Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Welsh Genealogical Terms (part 1) A - E

Samuel Rush Meyrick states in his text of Dwnn:

"For the benefit of the English reader, large portions of Welsh have been followed by translations, and in the notes to the text the meanings of several words and phrases have been given; but, as a futrther assistance, the following with their mutations are added under this title."

The "title" is "Glossary".   Since Dwnn is not widely available to most genealogist, I thought it might be helpful to list the terms as translated by Meyrick on p. xxxii, Vol. I, Dwnn.  They are listed in alphabetical order in the text.  Part 1 will list those words beginning with A - E.

      Aeressau, pl. = Heiresses.

      Anweddawg = Unmarried.

      Arglwydd = Lord.

      Bach, bychan, vach, vychan = Junior, little.

      Barwn = Baron.

      Brawd, vrawd = Brother.

      Bedyddiedig = Baptized

      Cevnderw, fem. cyvnitherw = Cousin.

      Chwaer = Sister.

      Dwc = Duke.

      Etivedd = Heir.

      Ewythr = Uncle.

The title page from this monumental text (Dwnn) is shown below.




Monday, July 7, 2014

The Townlands (part 4)

The text goes on to read (by Jenkins translation):

"It is right for the two townlands to be for the king's waste and shielding-land for him.  And as much as all we said above in the other commote, and that makes a total of five score townlands, and that is properly the cantred.  It is right for ten times ten to be in a hundred and counting does not go beyond ten."

By now it should be very confusing with all the terms and measurements.  A score is defined as a group of 20 things.  Five score would be (5 x 20) 100 townlands.  The "ten times ten" would also equal 100.  So "five score townlands" (100) is properly the "cantred".

In the last post it was recorded that there were "twelve maenolydd and two townlands in every commote". [Remember that there were "four townlands in every maenol". ]  Thus, "twelve maenolydd" would also equal 48 townlands.  Therefore, a single commote would be 48 townlands for family use, and two townlands set aside for the king's use.    Two "commonte" were to be in every "cantred".   This makes the "five score townlands" that is properly the cantre.  Whew...can you dig it?  They certainly did!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Measuring The Land (part 3) The Toft

From the last post the "legal acre" was defined. [I am not sure the exact interpretation but I believe it to be 1 rod x 30 rods which would equal approximately 16 ft x 480 ft ]  At any rate the law books go on to define:

"It is right that there be four such acres in the toft";

      This would be about 64 ft x 480 ft in dimension.  A toft was a plot of land carrying a house (ty).  This would suggest that a family would be allowed 4 acres of plowed land.

"four tofts in every shareland";

      Thus four houses (families) would live together on shared land.

"four sharedlands in every holding"

      Thus a "holding" would be roughly 16 houses in an area that most likely represented a families' land...i.e. "holding" which was shared by the larger family group under the head of the family.  Generally this was four generations of descent.

"four holdings in every townland";

       Dafydd Jenkins in his translation states that a townland corresponds closest to the medieval Latin villa (p. 387).  This does not indicate an actual town in the medieval sense.  Thus up to 32 houses could be contained in an area equivalent to the Roman villa. 

"four townlands in every maenol";

      This is were the concept of the "manor" is derived among the Welsh.   Thus four villas would group together under the leader of the tribe (mayor).  This would be a tribal (family) holding to six generations.

"twelve maenolydd and two townlands in every commote"

      The commote was the basic land area defined in Welsh culture by 850 AD.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Measuring The Land (part 2) The Legal Acre

This post continues the ancient Welsh view of measuring the land:

"And then they made the measure of the legal acre from the barleycorn.  Three lengths of the barleycorn in the inch; three inches in the palmbreadth; three palmbreadths in the foot.  Four feet in the short yoke, sixteen in the long yoke; a rod as long as the long yoke in the caller's hand, and as far as he reaches with it, his arm stretched out, is the two limits, that is, the width of the legal acre; and thirty times the rod is its length."

Again from the barleycorn:

      three lengths of the barleycorn = 1 inch

      three inches in the palmbreadth

      three palmbreadths = 1 foot [would be about 9 inches in today's measurements]

      four feet [12 palmbreadth] in the short yoke [a yoke is used to plow the land ca. 36 inches]

      sixteen feet in the long yoke [a yoke used for two animals ca. 12 feet long]

      1 rod = the long yoke + "caller's hand" = roughly 14 - 15 feet

       legal acre =  2 rods (width)  x 30 rods (length)  = roughly 30 ft. x 450 ft.

Thus, a "long yoke" (two animals) could plow up and down the legal acre in two passes.  A "short yoke" (single animal) would take four passes of the plow.

Taken from: Hywel Dda The Law, Law Texts from Medieval Wales, translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990, p.120.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Measuring the Land (part 1)

One of the first things you might want to do with this land and earth is to measure it.  According to the law books of Hywel Dda, "Dyfnwal Moelmud" [Dyfnwal the Bald!] was king over the land "Before the crown of London and the sceptre were taken by the English...".  He measured the island in "...order to know its tribute and its mileage and its journeys by days."  The method he used was not changed by Hywel himself "...for he was the best of measurers".  The method he used is described as follows:

"And this measure Dyfnwal measured from the barleycorn. 

Three lengths of the barleycorn in the inch;"

[Apparently, the kernels of the barleycorn were uniquely the same size.  Each kernel would be 1/3 of an inch, and could be used as a standard instrument of measurement.  Barleycorn was a standard food source and would have been readily available for use.]

"three inches in the palmbreadth;"

[Nine kernels of barleycorn place in the palm of the hand would equal three inches.]

"three palmbreadths in the foot;"

[This would make what was called "the foot" around nine inches in length plus or minus.]

"three feet in the step;"

[This would give a method to step off a segment of land that could easily be check by another.]

"three steps in the leap;"

[So a leap would be roughly nine foot, which would be around 81 inches, or 243 lengths of barleycorn!]

"Three leaps in the land: a land in newer Welsh in a selion;"

[Leaps setting the bounds called a selion.  I wonder if this is where the saying "leaps and bounds" has its origin?]

Finally, "and a thousand lands if the mile. And this measure is still used here."

Wow, 3000 leaps in the Welsh mile.  Let's get to work.

The information outlined above is taken from p. 120 in the book translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins titled Hywel Dda The Law, Gomer Press, 1990.  The legal acre is next!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Land and Earth

From the ancient tribal past, the laws that came to be called "The Law of Hywel Dda", was a foundation to the culture and society of Wales.  Certain basic concepts were contained within these laws that allowed social structure, and the survival of the folks who accepted them as their authority. [See last post which gives the first principle of their existence.] 

One basic concept was called "land and earth".  This concept had its origins from the belief that "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth." [ Pentateuch - Genesis 1:1]  It was "God's Will" that was the ultimate authority within these spheres of existence.   Since God was in heaven, it was his will that man was placed upon earth.  Thus "man" was responsible for this land. 

In the laws, "land and earth" was a key sphere of existence.  No land was to exist that did not have a "proprietor".  This had meaning from Roman days which comes from the Latin privatus, meaning 'proper to a particular person'.  A "proprietor" had right to the land by "kindred and descent".  It is written:

"Whosoever wants to claim land by kindred and descent, let him show his pedigree as far as the stock from which he derives; and if he is there as fourth man he is a proprietor, for it is as fourth man that a person becomes a proprietor." [ from: Hywel Dda The Law, by Jenkins, p. 104.] 

Claim to land ownership was thus proved by giving a pedigree from the family tree.  Four generations of occupation by the family needed to be shown.   A deed to ownership was your family tree.  Wow...everyone needed to be a genealogist for this land and earth.

[The term "proprietor" is defined on p. 375 in the text by Jenkins.]

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Customary Principles

A living community changes over time.  From early family units, to larger tribal groups (clans) there is a common core of customs which develop.  These become the "laws" [spoke or unspoken] that begin to structure the obligations of the folks living within the community, and institute controls [often punishment] that establish authority within this cluster of folks trying to survive.  For the Welsh, this was well established by the mid-10th century.  This common core became associated with the name of Hywel Dda.

The figure above shows the cover of my copy, which was published by Gomer Press, 1990.  It contains a translation of the "Law Texts From Medieval Wales Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins".  For the genealogist who wishes to understand the core principle of Welsh culture, this is a helpful test.

On page 71 it records:

"For the wise say that worldly law does not pursue any person (whether it is to heaven that he goes or to hell) save until he leaves the earth.  This is the reason for it:  Though there be law between persons and each other on this earth, there is no law between angles and each other, and there is no law between devils and each other, save the will of God."

Hum..."the will of God"...who would have guessed this would be a customary principle in the laws of Hywel Dda, around 942 AD.