Griffiths


Select 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. 

Both 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.

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Select Griffiths Ancestry

Wales.  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 Carnarvon
  • and the other at Garn in Denbighshire                                                                                 (covered in T.A. 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 England.

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 Carmarthenshire. 

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 Llandeilo
  • 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.

England.  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 county). 

More Griffiths then arrived into Pennsylvania which under Penn had opened its doors to religious nonconformity.  Among the arrivals were:
  • 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 Birth of a Nation fame.

Argentina.  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 entrepreneuriial were English, both from Gloucestershire. 

Jonathan Griffiths was transported there as a convict in 1790.  He became a sucessful 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 English.

Select Griffiths Miscellany

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


Select Griffiths Names

William Griffith
of Penrhyn was appointed Chamberlain for North Wales in 1483 and fought for his cousin Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field.
Elizabeth Griffith, 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 Today
  • 104,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 30,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 56,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).



Select Surnames

Archer  Duffy Houston McMahon Sachs
Atkins Elliott Hunter
Metcalfe Sainsbury
Barlow Farrell Irving Murdoch Savage
Bassett    
Ferguson Jacobs Newman Snow
Blair Fisher Jardine Nicholson Spalding
Bliss Fletcher Jenkins O'Connor Starbuck
Bloom Forbes Joyce O'Neill Stein
Bradley Forsyth     
Kellogg Owen Swift
Burns Franklin Knox Peterson Tyler
Cameron Friedman Kramer Pitt Tyson
Carey Gates Kruger Pollock/Polk Upson
Christie Geary Larkin Porter Van Buren
Churchill Graham Leadbetter Quinn Vincent
Coleman Griffiths Lomas Rathbone Wainwright
Connolly Harvey Long
Rees/Reese Walcott
Craven Hawkins Mackay 
Richards Warner
Crowe Hickey Marshall Robson Weinberg   
Daft Hodge Massey Roosevelt Wells
Dempsey  Hoffman Matthews  
Rowe Wren
Dow Holt McKenzie Ryan Yardley

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 500 surnames.

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