Tracing Your Welsh Ancestors

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Basic information for anyone who wants to trace their Welsh genealogy.

Basic information for anyone who wants to trace their Welsh genealogy.

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  • 1. Tracing Your Welsh Ancestors By Darris G. Williams, AG
  • 2. The International Genealogical Index for Wales
    • Pre 1813 extractions are based on the assumption
    • that everyone used patronymics.
    • Post 1812 extractions are based on the
    • assumption that no one used patronymics.
    • A small percentage of church and chapel records
    • have been extracted.
  • 3. Analysis of Extracted Welsh Records
    • 180 church & chapel records have been extracted for Glamorganshire
    • 29% of the extraction for Glamorgan was of Nonconformist records (53 of 180)
    • 37% of the registers (66 of 180) extracted for Glamorgan have at least some records in the pre-1813 time period
  • 4. Analysis of Extracted Welsh Records
    • There are about 1,200 parish churches in Wales
    • There were about 5,500 nonconformist chapels in Wales
    • There should be about 6,700 registers of church/chapel records for Wales
    • About 1,408 registers have been extracted for Wales (based on findings for Glamorgan)
  • 5. Analysis of Extracted Welsh Records
    • The records extracted may often represent a small
    • portion of the available records.
    • Christenings for Llan-giwg were extracted for the
    • years 1813-1866 (53 years)
    • The Bishop’s transcripts run, with some gaps, from
    • 1672-1866 (194 years)
  • 6. Analysis of Extracted Welsh Records
    • Conclusion
    • Less than 21% of the church and chapel records
    • for Wales have been extracted for the IGI
  • 7. The International Genealogical Index for Wales
    • Strategies for success
    • Search by given name for christenings before 1813
    • Search by surname for christenings after 1812
    • Use the IGI as a starting point but never expect it to
    • represent a high percentage of the population
    • Always examine the original record
  • 8. Names
    • Common names
    • In order to clearly identify which John Jones was
    • being referred to, the Welsh often included
    • another descriptive term such as the farm name
    • where the family lived or a nickname
  • 9. Patronymics
    • No surnames; given names only
    • Evan Thomas Prees is actually Evan the son of
    • Thomas the son of Rees
    • Matilda verch David Thomas is the daughter of
    • David who was the son of Thomas
  • 10. Patronymics
    • Mab means “son of’ and is often shortened to Ab or Ap.
    • Ferch means “daughter of’ and may be seen as verch,
    • vch, vz, or ach
    • Records may show a name such as William Gruffudd
    • Bowen which may actually be William map Gruffudd
    • mab Owen
    • The typical pattern was not always followed
  • 11. Naming Pattern
    • First son named after the paternal grandfather
    • Second son named after the maternal grandfather
    • First daughter named after the maternal
    • grandmother
    • Second daughter named after the paternal
    • grandmother
  • 12. Strategies for Success
    • If you can not find the marriage or christening
    • record assume that patronymics were used and
    • do the search again
    • If William Griffith can not be found look for
    • William, the son of Griffith _______
  • 13. Language
    • Differences in the English and Welsh alphabets should be noted.
    • The letters j, k, q, v, and z are not used in the Welsh alphabet. English scribes recorded information about your Welsh ancestors
    • The Welsh alphabet has additional letters that appear as double letters: ch, dd, ff, 11, ng, ph, rh
    • Mutations. The first letter in a word often changes or disappears. This is called mutation. Mutated words are not found in most Welsh dictionaries
  • 14. Place-names
    • Many Welsh place-names found in genealogies and histories are spelled in a variety of ways. The Family History Library Catalog uses Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units as the standard for how a place-name should be spelled
  • 15. Place-names
    • Unfortunately this is not a comprehensive list of Welsh place-names. There is no such thing as a comprehensive gazetteer for Wales. An excellent online list is The National Gazetteer of Wales which can be found at: http://
  • 16. Place-name Help
    • The six inch to one mile scale Ordnance Survey maps will enable you to locate many place-names not found in a gazetteer. /
  • 17. Records in Welsh
    • LDS Branch Records
    • Monumental Inscriptions
    • Periodicals
    • Histories
  • 18. Language Helps
    • The computer program “CysGair” is a Welsh language dictionary that will help find definitions, even with many mutated words and conjugated verbs.
    • http://
    • Cymdeithas Madog, The Welsh Studies Institute in North America is dedicated to helping you learn and enjoy the Welsh language.
    • http:// /
  • 19. Nonconformists
  • 20. Nonconformity
    • Nonconformity had the greatest influence on the spiritual and social life of Wales
    • By the mid nineteenth century 80% of the population were nonconformists
    • Before 1689 and the Toleration Act nonconformity was illegal so few records were kept
    • The church was unable to cater to the spiritual needs and growth of the population
    • Nonconformity offered religion in the Welsh language
  • 21. Growth of Nonconformity 2927 993 171 105 110 Chapels 1861 1816 1775 1742 1716 Year
  • 22. Nonconformity
    • High incidence of nonconformity
    • Many records have not been deposited. About 5,500
    • chapels existed in Wales but less than thirty per cent
    • of the registers have been deposited at a record office
    • The records may still be with the chapel
  • 23. Nonconformity
    • No record made
    • Records may have been lost
    • Families may have traveled a considerable
    • distance to worship
  • 24. Nonconformity
    • Types of chapel records
    • Birth/baptismal register
    • Marriage register
    • Burial register
    • Membership lists
    • Accounts
    • Minute books
  • 25. Nonconformity
    • More chapel records
    • Transfer registers
    • Pew rent books
    • Sunday school records
    • Lists of society members, Band of Hope & Temperance League
    • Monumental inscriptions
  • 26. Nonconformity
    • More chapel records
    • Chapel histories
    • Personal accounts of the chapel’s early history
  • 27. Strategies for Success
    • Identify the chapels in the area where your ancestors lived using the 1851
    • religious census and the six inch to one mile scale Ordnance Survey maps
    • /
    • Utilize chapel records other than the registers of birth, marriage, and
    • death/burial
    • Request a search in Capeli Cymru for other chapel records when registers
    • of birth marriage and death/burial are not available. National Library of Wales
    • enquiries: [email_address]
  • 28. Strategies for Success
    • Search the National Burial Index compact disc. This database
    • includes 265 thousand entries for Wales (Glamorganshire,
    • Cardiganshire, Radnorshire, Monmouthshire, and
    • Montgomeryshire only)
    • Search for burials at the parish church. Nonconformist chapels
    • seldom had their own burial ground before 1800
    • Search monumental inscriptions.
  • 29. Strategies for Success
    • Search records within a fifteen mile radius of where your
    • ancestors lived.
    • Examine chapel and local histories.
    • Search the Historical Manuscripts Commission National Register
    • of Archives web site for information on recently deposited
    • records. Do a “Place Name”search
    • http:// /
    • Utilize histories about the chapel, area, and denomination.