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Welsh Research (Wales)

Nature of Source

Wales has been incorporated into England since the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1542. Before the Acts of Union, Wales fell under the rule of England following the defeat and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd by the forces of King Edward I in 1283 thus ending the rule of Wales by the Welsh Prince.

Most Welsh research follows the same pattern as that of England including the main building blocks of research consisting of civil registration records, census returns, parish registers and records as well as school registers, electoral registers and rate books.

Population censuses were taken at the same time as those for England. However it is worth noting that the census householder's schedules might have been written in Welsh and then copied by the officials into the Enumerator's Book in English. Either way it will have been noted by the officials if the schedule had been filled out in Welsh. Also from 1891 census respondents stated whether English or Welsh was their first language. Be aware that Welsh census entries present special problems for transcribers which can result in erroneous transcribed entries entered into online databases.

Surviving parish registers are found at the National Library of Wales or County Record Offices with most written in English, or Latin for the earlier registers. Like England, the order to compile parish registers was issued in 1538, however the survival rate is poor. Although most Welsh in the 19th century followed non-Anglican forms of religious worship, many events appear in the Anglican parish registers. In the case of marriages, all were legally obliged to take place in an Anglican church between 1754 and 1837 except those for Jews and Quakers who were not present in great numbers in Wales. Records of marriages that took place by bonds and affidavits in other words by licence rather than banns are held at the National Library of Wales with an index available online covering 1616 to 1837. From 1837, marriages ceremonies were legally permissible in civil registration offices, nonconformist chapels and Catholic churches. In the absence of a parish register it is worth consulting the copies known as Bishop's Transcripts sent annually to the Bishop's office and now housed at the National Library of Wales.

Following the introduction of civil probate on 11 January 1858, wills and admons were proved in a single national court known as the Principal Probate Registry covering England and Wales. The National Library of Wales holds copies of wills from counties covering Welsh registries with exception of Montgomeryshire. Pre-1858 wills were proved by ecclesiastical courts and can be found at the National Library of Wales or County Record Offices with many available to search online at the NLW website. Please note that many wills may be written in Welsh.

Up to 1830, Assize session papers from the Court of Great Sessions are held at the National Library of Wales and thereafter at The National Archives in Kew. The Gaol Files from these courts have been indexed and are available online at the Crime and Punishment database. Welsh Quarter Session records can normally be found in County Record Offices.

Great care must be taken with the naming patterns especially with the dominance of surnames such as Jones, Williams, Davies and Evans. In Wales, the prefix 'ap' or sometimes 'ab' (from the word 'mab' the Welsh for son) before a vowel means 'son of' as in Hugh ap Richard. In the case of daughters, the term 'ferch' or sometimes 'verch' was used as in Elliw ferch Alwyn or Elliw daughter of Alwyn. The terms 'ferch' and 'verch' were often abbreviated to 'vch' and 'vz' respectively. Be aware that later on 'ap' was also used to signify a daughter of as in Elliw ap Alwyn.

The patronymic naming convention can create difficulties for researchers whereby a father's forename or first name is given to the child as a surname. Instead of a family name remaining the same over generations, family surnames kept changing over successive generations. Over time following the gradual demise of the patronymic naming convention names became shortened so Hugh ap Richard became Hugh Pritchard.

A Welsh ancestor who served in the Army most likely served with either the Royal Welch Fusiliers or The Royal Regiment of Wales. In 2006 these regiments amalgamated to form The Royal Welsh. For details of army museums covering Welsh regiments visit the site of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust.

Also see
Coalminer Records
Surname Origins and Distribution

Where Found

National Library of Wales
County Record Offices (ARCHON Directory: Find the details of a UK archive from a searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the TNA Discovery home page)
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Copies and indexes of parish registers)
Society of Genealogists (Welsh Resources)
National Museum Wales
(Including sections on their industrial collections such as coal mining and the metal, slate and woollen industries)
National Coal Museum

Period Covered

1200 - Onwards

Further References

Awbery, Gwen. Tracing Family History in Wales: How to Read the Inscriptions on Welsh Gravestones: Llygad Gwalch Cyf, 2011


Beddoe, Deirdre Welsh Convict Women: A Study of Women Transported from Wales to Australia, 1787-1852: S.Williams, 1979  Buy Now on Amazon

Durie, Bruce. Welsh Genealogy: The History Press, 2012


Evans, Beryl. Tracing Your Welsh Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2015

Faraday, M A. Radnorshire Taxes in the Reign of Henry VIII: Assessment-Lists and Accounts of Subsidies and Benevolences 1543-1547: M A Faraday, 2013


Gibson, Jeremy & Rogers, Colin. Poor Law Union Records: 3. South-West England, The Marches, and Wales: The Family History Partnership, 1997


Gibson, Jeremy & Rogers, Colin. Coroners' Records in England and Wales. 3rd ed: The Family History Partnership, 2009


Gower, Jon. The Story of Wales: BBC Books, 2012


Ifans, Dafydd. Cofrestri Anghydffurfiol Cymru: Nonconformist Registers of Wales: National Library of Wales & Welsh County Archivists' Group, 1994


Jack, Ian. R. Medieval Wales: Cambridge University Press, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon

John, Steven. Carmarthen Pals: A History of the 15th (Service) Battalion The Welsh Regiment 1914 – 1919: Pen & Sword Books, 2009


Lewis, Bernard. Swansea Pals: A History of the 14th (Service) Battalion Welsh Regiment in the Great War: Pen & Sword Books, 2005


Lewis, D. Geraint. Welsh Names: Geddes & Grosset, 2001


Lewis, D. Geraint. A Check-List of Welsh Place-Names: Gwasg Gomer, 2007


Morgan, T. J., & Morgan, Prys. Welsh Surnames. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1985


O' Sullivan, John. A Photographic History of Mining in South Wales: History Press, 2011


Owen, Hywel Wyn. Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales, Gwasg Gomer, 2007


Parry, Glyn. A Guide to the Records of Great Sessions in Wales: National Library of Wales, 1995


Richards, William. A Pocket Dictionary: Hughes, 1861 (Available to download from Project Gutenberg)


Ripley, Howard & Darmanin, Denis. Scottish, Welsh & Channel Islands Infantry Militia Buttons 1757-1881: Howard Ripley, 2013  

Rowlands, John, & Rowlands, Sheila (eds). Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research: Federation of Family History Societies, 1998 (Preview available from Google Books)


Rowlands, John, & Rowlands, Sheila. Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry, Federation of Family History Societies, 1999 (Preview available from Google Books)


Rowlands, John & Rowlands, Sheila. The Surnames Of Wales: Gomer Press, 2014


Williams, C.J & Watts-Williams, J. Cofrestri Plwyf Cymru: Parish Registers of Wales: National Library of Wales, 2000


Websites (Association Family of History Societies of Wales) (Research Wiki: Wales Church Records) (Welsh translation tables) (The Archives Network Wales: Catalogue of collections held by record offices, universities and other repositories in Wales) (Repositories in Wales from the ARCHON database) (People's Collection Wales: Online collections from various Welsh museums including the National Library of Wales and National Museum Wales as well as contributions from the general public. Material includes historic maps, memories, photographs, video and audio)
(National Library of Wales: Nonconformist Records. The records of the nonconformist chapels include: Baptism, marriage and burial registers; Manuscript lists of members; Contribution books of individual chapels; Printed annual reports from 1880; Denominational periodicals) (Welsh Family History) (WalesGenWeb Project) (The history of Wales from the BBC) (Cyndi's List Wales)
(Wales: A Nation with its Own Traditions: Patronymics and Welsh surnames) (The History of Welsh Surnames) (Genealogy Today: What does the term ap mean in a family name?) (Welsh Surnames and their Origins),_Personal
(FamilySearch Research Wiki: Wales Names, Personal) (Cymru1900Wales: The project aims to collect all the names of places and features such as the names of towns, villages, woods, farms, rivers and mansions in Wales from the Ordnance Survey’s six-inch to a mile maps of c. 1900. Volunteers can add additional information based on their own knowledge such as alternative spellings or memories of the location) (Welsh Family History Archive. Resources include: Glossary of Welsh Place-Names; Images of Wales; Maps of Wales; Tallis's Topographical Dictionary) (Welsh naming patterns) (Welsh Surnames: A brief guide for family history researchers)
(The Welsh Alphabet) FamilySearch Wiki: Wales Languages: Alphabet and Mutation)
(A guide to the Welsh Language) ( Welsh Language Guide) (Project Gutenberg: A Pocket Dictionary: Welsh-English by William Richards) (Pronunciation and the alphabet) (South Wales Coalfield Collection) (Welsh Mines Society) (Resources for Welsh Mining Research) (Record of the mines within the Welsh Coalfields) (List of mines in Great Britain and the Isle of Man, 1908) (Mining History Network)

Online Databases (Welsh Collection: Produced in association with the National Library of Wales and the Welsh County Archivists Group, the database contains parish registers of baptisms, marriages, banns and deaths and burials. County coverage includes: Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Denbigh, Flint, Glamorgan, Merionethshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembroke, Powys) (Welsh Newspapers Online: The National Library of Wales: Free online searchable access to digitised historical newspapers from nearly 120 newspaper publications generally up to 1910. This resource also includes newspaper content that has been digitised by The Welsh Experience of World War One project) (The National Library of Wales: The National Library of Wales: Welsh Journals: Welsh Journals provides free searchable access to Welsh and English language journals published between 1735-2007. Titles range from academic and scientific publications to literary and popular magazines. Users can also browse through titles and editions) (National Library of Wales: Index and summary of wills proved in the Welsh Ecclesiastical courts before 1858) (Index to the Gaol Files of the Court of Great Sessions in Wales, 1730-1830. The database contains information on criminals and their crimes and punishments as well as details on the victims. Records from less serious crimes heard at Quarter Sessions are held at county record offices and can be searched at Archives Wales. Monmouthshire formed part of the Oxford circuit and are available from The National Archives at Kew) (National Library of Wales: Index of Applicants for marriage licences, 1616-1837 (Wales Deaths and Burials, 1586-1885; Marriages, 1541-1900; Births and Baptisms, 1541-1907; Glamorgan Parish Registers, 1558-1900; Glamorgan, Parish Register Marriages, 1837-1922; Wales, Probate Abstracts, 1544-1858; Wales, West Glamorgan, Electoral Registers, 1839-1925; Cheshire Probate Records, 1492-1940)
(Welsh Parish Registers [excluding Monmouthshire] 1538-1912. This collection was done in cooperation with FindMyPast, and a full version of the index can be found at findmypast UK) (Wales, Court and Miscellaneous Records, 1542-1911. This collection contains browsable images of Court Records and Marriage Bonds from the National Library of Wales. Records include Consistory Court papers, Court records-Crown Books, Court records-gaol files, Marriage bonds and Memoranda of the Great Sessions)
(Welsh Almanac Collection. Browsable collection of Welsh almanacs from 1681 to 1781. An almanac is an annual publication that includes information such as weather forecasts, farmers’ planting dates, tide tables, and tabular information often arranged according to the calendar) (FreeREG. Volunteer project of transcribed baptism, marriage, and burial records extracted from parish and non-conformist registers of the U.K.) (Wales Billion Graves Cemetery Index. Are your ancestors buried in Wales? Have you been unable to locate precisely where they were buried? Search this extensive record set to find the exact location of their burial as well as their birth and death dates)
(Welsh Guards 1914-1918. These records contain 4,060 names of officers who served with the Welsh Guards, and nominal rolls of Warrant Officers and NCOs)
Batrum Genealogical Project (Searchable electronic version  of  Dr Peter C. Bartrum Welsh Genealogies A.D. 300-1400 and Welsh Genealogies A.D. 1400 - 1500) (FamilySearch Community Trees: Data extracted from Peter Bartrum's 'Welsh Genealogies', with other sources such as the Golden Grove book of pedigrees as additional references, 100 C.E. to the mid-1800's) (The OGRE Online: Selection of Monumental Inscriptions and memorials parish registers, records of births deaths and marriages, trade directories and topographical data in Wales)

CD Roms

Glamorgan Family History Society (Items for sale include transcription of census records, parish registers, chapel registers, school registers, register of electors, poor law records, workhouse register, cemetery and graveyards records. Many items are also available to download)