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Griffith Family History
This ancient Welsh surname derives from the Old Welsh personal name 'Grippiud', which gradually developed into 'Griffudd', 'Gruffudd', 'Gruffydd', as well as 'Griffith' which was the most popular spelling when it became adopted as a hereditary surname. The suffix '-udd' relates to an Old Welsh word meaning 'lord' or 'prince'. The first half of the name may possibly derive from the Latin 'rufus', meaning red-haired, but this is not certain.
Griffith, and related variations, was a very popular personal name throughout much of Welsh history, and was the name of several Welsh princes and prominent leaders, including Gruffudd ap Cynan who was the king of Gwynedd from 1081 until his death in 1137.
As a surname it is patronymic, in that it means 'son of Griffith'. As such it refers back to an ancestor who lived at some point between the 16th and 19th centuries, the period when the traditional Welsh patronymic naming system gave way very gradually to fixed, hereditary surnames. In western parts of Wales, and in the north west in particular hereditary surnames were generally adopted by ordinary people during the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. The ancestor whose personal name was Griffith and who gave the family its surname would therefore have lived during that particular period.
Both Griffith and Griffiths remain popular spellings of this surname today.
In Wales Griffiths is currently the country's 10th most popular surname. Throughout the whole of Wales and England, around 117,000 individuals bear the Griffiths surname. Elsewhere in the world, it is a relatively common surname in Canberra, Australia (one in 767 families), Auckland, New Zealand (one in 869) and in Sydney, Australia (one in 1,020). There are over 309,000 individuals living in the United States recorded with this surname.
- John Willis Griffiths (1809—82), an American naval architect, designed the first of the great clipper ships, the Rainbow, which began a new era in ship-building.
- D.W. Griffith (1874—1948) an influential American film director and a pioneer of film editing techniques during the early years of cinema, as well as the art of film narrative.
- Terry Griffiths (b.1947), a celebrated Welsh professional snooker player who was world champion in 1979.
Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912) by Henry Harrison
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