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Powell Family History
The main origin of this surname comes from the Welsh personal name Hywel which was often anglicised to Howel or Howell. However, for many families who are mainly of English descent the origins of the surname lie elsewhere.
Traditionally, there were no fixed, hereditary surnames in Wales. Instead, Welsh men and women used a patronymic system, which means they were identified via their given name plus their father's (or grandfather's) personal name. For example, a man named Huw who was the son of a man named Hywel would be known as Huw ap Hywel (or Hugh ap Howell in the anglicised form), which literally means 'Huw the son of Hywel'. Over time, 'ap Hywel' or 'ap Howell' was contracted to form the word 'Powell'. Settled, hereditary surnames such as Powell were then gradually adopted by Welsh families between the 16th and 19th centuries, depending on where in the country they lived.
The name is seen quite frequently across Wales and in the English counties that border the country, including Shropshire and Herefordshire, where Welsh influence remained strong over the centuries.
For Powell families with no Welsh connections, their surname is more likely derived from the Biblical name Paul or the French form Puel.
Hywel is an ancient given name, and was the name of one of Wales's most well known historical figures, Hywel Dda (Howell the Good), the 10th century king of Deheubarth (south west Wales) who later came to rule most of the geographic area we know today as Wales, and who famously codified traditional Welsh law.
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