Finds roots in other Celtic nations
When we talk about Celtic heritage, many of us think only of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But those are only three of the six Celtic nations united by related languages and cultures. Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany also had rich and distinctive Celtic civilizations. If your roots stretch to those places, you have a fascinating heritage to celebrate. Each of these places presents its own challenges for genealogy buffs, but they also hold their own rewards should you persist.
People of Cornish, Manx or Breton descent are as Celtic as those of Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent. And of course, it would not be rare to discover your heritage included a combination of Celtic peoples.
Celts of Cornwall and the Isle of Man
Technically, the delightful county of Cornwall is part of England. But this peninsula south of Wales is very much its own place. It’s a popular vacation destination for people from all over the UK and Ireland, and even a quick glance at photos of the dazzling coastline show why. Kresen Kernow is the official home of Cornish archives, and their website includes an excellent guide to starting your search for your Cornish roots. You can also order specific records from Cornwall’s Registration Services.
The Isle of Man occupies an obscure place politically. It is British in a sense, but not part of Great Britain. This small island in the Irish sea is a British Crown dependency, but it is self-governing. It’s small size and organized records are a huge help to anyone searching for their Manx roots, but the fact that the small population shares a very limited number of surnames can make it confusing. The Manx National Heritage Museum’s website is the place to start. Search on the ‘People’ tab for civil records including census details.
France’s Breton Celtic People
Brittany is the area in France that juts into the Celtic Sea. While Parisians nibble on crepes, the Breton enjoy galettes, a variation made with buckwheat flour. The coastline is stunning and dramatic with rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. While French is universally spoken here, about 200,000 people still speak Breton, a Gaelic language. It’s closest to Cornish, which makes sense because the original Breton people came from the southern part of what is now England. They arrived in waves mostly between the third and fifth centuries AD during the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain.
While their most ancient roots lie in Britain, the records for Breton ancestors are French. In France, official birth, death and marriage records less than 100 years old are held by the local mayor’s office. Older records can be found in the local department archives. (Departments are an administrative region. There are 18 departments in Brittany.) Churches may also hold records. French civil records date back to 1792. They are extensive, but not as easily accessed as records in the UK and Ireland.
You need to prove your connection to records less than 100 years old. Many older records can be found at Ancestry.com, so that can be a helpful site once you’ve learned that you have an ancestor from Brittany.