It wouldn’t surprise many to know that Jones is one of the most common surnames in the USA, but did you know it is a Welsh name? So are Davies, Williams, Evans, Thomas, Roberts and a host of other familiar surnames. Tom Jones is one of the most famous people from Wales, but he isn’t alone. Actor Richard Burton, comedian Terry Jones of Monty Python fame and designer Laura Ashley are all Welsh. Mount Everest was named after the Welsh explorer George Everest. Although two Scottish brothers formed the iconic heavy metal band AC/DC in Australia, drummer Chris Slade and singer Dave Evans were both originally from Wales.
Love the mountains, the sea and rugby? Maybe it is your in your Welsh genes! The stunning Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England, and Wales is bordered by the sea on three sides. Rugby is the national sport, and St. David is the patron saint. The Irish have the shamrock and the Scottish have the thistle. The Welsh are arguably more practical – their plant is the leek. Then again, the flag features a brilliant red dragon.
Tracing Your Roots to Wales If you’re tracing your roots back to this beautiful Celtic land, it can be confusing. The more of your immediate family tree you can fill in, the better. Start with yourself and work backwards through the generations, gathering birth, death and marriage certificates until you reach the relative who arrived from Wales. Then it is time to start searching through records in Wales.
Before you visit Wales in search of records, you can find an amazing amount of information online. When you are researching your Welsh roots, you need to check both Welsh and English sources for records. Where you need to look will also depend on how far back you are checking.
For official birth, death and marriage records from 1837 onward, check the General Register Office’s website. This one includes both Welsh and English records. For older records, you would need to contact the local churches. They did all of the marriages, baptisms and funerals, but of course this isn’t easy. It can be difficult to find the right church because you need to know the town and the religion of that particular ancestor. Even then, church records are often incomplete.
GenUKI’s website has a great overview of where to find various Welsh records, and it includes a useful map of districts. The National Library of Wales holds a wealth of records, but most are only available to visitors to the actual building. You can, however, check for marriage bonds pre-1837 and tithe maps and apportionment to investigate land ownership on the NLW website.
Tracing your Welsh ancestors can be difficult and time-consuming. But it can also be fascinating and incredibly rewarding. If your ancestors left Wales more than 200 years ago, think of your research as a long-term project, a marathon rather than a sprint. Every piece of the puzzle you can find gives you a more complete picture of your Welsh roots.