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Rees Family History
Rees is one of the most popular surnames in Wales, and its origin lies in the Welsh personal name, Rhys.
Hereditary surnames did not become fixed and settled in Wales until between the 16th and 19th centuries, depending on where in the country they lived. Up until that time, an individual would have been known by their given name and their father's name. For example, a man named Dafydd whose father was called Rhys would be known as 'Dafydd ap Rhys' which literally means 'Dafydd son of Rhys'. Over time, 'ap Rhys' was either contracted to form the name 'Prys' which then developed into the surname 'Price', or simply to 'Rhys' which was generally anglicised to Rees, Reece, Reese, or Rice. The Price and Rees surnames are therefore very closely related and both would refer back to an ancestor named Rhys who probably lived between the 16th and 19th centuries (or sometimes earlier than this).
In Old Welsh the word 'rhys' meant 'ardour'. Several famous figures in Welsh history were named Rhys, including Rhys ap Tewdwr (c.1040–1093) who was king of Deheubarth (south west Wales), and his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffudd (c.1132–1197), who became Prince of Deheubarth in 1155.
- Angharad Rees (1949–2012), an actress who was born in Middlesex to Welsh parents, psychiatrist William Linford Rees and his wife Catherine Thomas. She appeared in many stage productions, films and TV dramas, including most notably the BBC's Poldark which was broadcast in the 1970s.
- Elgan Rees (b. 1954), a former Welsh international rugby union player, born in Clydach near Swansea.
- Merlyn Rees (1920–2006), born in Cilfynydd near Pontypridd, he served as a Labour party Member of Parliament between 1963 and 1992, serving as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1974–76) and as Home Secretary (1976-1979). He was created a life peer, Baron Merlyn-Rees, in 1992.
- Jean Rhys (1890–1979), a British novelist who was born and raised in Dominica. Her father was William Rees Williams, a Welsh doctor, and her mother, Minna (née Lockhart), was a third-generation Dominican Creole of Scots ancestry. She is best known for her novel The Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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