was granted a patent for self-raising flour in 1845.  Its runaway success had him appointed purveyor of flour to Queen Victoria.

London.  There were a number of Welsh Jones in London during Elizabethan times, notably the bookseller Richard Jones and the architect Inigo Jones. 

Sir Francis Jones, originally from Shropshire, was a London merchant and for several years its Master of the Haberdashers.  He bought the Welford Park estate in Berkshire in 1618 and two years later became Lord Mayor of London:

  • his grandson Richard Jones had the present house at Welford Park built in the 1650’s, but died there without issue.  
  • while Captain Lewis Jones who departed England for Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1640 may have been related to these Jones (although tradition has it that he was born in Wales). 

It was John Jones, a Welsh Parliamentarian under Cromwell, who signed the death warrant for Charles I in London in 1649.  He was executed in 1660.

Later Jones in London were the 18th century wine merchant William Jones (whose collection of butterflies has been handed down) and the architect Sir Horace Jones (best known for his design of Tower Bridge in 1884).

Elsewhere.  The Jones name also appeared on the Weald in East Sussex.  Thomas Jones was recorded in a legal document at Salehurst in 1580 and a later Thomas Jones married Mary Tyrill there in 1678.  In the 19th century many Jones were described in the census as hawkers and Jones appears to have been a name in the travelling gypsy community.

Ireland.  The Jones name did appear in Ireland.  It could have been an anglicized form of the Gaelic MacSeoin.  Or it could have come from England or Wales.  Thomas Jones was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1605.  Welsh ministers included Lewis Jones, the Bishop of Killaloe from 1633 to 1646, and George Jones, the Bishop of Kildare from 1790 to 1804.

America.  Two early Jones in America of English origin were:

  • David Jones from Kent who was in Charles City, Virginia by 1625
  • while Robert Jones from Berkshire who had arrived in Hingham, Massachusetts by 1636.    

John Aik Jones from Worcester arrived in Burlington, New Jersey sometime in the 1720’s.  From this line came Jacob Jones, born in Philadelphia in 1776 and living to be ninety-six, and his son Benjamin Franklin Jones, a pioneer of the iron and steel industry in Pittsburgh.  He co-founded the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company in Pittsburgh in 1861.

Georgia.  Captain Noble Jones from London was in 1733 one of the earliest settlers in Georgia.  His descendants played a prominent role in early Georgia – Noble Wimberly Jones at the time of the Revolutionary War and George Jones who was briefly the US Senator for Georgia.

Another Jones family began with Micajah Jones from South Carolina who got married in Georgia in 1820 and settled there.  His grandson Robert Tyre Jones Sr. started a large department store in Canton, Georgia.  Two generations later came Robert Tyre Jones Jr – better known as Bobby Jones, the famous golfer of the 1920’s.

Jones from Wales.  Lewis Jones (born in Wales it is thought) came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1640.  Thomas Jones from Cardiganshire settled in Henrico county, Virginia in the 1650’s.  And the Rev. Morgan Jones from Newport in south Wales was in Virginia in the 1660’s and came up with a surprising discovery in his meeting with local Indians.

Welsh Quakers came to Pennsylvania.  Dr. Edward Jones from Bala in Merionethshire was among the first arrivals in 1682 at what became Merion township in Montgomery county.  Dr. Edward was a surgeon there, a Justice of the Peace, and a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly.  Later Jones were merchants in Philadelphia.  Edward’s descendants became one of the most prominent Quaker families in Pennsylvania in the 19th century.

John Rice Jones arrived in Philadelphia in 1784, but did not tarry long.  He headed west, helping to establish new US territorial governments in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.  His son George ranged further west, to Michigan and Iowa, and was the US Senator for Iowa from 1848 to 1859.  He died in Iowa in 1896 at the grand age of ninety-two.

One noteworthy Welsh expedition to America in 1818 was that led by John Jones, an innkeeper from Cardiganshire.  Following him were 36 Welshmen and women to new pastures in southeast Ohio. Many more came in their footsteps in the next thirty years so that the Jackson and Gallia counties where they settled got known as Little Cardiganshire.

Welsh emigration to Pennsylvania began again in the 1870’s with the development of coal mining there.  Many Jones from south Wales, attracted by the higher wages, came to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre to work in the mines.  William Jones and his family, for example, arrived there from Glamorgan in 1895.

Canada.  Elisha Jones of probable Welsh ancestry was a prominent landowner in Weston, Massachusetts in the years prior to the Revolutionary War.  But like other Loyalists he had to decamp to Canada at the conclusion of the war.  He settled with his family in comfortable circumstances at Augusta township in eastern Ontario.  His son Ephraim and grandson Jonas were prominent in the early political life of Ontario.

But some of the other Jones arrivals from America had no Welsh blood in them at all.

Henry Jones first came to Moncton township in New Brunswick from Pennsylvania in 1766.  Surprisingly he was German by background, his father Johann Schantz having arrived in Philadelphia in 1749 and anglicized his name as Jones.

The Jones family in Truro, Nova Scotia was black.  Their forebear was one of the Black Refugees who was able to escape slavery during the War of 1812 (from where, it is not known).  The third in this line was Jeremiah (Jerry) Jones who was born near Truro in 1858.  He was over fifty years of age when he enlisted in World War One and he returned a hero (although unrecognized at the time).  Jerry’s grandson Rocky Jones was a well-known political activist in Nova Scotia.

Caribbean.  The Rev. Thomas Jones, aged thirty from Oxford, came out to Jamaica in 1820 to be the rector of Vere.  Unfortunately he only lasted six months before dying of fever.  But he lasted long enough for a travelling artist to paint a portrait of him.

South Africa.  Thomas Jones from Kent was stationed at the St. Helena garrison in the Atlantic Ocean where he died in 1833.  His son Henry came to South Africa three years later and was a schoolmaster, and apparently a popular one, for native children at Uitenhage on the Eastern Cape.

Argentina.  The Rev. Michael Jones, a Congregational minister from Bala in north Wales, was one of the pioneers to establish a Welsh colony in Patagonia.  Although he visited Patagonia in 1882, he did not settle there.  Two of his sons did, however, one to Patagonia and the other to Buenos Aires.

Catherine Zeta Jones’s Ancestry

The actress Catherine Zeta Jones, coming from Wales, has roots in Swansea traced back to the late 1700’s.  Just click below if you want to read more about her story:

Jones Surname Miscellany

The First Jones in Wales.  The Act of Union between England and Wales had occurred in 1536 and the English Jones appellation had appeared in eight counties of Wales by the year 1550.

County Date Name
Glamorgan 1515 John Jones
Monmouth 1538 Hugh Jones
Caernarvon 1538 Humphrey Jones
Montgomery 1542 Lewis Jones
Flint 1544 Edward Jones
Brecon 1547 Roger Jones
Radnor 1547 William Jones
Merioneth 1547 William Jones

Glamorgan had the first Jones.  John Jones was identified as the son and executor of Jankyn ap John in 1515.

The source for this material comes from The Jones Genealogist by Jerry E. Jones. 

The First Jones in Shropshire.  The first Jones in Shropshire was recorded in 1551 as “Roger Jones of Edmonton, a baker.”  The Welsh context here was strong.  Roger Jones appeared in relation to former land of “John ap Roger, deceased father of complainant.”  Roger’s Welsh appellation was probably Roger ap John ap Roger.

Edward Jones the Conspirator.  Edward’s father had been the Keeper of the Wardrobe to Queen Elizabeth and had served as High Sheriff of Denbighshire in the 1570’s.  He died at his home at Plas Cadwgan in 1581, having set his young son up in influential London circles.  It was mixing in this kind of company that was eventually to lead to Edward’s downfall.

Edward Jones was recommended to the high-powered courtier the Earl of Leicester.  He subsequently became close friends with one of Leicester’s proteges and a fellow Denbighshire man, Thomas Salusbury of Lleweni.  It was Salusbury who led Jones into the murky world of Catholic conspiracies.  The so-called Babington plot (to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne) was uncovered and the net of conspirators extended to Jones in his Denbighshire home.  He was captured, brought to London, tried, and executed for treason in 1586.

The family home at Plas Cadwgan was forfeit.  However, the house itself remained intact, albeit with different owners, until it was eventually demolished in the late 1960’s.

Reader Feedback – Jones as a Gypsy Name.  My original question was about whether Jones is a Gypsy name.

I can say “most likely” as they were itinerant musicians, although apparently not Romany (according to my cousin). I spring from the line of Edward Stephen Jones (or rather his brother). Jones dropped that surname in favor of “Edward Stephen”, as there was already a well-known musician named Edward Jones. Edward Stephen (known as Tanymarian) went on to write several oratorios.

Your site also mentions John Jones the regicide. His home (Maes-y-Garnedd) remained in the Williams branch of my family for many generations after Jones’ son sold the property to his relatives, a branch of the Williams-Wynns. This farm is where my grandfather and father grew up.

Ivan Stephen (

Jones in the 1881 Census.  There were 340,000 Jones recorded in the 1881 census. The four leading counties for Jones then were:

  • 11% in Glamorgan in south Wales
  • 9% in Caernarvonshire in north Wales
  • 11% in Lancashire
  • and 7% in London.

The name was widely spread by that time.

The Rev. Morgan Jones and the Welsh Indians of Virginia.  The Rev. Morgan Jones told the following story which may or may not have been true.

In 1669, he said, he was in an area now known as South Carolina when he was captured by Indians.  They were about to put him to death when he muttered a few words in Welsh.  Amazingly they said they understood him and released him.  Not only did Morgan Jones assert that this story was true.  He made a formal affidavit to that effect in the year 1685.

Why should it be so?  You have to believe the legend.  The legend is that it was the Welsh who first discovered America.

About 1170 Madoc – the son of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales – sailed westwards and discovered America.  He returned home, gathered together a number of ships and men and sailed westwards again, presumably settling down in the new country.

In 1792 another Welshman, John Evans, went looking for these Welsh Indians, but never found them.  After five years of looking, he died of fever.

The Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania According to Dr. Edward Jones.  Edward Jones was one of the early Welsh settlers from Merionethshire who came to Pennsylvania on the Lyon in 1682.  The vessel came up the Schuylkill river as far as possible, at which point the passengers disembarked and walked to Pencoyd,

They later wrote home to their friends expounding on the natural resources of their new homeland. In a letter from Edward Jones to John ap Thomas, Dr. Jones described their 5,000 acre purchase from Penn in these words:

“I hope it will please thee, and the rest who are concerned, for it hath most rare timber. I have not seen the like in all these parts, there is water enough besides. The end of each lot will be on a river, as large or larger than the Dye at Bala, it is called the Schuylkill river.”

Elisha Jones’s Ancestry.  Henry David Thoreau wrote the following in his Journal in 1856:

“My mother’s mother was Mary Jones, the only daughter of Colonel Elisha Jones of Weston.

He had been born in 1710, the son of Captain Josiah Jones, born in 1670 in Weston. Captain Josiah Jones was the son of Josiah Jones of Watertown Farms, born there in 1643.  Josiah Jones was the son of Lewis Jones who appears to have moved from Roxbury to Watertown about 1650 and died there in 1684.

Lewis Jones seems to have remained unhonored until one of his descendants, the late General Edward Jones of Binghamton who commanded the Massachusetts Sixth Regiment when it was mobbed in the streets of Baltimore in 1861, caused the inscription “Lewis Jones, 1645″ to be chiselled in large letters at the top of the great boulder which he placed on his family lot in Mount Auburn.” 

The Jones Family of Early Georgia.  Lucien Knight’s 1913 book Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends had the following to say about the Jones family of Georgia.

“Adjoining the grave of Dr. Noble Wimberly Jones is the tomb of his distinguished son, Dr. George Jones, the only member of the large family of children to survive an illustrious father.

During the last two years of the struggle for independence George experienced the horrors of war on board an English prison ship in the harbor of Savannah. In the War of 1812 he commanded a company of reserves. Though not a lawyer by profession, he was made Judge of the Superior Court of the Eastern Circuit of Georgia, a tribute of the most unusual character; and from the bench was called by executive appointment to fill an unexpired term in the Senate of the United States.

The Jones family of Wormsloe was a family of physicians. Even Noble Jones himself brought with him to Georgia the professional prefix. Dr. Noble W. Jones was the first president of the Medical Society of Georgia; and Dr. George Jones was one of his successors at the head of the same organization.”

Reader Feedback – Selina Annie Jones, Immigrant to New Jersey.  Selina Annie Jones was born in 1864, possibly in Wales.  Her father was Thomas Jones according to the marriage certificate.  She married Patrick Tobin (born in 1865) in Widnes, Lancashire.  They immigrated in 1889 to Paterson in Passaic county, New Jersey.

Appreciate any help.  Lorrey Talley (

Michael Jones and the Patagonia Vision.  Michael Jones, a Congregational minister from Bala in north Wales, was the prime mover behind the Welsh colonization of Patagonia.

While many Welsh communities in the U.S. prospered, notably in Pennsylvania.  Jones realized that the cultural identity of these emigrants would be diluted over time. The answer he proposed was an entirely Welsh settlement (Wladfa) free of external control. After considering numerous locations, including Palestine, a tract of one hundred square miles in the Chubut region of Patagonia was chosen and the agreement of the Argentine government secured.

Some say he had combed the earth for a stretch of open country that was uncontaminated by Englishness.  He chose Patagonia for its absolute remoteness and its foul climate.  His colonists weren’t intended to get rich there.

The first 153 Welsh colonists, including Jones’ son Llwyd, arrived from Liverpool aboard the Mimosa in June 1865.  Lwyd settled in Patagonia but was shot by bandits there in 1909.  Michael Jones himself visited Patagonia only once, in 1882.  While it is fair to say that his vision for a New Wales was not completely fulfilled, this remarkable region continues to bear unmistakable traces of Welshness.

Keeping Up With the Joneses.  In 1913 the American cartoonist Arthur “Pop” Momand created a comic strip called Keeping up with the Joneses.

The strip dealt with the tribulations of modern American life and, although the Joneses in the story are never seen, they are constantly alluded to. The phrase became shorthand for social climbing and the economic anxieties tied to what Thorstein Veblen termed “conspicuous  consumption.” As such the name “Jones” became a sort of modern-day everyman, a symbol of mankind’s contemporary foibles.

In the 20th century Jones became the perfect surname not for dullness but for adventure. Cleopatra Jones, Jessica Jones, Indiana Jones and Jughead Jones are all fictional characters of remarkable cool with names to match.  In these names Jones acts as the solid straight man to the riotous first name, a mellifluous buddy riding shotgun on the appellation stagecoach.

Jones Names

  • Inigo Jones, born in London of Welsh parentage in 1573, is considered the first significant British architect of the modern era.
  • Edward Jones was an 18th century Welsh harpist and bard.
  • Davy Jones was a nickname for the devil of the sea; from which comes the expression “Davy Jones locker.”
  • John Paul Jones, born in Scotland, was an American naval hero of the Revolutionary War.
  • Edward Jones, a statistician, was in 1882 the co-founder of the Dow-Jones index.
  • Mother Jones was the name that Mary Jones, an Irish immigrant mother in the early 1900’s, used to speak up as the voice for the downtrodden people in the Pennsylvanian coal mines.
  • Bobby Jones was the great American amateur golfer of the 1920’s.
  • Tom Jones, born Tom Woodward, is a Welsh singer who rose to fame in the 1960’s.
  • Quincy Jones is the American jazz music impresario.
  • Grace Jones is a Jamaican-born singer and actress.
  • Catherine Zeta Jones is the Welsh-born actress married to Michael Douglas.

Jones Numbers Today

  • 578,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 491,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 171,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Jones is the #2 ranked surname in the UK and the #5 ranked in America.

Jones and Like Surnames  

Hereditary surnames in Wales were a post-16th century development.   Prior to that time the prototype for the Welsh name was the patronymic, such as “Madog ap Jevan ap Jerwerth” (Madoc, son of Evan, son of Yorwerth).  The system worked well in what was still mainly an oral culture.

However, English rule decreed English-style surnames and the English patronymic “-s” for “son of” began first in the English border counties and then in Wales. Welsh “P” surnames came from the “ap” roots, such as Price from “ap Rhys.”

These are some of the present-day Welsh surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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