Pugh Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Pugh Meaning
Pugh is Welsh and derived from the Welsh patronymic ap Hugh (son of Hugh), Hugh being a male personal name
that had been introduced
by the Normans. As Welsh patronymics
faded in the 17th century, ap Hugh contracted
to Puw and Pugh of an English-style surname

Pugh Resources on

Pugh Ancestry

The Welsh patronymic ap Hugh often led
to the Hughes surname. For instance
William ap Hugh in Anglesey left
legacies in his will of 1665 to his son Hugh and Henry Hughes. But the resulting surname in north Wales and
in Welsh counties bordering England, could also be Puw or Pugh.

Wales. The Puw family was a Catholic
recusant family at Penrhyn Hall of Creuddyn in Caernarfonshire dating
from the 1500’s
and probably earlier. Robert Puw, born in
the mid-1500’s, was the son of Huw ap Reinallt ap Ieuan
of Penrhyn

“When the Earl of Pembroke
began his onslaught
on the
Roman Catholics
in 1586, Robert Puw and
his family
were in hiding in
the Rhiwledyn cave in the Little Orme headland for
three quarters of a year. There they
a printing press and were engaged in printing the Roman Catholic tract

years of wandering Robert Puw was thrown into prison, but was allowed
to return
to his home at Creuddyn in 1607. His son
Philip was also Catholic, as were his many grandsons.
Fearing renewed persecution Gruffydd departed
for Ireland, Herbert to France and Ifan to Spain. Gwilym
fought on the Royalist side in the Civil
War, afterwards joined the Benedictine Order in France, and later
settled in

Another line began with Evan
, born near Aberystwyth in 1678 and the builder of the
Devils Bridge
over the Rheidol Gorge. His line
extended to Humphrey Pugh of Penygraig at Llanbadarn Fawr and his
Lewis Pugh who made a fortune after he had purchased the nearby Copa
copper mine in 1834. Granny
Pugh’s Journal
, produced by
Christopher Evans in 2003, was the journal kept by Lewis’s wife

Mid Wales. The Pugh family at
in Montgomeryshire dated back to the 15th century and
earlier. Rowland Pugh was a Royalist at
the time of the Civil War and had his home burned down.
The male line here died out in 1752. One branch of the family adopted the Pughe spelling. Richard Pughe was an apothecary at
Machynlleth in the 1780’s.

The Pughs
at Llanerchyol Hall near Welshpool were unrelated.
Charles Pugh built the house in 1776 and it
remained in the family until 1912. His
son David was a wealthy tea trader.

Later Pughs. Welsh Pughs
in the 1881 census
were spread between North and Mid
Wales, with a number also in South Wales as the Welsh population
southward. Pugh concentrations were to
be found at Dolgellau in Merionethshire and Bedwellty in Monmouthshire.

The Pugh name extended across the border into
England. The largest numbers in the 1881
census were in Shropshire. One early
line there began with the birth of John Pugh in Shrewsbury in 1616. Walter Pugh was born at Bishop’s Castle on
the Welsh border in 1767; while Thomas Pugh
was born at Stottesdon near Cleobury Mortimer around 1790.

Other Pughs living in western England at this time were:

  • Edward Pugh from Radnorshire who married and
    settled down in Birley, Herefordshire in the 1740’s
  • Joseph Pugh, born around 1774, who married
    Esther Wilding in Wolverhampton in 1803
  • and John Pugh, born around 1785, who married Sarah
    Munslow in Worcester
    in 1809.

Ireland. Pughs
were in county Mayo, at Straheen and
Lissadrone, possibly by the late 1600’s. According
to family lore they were Huguenots
from France, originally DuPuy, who adopted the Pugh spelling. Arthur Pugh of Lissadrone died in 1845, aged
57, without male heirs. However, other
Pughs of this family were to be found in Mayo and Sligo.

Pughs came first to Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Pennsylvania. The early
Pughs in Pennsylvania
, from Merionethshire in Wales, arrived in
the 1680’s
and 1690’s. The most prominent of these
arrivals was Ellis Pugh, a Quaker minister who came in 1688
strong recommendations from Friends back in Wales:

is a man whom we dearly love and esteem and is greatly beloved by all
good, rational people in his neighborhood.
Though young in years he is yet grown in the truth so far that
we have
been wonderfully refreshed by his sweet declarations in our British

His life and ancestry were recorded in George Griffiths’ 1975 book
Ellis Pugh, Quaker in Wales and

There is a family tradition that sometime in the
1750’s Lieutenant Jonathan, son of Evan Pugh of the Welsh settlement in
helped to build the first Episcopal church in Capon Valley (now part of
Hampshire county in West Virginia). There
were seven male Pughs recorded at Capon in the 1790 census. The story of this settlement was recounted in
Maud Pugh’s two-volume book Capon Valley:
Its Pioneers and Descendants
published in 1948.

John Pugh from Capon Valley
was said to have departed for North Carolina around 1760 to escape the
wars which were devastating the area. It
thought that the Pughs of
Burke county, Georgia were descended from him. James
L. Pugh, born there in 1820, moved to Alabama when he was
a little
boy but lost both his parents by the time he was ten.
Nevertheless he rose to become the US Senator
for Alabama, from 1880 to 1897. His son
James, who died in 1938, was a Pennsylvania court judge.

Other Pughs of this
line migrated to Ohio in the early 1800’s.

Virginia. Francis
Pugh was said to have grown up in Glendower Hall in
Caernarfonshire and to have come with two brothers, Thomas and Daniel,
Virginia in 1666. His son Francis
married Pheribee Savage and moved to North Carolina – first to Chowan
and then to Bertie county – before his death in 1733.

In 1818 three
Pugh brothers – William, Alexander and Thomas – left Bertie county for
Louisiana where they started sugar plantations.
The Madewood
plantation house
, now a National Historic Landmark, was the
manor house for
the group of plantations owned by the family in the 1830’s and 1840’s. At the onset of the Civil War they owned 18
plantations and 1,500 slaves in the vicinity of Napoleonville.

Pughs were considered leaders of their group in the whole state.
They were millionaires for their day, a lot of them. They were
into sugar
farming. They had sugar houses and that’s the way they made their
money. There was not too much debate about
until perhaps just before the Civil War, because it was just an
accepted fact

And Pew?
Pew name was not that
common in either England or
Wales. It could have been a corruption
of the Pugh name in America. Or it might
have had a French Huguenot DuPuy origin.

An early citing of the name was Henry Pew who married Jane Milner in
Henrico county, Virginia in 1660.
Then John Pew married Susanna Whitlock in Monmouth county, New Jersey
around the year 1700; and William Pew lived in Roxbury township, New
Jersey in
the mid-1700’s. His son Dan was a spy in
Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.
There were Pews also in Pennsylvania.

“On the first day of May 1797, John Pew with his wife and
four children
arrived on the ground where Mercer now stands and built his log cabin
near the
present McDonald Spring. They came from
Washington county, Pennsylvania.”

These Pews of Mercer county were the forebears of
Joseph Newton Pew, the man who struck it rich in the 1880’s oil boom
founded the Sun Oil Company

Pugh from Wales arrived in Nova Scotia sometime in the 1840’s and
settled to
farm at Westport on Brier Island at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Pughs have remained there.

Among the early settlers in Pickering near Toronto
were Hugh and Elizabeth Pugh from Radnor who arrived in 1842. Pughs are still living in the Claremont
community there. Thomas Pugh from
Llanbadarn Fawr near Radnorshire came in the 1850’s.

. Hugh Pugh, a carpenter from
Dolgellau, departed with his family for the Welsh colony in Patagonia
in 1881. He ran a hotel in Gaiman.

and New Zealand. Edward Pugh, born
in Shropshire, was a First Fleeter, a convict transported to Australia
on the Friendship in 1788. He
died a pauper in 1837. Thomas Pugh, also
from Shropshire, arrived
with his family as assisted immigrants on the Corona
in 1877. They settled
in Glen Innes, NSW where Thomas died in 1927 at the age of 86.

William Pugh, another from Shropshire, came
to New Zealand in the 1850’s, later detouring to the Victorian
before returning to Picton on South Island where he and his sons were
in the building trade.


Pugh Miscellany

The Pugh Family at Mathafarn in Montgomeryshire.  The Pugh family was traced by the bards back to Einion ap Sesyll, lord of Merioneth who held Mathafarn in the 12th
century.  Its first prominent member was
probably Dafydd Llwyd ap Llywelyn, a poet who flourished about 1480 and
some verse commemorating Henry Tudor who became Henry VII.
He apparently possessed an extensive estate
on both sides of the river Dyfi above Machynlleth.

John ap Hugh served as the
county magistrate between 1553 and 1566.
His son Rowland Pugh was the MP for Montgomery in the late
1500’s.  A later Rowland Pugh was Royalist
during the
Civil War.  Parliamentary forces burned
down his home in 1644.  When the male
line became extinct in 1752, the Mathafarn estate was sold.  However, it was bought back by a descendant,
Edward Hughes, in 1918.

Evan Pugh and the Devils Bridge.  According to legend, the original bridge at the Rheidol
Gorge was built after an old woman lost her cow and saw it grazing on
the other
side of the river. The Devil appeared
and agreed to build a bridge in return for the soul of the first living
thing to cross it.  When the bridge was finished, the old woman
threw a
crust of
bread over the river, which her dog crossed the bridge to retrieve,
becoming the first living thing to cross it.

The bridge is at a point where the
Mynach river drops ninety meters in five steps down a steep
ravine before it meets the Rheidol river. The set of stone
leading down to the lowest bridge at the waterfall is known as Jacob’s

There are three bridges there today.
The first – the Devils Bridge – was built possibly in the 12th
century.  The second was built in the 18th
century by Evan Pugh.  It was set at
a slight angle to the earlier bridge and
consists of a flat segmented masonry arch, spanning 10 meters between
rectilinear abutment walls that splay out from parapet to base.
were taken down to bedrock by excavating behind the approaches of the

The Songs of Hugh Pugh.  One of the best known children’s rhymes in Wales has been Fflat Huw Puw or The Songs of Hugh Pugh.  Did
such a person ever exist, or was he a figment of the imagination?

The truth is that there was such a person and he was larger than
life.  His family hailed from the Dolgellau area, but Hugh Pugh
himself was born in Liverpool.  At one time in his career he
became master of the small flat Ann.
Flats were shallow boats that were used to sail up rivers and along the
coast.  For the most part she traded between Caernarfon and
Liverpool.  Coal, wood and slate were her main cargoes.

In 1858 the Ann was
wrecked off Barmouth.  The North
Wales Chronicle

“The Flat Ann Pugh ran ashore during the
on October 18 at St. Tudwells Islands and went to pieces.”

Pugh managed to
survive and retired to Caernarfon.

Welsh Pughs in the 1881 Census

County 000’s
North Wales
Merionethshire    0.7
Denbighshire    0.3
Elsewhere    0.2
SubTotal    1.1
Mid Wales
Montgomeryshire    0.8
Monmouthshire    0.4
Brecknockshire    0.4
Radnorshire    0.3
Elsewhere    0.3
SubTotal    2.1
South Wales
Glamorgan    0.6
Elsewhere    0.2
SubTotal    0.8
Total    4.0

The Early Pughs in Pennsylvania.  These Pughs came from Merionethshire in Wales and can be divided into two

First there were the Quakers from Dolgellau.
Foremost here was Ellis Pugh, a Quaker
minister who arrived with his wife Sinah in 1687.  He
settled in Radnor township in Chester
county.  William Pugh, a yeoman farmer,
came a year later.

Then there were Church of England Pughs originating from
the Bala area:

  • Robert Pugh came to Gwynnedd in 1698.
    His son Evan later migrated to Virginia and
    was the forebear of the Capon Valley Pughs.
  • William Pugh came to Radnor township
    sometime before 1700; while David Pugh arrived there a year or so later.

group headed by Lewis Pugh made for the Lancaster and Richmond counties
Virginia in 1695.  Lewis married Ann in
1704.  Their seven children were all born
in Richmond county.  In 1731 Lewis and
his eldest son John traveled back to Wales to collect an inheritance
due to
Lewis.  John left a family in
Virginia.  A
number of years later, word was sent to Ann that Lewis had died in

David Pugh of Grayson County, Virginia and His Mistress.  David Pugh and his wife Sarah had
been living at their homestead on Wilson Creek in Grayson county,
Virginia from
1792.  They were the parents of eight
children by 1801.  Five years later David
had fathered a child with his mistress Nancy Minton in Ashe county,
Carolina.  In fact he had probably
fathered more than one child with her and she was actually living in a
cabin on
the Pugh property.

Sarah did not take this situation lightly.  She
got a local landowner to put pressure on
David to take his mistress and illegitimate children and leave the
county.  David and Sarah then separated,
although they
apparently never divorced.  His last act
before his departure in 1806 was to settle his affairs as follows:

David Pugh is about to travel to remote parts and has adjudged it
expedient to
dispose of his estate before he sets out, therefore in consideration of
and affection for his children, he grants to them and to Gaines, as
trustee for
his wife, all his estate, real and personal except for a negro man, his
horse, a saddle, gun and wearing apparel which he reserves to his own

David left Grayson county and moved to Claiborne
county, Tennessee with Nancy Minton and their children.
He did return.  On his death in 1822
he was reported to have
been buried with his wife Sarah in the Mitchell Pugh cemetery at Volney
Grayson county.  His mistress Nancy
continued to live in Claiborne county, recorded as Nancy Pugh in 1830
and Nancy
Minton in 1840.

Thomas Pugh and the Madewood Sugar Plantation.  Thomas Pugh’s Madewood
plantation was among Louisiana’s premier sugar plantations.  One report showed 251 enslaved black people
at Madewood in 1852, including many old people and children.  For much of the year slaves worked a six-day
week.  But during the sugar grinding season in late fall, slaves
operated the sugar
mill every day, 24 hours a day.

The success of the plantation allowed Pugh to
build the Madewood home, a sprawling 23-room structure with massive
columns evoking a Greek temple.  Completed in 1848, the building
is cited as an
architectural gem and today draws a stream of visitors.

His half-brother William
remarked in his 1881 book Reminiscences
of an Ole Fogy:

“Thomas Pugh was one
of the few men I ever knew who strictly carried out the old axiom that
you do should be well done.  Madewood, on which every tree was
planted under his
supervision, in all of its fixtures and appointments gives the
evidence in behalf of this truth.

This rule was carried out in the most
trifling details – the care of his stock, fences, buildings, levee and

When he commenced sugar planting, about the year 1828,
his force of
workers was small.  He had been making
cotton and barely realized money enough from his crops to make a small
payment to Pierre Aubert from whom he had purchased his
plantation.  His worker choice were
negro men who could be bought in New Orleans on a year’s credit for six
dollars each.”

William said that Thomas was kind to his slaves.  However,
one former slave recalled in her old age that Thomas and his son
Richard were mean men and they used to whip the
unruly slaves.



Pugh Names

  • Gwilym Puw, sometimes anglicized as William Pugh, was a Welsh poet from a Catholic family and a Royalist officer during the English Civil War. 
  • Ellis Pugh, the Quaker minister who emigrated to
    Pennsylvania in 1688, had published the first Welsh book printed in America in 1721. 
  • James Pugh served as the US Senator for Alabama from 1880 to 1897. 
  • Virginia Pugh, better known as Tammy Wynette, was considered the first lady of country music during the
    height of her fame in the 1970’s

Select Pugh Numbers Today

  • 23,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glamorgan)
  • 15,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Pugh 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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