- Welsh people
1st row: Anthony Hopkins • Tom Jones • Dylan Thomas • George Everest • Ryan Giggs • Robert Owen • Michael Sheen
2nd row: Mary Jones • William Jones • Kelly Jones • Bertrand Russell • Gwyneth Jones • Aneurin Bevan • Owain Glyndŵr
3rd row: William Rees • Gareth Edwards • Ruth Jones • David Lloyd George • Rhodri Morgan • Richard Burton • Catherine Zeta-Jones
Regions with significant populations Wales 2,630,700  United States 1,959,794  England 609,711  Canada 440,965  Australia 84,246  Argentina 50,000  Scotland 16,623  New Zealand 9,966  Languages Religion Related ethnic groups
John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have been spoken in Wales far longer. The term Welsh people applies to people from Wales and Welsh ancestry perceiving themselves or being perceived as sharing a cultural heritage and shared ancestral origins.
An analysis of the geography of Welsh surnames commissioned by the Welsh Government found that 718,000 people, or nearly 35% of the Welsh population, have a family name of Welsh origin, compared with 5.3% in the rest of the United Kingdom, 4.7% in New Zealand, 4.1% in Australia, and 3.8% in the United States, with an estimated 16.3 million people in the countries studied having Welsh ancestry,Today Wales is a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.
During their time in Britain, the ancient Romans encountered tribes in present-day Wales that they called the Ordovices, the Demetae, the Silures and the Deceangli. The people of what is now Wales were not distinguished from the rest of the peoples of southern Britain; all were called Britons and spoke the common British language, a Brythonic Celtic tongue. Celtic language and culture seems to have arrived in Britain during the Iron Age, though some archaeologists argue that there is no evidence for large-scale Iron Age migrations into Great Britain. The claim has also been made that Indo-European languages may have been introduced to the British Isles as early as the early Neolithic (or even earlier), with Goidelic and Brythonic languages developing indigenously. Others hold that the close similarity between the Goidelic and Brythonic branches, and their sharing of Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age terminology with their continental relatives, point to a more recent introduction of Indo-European languages, with Proto-Celtic itself unlikely to have existed before the end of the 2nd millennium BC at the earliest. The genetic evidence in this case would show that the change to Celtic languages in Britain may have occurred as a cultural shift rather than through migration as was previously supposed.
Some current genetic research supports the idea that people living in the British Isles are likely mainly descended from the indigenous European Paleolithic (Old Stone Age hunter gatherers) population (about 80%), with a smaller Neolithic (New Stone Age farmers) input (about 20%). Paleolithic Europeans seem to have been a homogeneous population, possibly due to a population bottleneck (or near-extinction event) on the Iberian peninsula, where a small human population is thought to have survived the glaciation, and expanded into Europe during the Mesolithic. The assumed genetic imprint of Neolithic incomers is seen as a cline, with stronger Neolithic representation in the east of Europe and stronger Paleolithic representation in the west of Europe. Most in Wales today regard themselves as modern Celts, claiming a heritage back to the Iron Age tribes, which themselves, based on modern genetic analysis, would appear to have had a predominantly Paleolithic and Neolithic indigenous ancestry. When the Roman legions departed Britain around 400, a Romano-British culture remained in the areas the Romans had settled, and the pre-Roman cultures in others.
In two recently published books, Blood of the Isles, by Brian Sykes and The Origins of the British, by Stephen Oppenheimer, both authors state that according to genetic evidence, most Welsh people, like most Britons, descend from the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of different migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic eras, and which laid the foundations for the present-day populations in the British Isles, indicating an ancient relationship among the populations of Atlantic Europe. According to Stephen Oppenheimer 96% of lineages in Llangefni in north Wales derive from Iberia. Genetic research on the Y-chromosome has shown that the Welsh, like the Irish, share a large proportion of their ancestry with the Basques of Northern Spain and South Western France, although the Welsh have a greater presumed Neolithic input than both the Irish and the Basques. Genetic marker R1b averages from 83-89% amongst the Welsh.
The people in what is now Wales continued to speak Brythonic languages with additions from Latin, as did some other Celts in areas of Great Britain. The surviving poem Y Gododdin is in early Welsh and refers to the Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin with a capital at Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) and extending from the area of Stirling to the Tyne. John Davies places the change from Brythonic to Welsh between 400 and 700. Offa's Dyke was erected in the mid-8th century, forming a barrier between Wales and Mercia.
Gene scientists at the University College of London (UCL) have claimed that the Welsh are the "true" Britons and are remnants of the Celts that were pushed out by Anglo-Saxon invaders after the Roman withdrawal in the fifth century. The genetic tests suggested that between 50% and 100% of the indigenous population of what was to become England was wiped out. In 2001, research for a BBC programme on the Vikings suggested a possible strong link between the Celts and Basques, dating back tens of thousands of years. The UCL research suggested a migration on a huge scale during the Anglo-Saxon period.
"It appears England is made up of an ethnic cleansing event from people coming across from the continent after the Romans left," said Dr Mark Thomas, of the Centre for Genetic Anthropology at UCL. "Our findings completely overturn the modern view of the origins of the English."
The process whereby the indigenous population of 'Wales' came to think of themselves as Welsh is not clear. There is plenty of evidence of the use of the term Brythoniaid (Britons); by contrast, the earliest use of the word Kymry (referring not to the people but to the land—and possibly to northern Britain in addition to modern day territory of Wales) is found in a poem dated to about 633. The name of the region in northern England now known as Cumbria is believed to be derived from the same root. Only gradually did Cymru (the land) and Cymry (the people) come to supplant Brython. Although the Welsh language was certainly used at the time, Gwyn A. Williams argues that even at the time of the erection of Offa's Dyke, the people to its west saw themselves as Roman, citing the number of Latin inscriptions still being made into the 8th century. However, it is unclear whether such inscriptions reveal a general or normative use of Latin as a marker of identity or its selective use by the early Christian Church.
The word Cymry is believed to be derived from the Brythonic combrogi, meaning fellow-countrymen, and thus Cymru carries a sense of "land of fellow-countrymen", "our country"—and, of course, notions of fraternity. The name "Wales", however, comes from the Germanic walha, a term meaning "stranger" or "foreigner" which was applied particularly to peoples who had been Romanised.
There are two words in modern Welsh for the English and this reflects the idea held by some that the modern English derive from various Germanic tribes (although there is little evidence for the extinction of the pre-Germanic inhabitants of England, and the idea ignores both the Scandinavian settlers in England and the Roman and Norman-French influences on English language, culture and identity): Saeson (singular: Sais), meaning originally Saxon; and: Eingl, denoting:-Angles,; meaning Englishmen in modern Welsh. The Welsh word for the English language is Saesneg, while the Welsh word for England is Lloegr.
There was immigration to Wales after the Norman Conquest, several Normans encouraged immigration to their new lands; the Landsker Line dividing the Pembrokeshire "Englishry" and "Welshry" is still detectable today. The terms Englishry and Welshry are used similarly about Gower.
The population of Wales increased from 587,128 in 1801 to 1,162,139 in 1851 and had reached 2,420,921 by 1911. Part of this increase can be attributed to the demographic transition seen in most industrialising countries during the Industrial Revolution, as death-rates dropped and birth-rates remained steady. However, there was also a large-scale migration of people into Wales during the industrial revolution. The English were the most numerous group, but there were also considerable numbers of Irish and smaller numbers of other ethnic groups, including Italians migrated to South Wales. Wales received other immigration from various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the 20th century, and African-Caribbean and Asian communities add to the ethno-cultural mix, particularly in urban Wales. Many of these self-identify as Welsh. Recently, parts of Wales have seen an increased number of immigrants from recent EU accession countries such as Poland.
21st century identity
It is uncertain how many people in Wales consider themselves to be of Welsh ethnicity, because the 2001 UK census did not offer 'Welsh' as an option; respondents had to use a box marked "Other". 96% of the population of Wales thus described themselves as being White British. Controversy surrounding the method of determining ethnicity began as early as 2000, when it was revealed that respondents in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be able to check a box describing themselves as of Scottish or of Irish ethnicity, an option not available for Welsh or English respondents. Prior to the census, Plaid Cymru backed a petition calling for the inclusion of a Welsh tick-box and for the National Assembly to have primary law-making powers and its own National Statistics Office.
With an absence of a Welsh tick-box, the only other tick-box available was 'white-British,' 'Irish', or 'other'. The Scottish parliament insisted that a Scottish ethnicity tick-box be included in the census in Scotland, and with this inclusion as many as 88.11% claimed Scottish ethnicity. Critics expected a higher proportion of respondents describing themselves as of Welsh ethnicity, similar to Scottish results, had a Welsh tickbox been made available. Additional criticism was leveled at the timing of the census, which was taken in the middle of the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001, a fact organizers said did not impact the results. However, the Foot and Mouth crisis did delay UK General Elections, the first time since the Second World War any event postponed an election.
In the census, as many as 14 per cent of the population took the 'extra step' to write in that they were of Welsh ethnicity.[dead link] Of these, Gwynedd recorded the highest percentage of those identifying as of Welsh ethnicity (at 27%), followed by Carmarthenshire (23 per cent), Ceredigion (22 per cent) and the Isle of Anglesey (19 per cent). For respondents between 16 and 74 years of age, those claiming Welsh ethnicity were predominately in professional and managerial occupations.
In advance of the 2011 UK Census, the O.N.S. launched a census consultation exercise. They received replies from 28 different Welsh organisations and a large proportion of these referred to Welsh ethnicity, language or identity.
For the first time ever in British census history the 2011 Census gave the opportunity for people to describe their identity as Welsh or English. A 'dress rehearsal' of the Census was carried out on the Welsh island of Anglesey because of its rural nature and its high numbers of Welsh speakers.
The Census, taken on 27th March 2011, asked a number of questions relating to nationality and national identity, including What is your country of birth? ('Wales' was one of the options), How would you describe your national identity? (for the first time 'Welsh' and 'English' were included as options), What is your ethnic group? ('White Welsh/English/Scottish/Northern Irish/British' was an option) and Can you understand, speak, read or write Welsh?.
According to the 2001/02 Labour Force Survey, 87 per cent of Wales-born residents claimed Welsh ethnic identity.[dead link] Respondents in the local authority areas of Gwynedd, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Merthyr Tydfil each returned results of between 91 and 93 per cent claiming Welsh ethnicity, of those born in Wales. Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, returned results 88-91 per cent of Wales-born respondents claiming Welsh ethnicity. Powys, Anglesey, Denbighshire, Caerphilly, and the Vale of Glamorgan returned results of 86-88 per cent of respondents born in Wales claiming Welsh ethnicity. Pembrokeshire, Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Conwy, Flintshire, and Wrexham returned results of 78-86 per cent of those born in Wales claiming Welsh ethnicity.
According to the survey, when factoring non-Wales born residents, 67 per cent of those surveyed claimed Welsh identity and an additional 7% ticked Welsh and another option, such as Welsh- British, giving a total of 74% overall. This reflects a residential population which includes 30 per cent born outside of Wales. The survey, from the Office for National Statistics, identified the remaining 33 per cent of respondents as 'Not Welsh'.
A survey carried out by the Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends at Oxford University, found that only 17.9 per cent of respondents would claim to be Welsh and not British. 20.2 per cent said they were more Welsh than British, while the most popular answer (39 per cent) claimed to be equally Welsh and British.
Surveys indicate that younger people are more likely to self identify as Welsh.