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JOSEPH Family History

This is a surname derived from one of the most prominent Biblical personal names, Joseph, which means 'he increases' or 'he adds'.

It became popular as a personal name during the medieval period after the return of crusaders and pilgrims from the Holy Land. When it later developed into a surname in England it was therefore a patronymic surname, meaning 'son of Joseph' or a 'descendant of Joseph', and would have referred back to an ancestor with the given name Joseph.

Historically, it was not one of the most common names in Wales, but when it first appeared as a hereditary surname, between the 16th and 19th centuries, it was patronymic and referred back to the given name of an ancestor who lived during that time. The majority of Joseph entries on the Wales censuses of the mid-19th century were mostly evident in Glamorganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, with fewer references in the other counties.

It also became prominent as a surname when Jewish families settled in Britain during the 19th century.

Notable people

  • Lesley Joseph (b. 1945), English actress born in London, most famous for playing the role of Dorien Green in the TV sitcom, Birds of a Feather.
  • Will Joseph (1877–1959), a Welsh international rugby union player, born in Morriston, Swansea, who played in three Triple Crown contests and was a member of the Wales team who famously beat the New Zealand All Blacks in 1905.



1841 & 1851 censuses

An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names (1857) by William Arthur


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