The Welsh people (Welsh: Cymry) are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.

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 Assembly 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.


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.

Welsh People 2001 CensusEdit

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. 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 respondants between 16 and 74 years of age, those claiming Welsh ethnicity were predominatly in professional and managerial occupations.

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