Croeso! The National Library of Wales

September 24, 20202:18 pmLeave a Comment

Image of the Welsh flagSadly, I am not blessed with Welsh ancestors but I did grow up in North Wales and can delight in my Welsh upbringing. Although I have always struggled with the language, I embrace the music, the poetry, the scenery and above all, the history.

Wales has had an extraordinary history for such a small country, and fiercely defends its independence, not so much economically, but historically and culturally. If you’ve never been to Wales, I urge you to go – it’s quite simply fascinating and beautiful in equal measures.

However, enough of the Tourist Board Talk and on to the important stuff. Where can I find records for my Welsh ancestors?  Well, a good place to start is the National Library of Wales. Based in Aberystwyth it’s a lovely place to visit but equally, they’ve got a great website.

Image of Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

You can search tithe maps free of charge – and it’s great fun! I found out who owned and occupied the house I grew up in along with the farm next door, and it was interesting to see that the small quarry pit I played in as a child was there in the 1840s. There is also a very useful Place Names of Wales section in the tithe map search which is very well laid out. Just as there are fewer surnames in Wales, you will also find that there are quite a few towns and villages with the same name and this facility can be invaluable if you are not sure of the geography of the area. You’ll have hours of fun with this one.

There is a fantastic index to pre-1858 wills and marriage bonds (you can obtain copies of the documents if you wish) and a wonderful collection of Welsh newspapers (in English too!). There are also some great information pages for family historians and online access to over 450 journals comprising of academic and literary publications to popular magazines. I sometimes forget just how useful local history journals can be for finding out details of specific areas where my ancestors lived. They can be invaluable for discovering more about contemporary local industries or local landowners.

Google translate image

Google Translate

One last thing; if you do find something in Welsh and if, like me, you have only a passing knowledge of this beautiful language, don’t forget Google Translate (or similar). Welsh is a very logical language and, as such, translates pretty well with online resources. It’s not infallible but a lot better than for some other languages. For example, the newspaper Gwalia (Wales) commenting on the various activities in and around Conwy in September 1902 reported that:

YR HEDDLYS.—Mewn heddlys arbenig, ddydd Mawrth, dirwywyd Thomas Owen, asied-ydd, Llandudno Junction, i 58 a’r oostau am fod yn feddw ac afreolus.

and the English translation via Google Translate reads:

THE POLICE. — On special rulings, on Tuesday, Thomas Owen, agent, Llandudno Junction, was fined 58 and costs for being drunk and disorderly.

I simply ‘cut and pasted’ from the transcribed paper and occasonally there are issues with newspapers and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) but although I had to go back and see that he was fined 58 shillings, that’s not bad, is it? You can usually get the gist of something and often the local papers publish pretty impressive obituaries, some even including photographs.

In conjunction with Find My Past, the NLW has placed it’s wonderful collection of parish registers online and if you are using this resource, I would recommend using it in conjunction with all these wonderful resources at the National Library of Wales.

Keep safe and well and Happy Researching!

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Written by Jane Lewis - Modified by ESP Admin

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