Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Law

The laws of the land they come to be called.  Those social directives that helps stabilize and hold together a culture.  The ancient laws of Wales were organized around 850 AD.  A fellow named "Hywel Dda" is credited with such an activity.  These have been translated from the Welsh and published as "Hywel Dda The Law".   The cover of my copy is shown below.


For those who might want to study the Welsh tribal system and its social directives, this book is for you.  First published by Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed in 1986.  It is translated by Dafydd Jenkins and contains the law texts from medieval Wales.

For my own Welsh genealogy, it is recorded that Hywel Dda was the father-in-law to Tudor Trevor, the beginning of my Welsh family tree.  How about that, a father-in-law from the past!   This text has served me well to help understand the culture of this beginning.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Companion

Genealogy opens many doors to the past generations of our family.  Many of these generations experienced events and struggles that are, at times, difficult to understand or appreciate.  Seeking answers to the questions regarding the period of life that our ancestors experienced can often be found in the literature of the time.   For Welsh history, the following "companion" is recommended.


Edited by Meic Stephens, with over 150 contributors, it represents a treasure trove of information regarding the mind of Wales and its culture.  The topics are arranged alphabetically and span the scope of Welsh expression.   Eminent and obscure are included including as the editors states:

"...a substantial number of saints, kings, princes, gentry, patrons, philanthropists, martyrs, patriots, landowners, villains, soldiers, preachers, reformers, industrialists, politicians, publishers, painters, musicians, sportsmen and eccentrics - a motley company who share with our writers an undeniable place in the Welsh heritage."  [editor's preface, p. vi ]

First published in 1986 as The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales by Oxford University Press, it was reprinted in 1986, and now this edition by the University of Wales in 1998.

There is a brief discussion on the pronunciation of Welsh which is always helpful for those of us across the great pond.  Containing 841 pages, it is not intended to be read "cover to cover"  but to serve as a
reference to help identify and understand many aspects of Welsh culture. 

It ends in a chronology of Welsh history beginning with the Roman conquest [43 AD]  to the first elections for the National Assembly of Wales in 1999.  What a deal!  My kind of book.  You may find it helpful also.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Welsh Family History

A second set of books [first and second edition] by the Rowlands is named: "Welsh Family History, A Guide To Research". 


A number of other folks join the Rowlands [contributing authors], and present a broad series of topics that are helpful to the genealogist seeking their Welsh roots.  It was published in 1998 [first edition 1993] by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, MD.  Helping you understand a wider historical context to finding your Welsh ancestors it is.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Surnames of Wales

Often time one ask...where did that surname come?  Many of us on this side of the great pond (USA) have asked this question.   "The Surnames of Wales" offers a source to check if it be from Wales.


The authors state: "...it is the purpose of this book to provide the reader with a detailed insight into the origins and occurrence of the more common surnames within Wales, together with some consideration of those which have established something of a presence at the regional or more local level." (p.4)  They begin this account after 1800.  The appendix section (A-C) provide helpful information regarding surnames by "Parishes" and "Hundreds" (Appendix A), surnames derived from various sources [eg. Old Testament, etc.] (Appendix B), and a offer for a limited service to enquirers (Appendix C).  A "Surname Index" ends the book.  This index can provide a quick answer to a surname question.

The book is published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, MD.  It was first published in 1996.  A helpful book it is.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Male Social Roles

Organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another is foundational to societies.   Common interest, beliefs, and these organized patterns of group behavior often produce a community of enduring and cooperative activities.  Standards of living and conduct are part of the factors that help us understand the environment that our ancestors lived within and survived.

The following figure attempts to present the male social structure of pre-industrialized England.  For those of us with Welsh ancestry, the Act of Union [1536] brought two different social groups [Welsh and English] into one environment. This "Union" created many social changes among those of Welsh descent.


The English society was structured around social classes that kept individuals within accepted groups.  In broad terms, these are outline above.  The existing educational structure for the "male child" beginning in "Infancy" to the start of "Adult Life" is shown.  Accepted roles for each social group is shown along the bottom.  From "farm/field" [rural existences], to the royal court of England [high society], the expected social positions are shown.  Our Welsh ancestors were to fit within their assigned male social roles.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mother Tongue(s)

The words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a considerable group of people is one definition of language.  From the French langue = tongue, and the Latin lingua =  tongue, the word is derived.  Over time, the manner of verbal expression and pronouncing words become fixed among ethic groups producing a distinct language.  The Celtic tongues have their roots as follows:


For the genealogist, understanding these roots helps explain the variety of spellings and pronunciation which often are encountered.  This is especially true when the English (Balto-Slavo-Germanic roots)
crosses the Welsh (Proto-Celtic).  Here, the phonetics (pronouncing words) produce a confusing group of sounds.  For me, the surname JONES is an example.

There is no "J" in the Welsh alphabet.  Their sound "Si" is the closest match.  In the Latin, the letter "I" represents the the sound for "J".  Norman-French would use "Je" which was often written "Ie".   The early record keepers were priest of the Church writing all kinds of word combinations from these groups of mixed languages.  The earliest English records were written in French.  The Church records were written in Latin.  The Welsh language was mixed among the groups.  What a deal!  Sorting through the records of the day can be quite a challenge for the genealogist.





The derivation of the surname JONES is shown above.  It was the transliteration of Welsh into Anglo-Saxon (English) that "phonetically" produced this surname.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Good Map

Traveling along the family tree, it often becomes necessary to understand the geography of the area of interest.  A good map is needed to help explore the names, places, and land surrounding this branch of the tree.  For my JONES family this often lead to England, and finally Wales.  The following is a copy of the front of my map.  It came in handy during those dark and stormy nights when you needed to find your way along the branches.


 The map is titled as a sight-seeing map of England and Wales.  It was published by Geographers' A-Z Map Co. Ltd.  It opens to a very large map with index and chronology included.  Starting in the Bronze Age, thru Norman, to modern times, it list the geographic locations of many places important to each period of history.  [Once opened, it could be a bear to fold back up.]  Needless to say, it provided a source of historic and geographic information.  A good map indeed for those who's family tree leads this direction.