Distribution of Jones surname in Britain
It first appears on record as a surname in England in 1273 with the name "Matilda Jones". Others put the first known record of the surname Jones as 1279, in Huntingdonshire, England. Around the time of the union of Wales with England, the traditional Welsh system of patronymics was increasingly replaced by surnames. Furthermore, Christian names such as John which were common in England had become increasingly preferred to distinctively Welsh Christian names such as Meredudd and Llewelyn. Thus "Mab Ioan" or "ap Sion" (and many other variations) meaning "son of John" became the surname Jones in a large number of cases, making it a very frequently used surname.
20th and 21st centuries
Jones remains the most widespread surname in Wales, borne by 5.75% of the population. The frequency in England is lower, at 0.75%, making it the second most common surname, after Smith. The 2000 United States census provides a frequency of 0.50%, providing an overall rank of fifth most frequent with 57.7% White, 37.7% Black, 1.4% Hispanic, 0.9% Native American. Jones was the fourth most common surname in the 1990 U.S. Census, behind only Smith, Johnson and Williams.
The popularity of the Jones surname in North America is in part owed to the use of Jones as an anglicized or shortened form of various cognate and like-sounding surnames from various European languages. These names are thought to include the German Jans, Jentz, Janz and possibly Janson, as well as the Scandinavian Jönsson, Johansen and Jonasen among some others, along with Polish Janowski, French Jean, Irish MacSeáin, English Johnson, Spanish Ibáñez or Yáñez, Italian Gian or Giovanni, Serbian Jovanovic, Dutch Jansen, Janssen, Janzen and Scottish Johnston (a habitational name).