Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Welsh Rolls: What's in Them

Wales became thoroughly subduded after the execution of Rhys ap Maredudd [Rees ap Meredith] following his capture in 1289 AD. Ordinances for the settlement and incorporation into England of the new counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, Merioneth, Flint, Carmarthen, and Cardigan were instituted. Ironically, these records became known as the "Welsh Rolls", but were actually the "English" records following this hostile take over. These documents contain all the different items which required the approval of the monarchy, i.e., passed "The Great Seal". Thus, they became the first offical records of the affairs of "The Principality of Wales" and its "Marches".

Extracts from these rolls can be found at the British Museum [Harleian MS. 320, f 42.] An outline of what they contain are as follows:

Grants of castles, lands, and other possessions, and confirmation of former charters,

Letters of protection and safe conduct,

Appointments of justices,

Inquistions of various kinds,

Presentations to churches,

Appointments of constables and governors of castles, and removal from appointments

Grants of freedom,

Committals to prison, and arrests

Grants of wardship,

Writs (orders) to receive money,

Grants to fairs,

Liberty to trade,

Free from toll,

Release from debt,

Exchanges of land,

Orders for dower, for support of children, and for homage,

Appointments to military rank, and

Settlements and other entries.

Wow, a gold mine for the Welsh genealogist!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cadwgan Tumulus

Offa's Dyke is believed to have been constructed by King Offa of Mercia (757-796 AD). It is near Wrexham that it lies a few miles west of Wat's Dyke. Just passing west of Bersham, this western most dyke, winds its way through a Bronze Age burial mound called "Cadwgan Tumulus". It is here that the area must have been first settled following the neolithic period.

In Wales, the Bronze Age is thought to have began between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. (Dyer, p.28) It was the general practice of these folks to bury their dead in mounds of dirt called a "tumulus". Other terms are "round barrow" or "cairns". Between 30,000 and 40,000 such graves are estimated to dot the landscape of England and Wales. (Dyer, p. 36) I suspect that it was these folks who first provided the Y-chromosome to my JONES family!

The name "Cadwgan" is first used around 700 AD, when a chieftain from Dyfed takes this name. (Ashley, p.137) [The kingdom of Dyfed was originally known as the tribal territory of the Demetae.] The name appears again just to the east, in the kingdom of Glywysing, when Cadwgan ap Owain (930 - 950 AD) appears in Southern Wales. (Ashley, p.130) It was his older brother [Gruffydd ap Owain] who was in constant conflict with Hywel Dda, the father-in-law to Tudor Trevor! I suspect that it was through this route that the name was given to the area around "Plas Cadwgan". It was Cadwgan ap Bleddyn in 1088 AD who laid claim to territory in Powys! (Ashley, p 368) "Plas Cadwgan" [Cadwgan Hall], was to become the largest estate in the manor of Esclusham. The clan who claimed to be the owners were of the descent of Cynwig ap Rhiwallon, the great grandson of Tudor Trevor! What a deal!

The references are:

Dyer, J, The Penguin Guide to Prehistoric England and Wales, Penguin Books, 1981.

Ashley, M, British Kings & Queens, Barnes & Noble Books, NY, 1998.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hen Dinas

Almost due south from the town of Wrexham is Oswestry. It is the southern most anchor of Wat's dyke leading to the ancient hill fort called "Old Oswestry Hill Fort". Strictly speaking, according to James Dyer, "hillforts" were hilltops defended by walls of stone, banks of earth or fences of wood, usually accompanied by one or more external ditches. They are generally associated with the iron age folks, starting around 800 B.C.

Old Oswestry, Selattyn, is considered one of the most complex of this periods hillforts. The fortifications cover about 40 acres, and in parts, has as many as seven ramparts. The hill top contains roughly 16 acres, and is felt by Professor W.J. Varley (excavated site in 1939), at first to have contained a group of circular timber-built huts. Two ramparts were built at a later date, encircling the hill, which by this time contained circular stone huts. Over time, further changes took place extending the defenses, building one of the most complex series of deep hollows and ridges. [More will be said about this later.] This fortification certainly took advantage of a lofty, natural eminence, and is traditionally felt to be the ancient site of the town of Oswestry. Wat's Dyke connects here, and it certainly would have been occupied before this dyke was built. It is around this area that much of my JONES family had its roots. Perhaps, this "Hen Dinas" was the first location of my Celtic tribe.

The reference is : "Prehistoric England and Wales", by James Dyer, Penguin Books, 1981. Old Oswestry is discussed on pages 220-221. Hill forts are discussed on pages 33-34.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wrexham (Wrecsam)

Wat's Dyke made its way through the ancient Lordship of Bromfield. The townships which formed this area are shown in the figure to the right, which was taken from the detailed work of Palmer and Owen. It shows the flow of Wat's Dyke in relationship to Offa's Dyke as they both pass through this area. Less than two miles apart, in the area of Bersham and Wrexham, they form a narrow space which must have been an exchange point between the Welsh, and those Anglo-Saxons, who built the dykes.

It was at this geographic point that the "commot of Wrexham" became the "Manor of Wrexham". Initially called the townships of "Wrexham Fawr" and "Wrexham Fechan", they were jointly called "Wrexham Regis". Early forms of the name were "Wristlesham"(1161 AD), "Wrettesham" or "Wrectesham" (1236 AD), "Wyrcesson (1291 AD), and "Wrightlesham" (1316-17 AD). These names were felt by Palmer and Owen to be errors made by clerks.

Acton (Acatone/une) [Church with Saxon stonework], Allington (Allentune), Broughton (Brochetone/tune), Eaton (Eton) [1000 salmon] {must have been a good place to fish!}, Eyton (Eitune) [fisheries], and Gresford (Gretford) were all recorded in "The Domesday Book", but not Wrexham. Apparently, its name first appears in English records 1161 AD as outlined above. [Taken from: The Domesday Book, Thomas Hinde, Editor.]

It was here that the eldest son of Jeuaf(Ievan)(JH-1), Iorweth Fychan (JI-1), was first identified as "of Llwyn Onn". [Jeuaf (JH-1) was alive 3 March 1140 AD.] This Llwyn Onn, meaning "Ash Grove", was apparently the winter home (hendre). The land was roughly 1.5 miles to the east of Wrexham. The summer home (hafod) was near Llanfiar Dyffryn Clwyd, which was also called Llwyn-ynn (Llwyn Onn). As you can see from the map above, this land was split by Wat's Dyke and Offa's Dyke. Just how did we, my Welsh ancestors, manage to keep active these two areas on different sides of the fence? That story is yet to c0me!

The family tree is given in detail at:

The most detailed reference is : A History of Ancient Tenures of Land in North Wales and the Marches, by Alfred Palmer and Edward Owen, printed 1910. The map above is enlarged from this text.

The Domesday references are taken from the most readable text: The Domesday Book, England's Heritage, Then and Now, Thomas Hinde, Editor, Hutchinson Publishing Group, London, 1985, pp. 52-55.

Monday, November 14, 2011

To The South

Wat's Dyke extends its way southward out of Basingwerk Abbey. Passing near Halkyn Mountain, it moves between Caerwys and Northop to join the eastern bank of the Alyn river. Here it runs parallel on its eastern bank, splitting Mold and Buckley, Leeswood and Hope, and enters Denbighshire near Caergwrle. Continuing southward, it intersects the ground of Erddig estate just west of Wrexham, leaving Brymbo and Moss on the western side, and Gresford on the eastern side. It then passes near Rhuabon, on its eastern side, entering the grounds of Wynnstay. It then joins the Dee for about 2 miles, until it joins the eastern margin of Brynkinallt Park. Then, near Gobowen Station, it follows a line almost due south to Oswestry. Setlattyn is located to the west, with Whittington and Ellesmere to the eastern side. This dyke must have been the Saxons earliest attempt to mark their boundary and new settlement claims. [Offa extending their claims further western under his reign. (d. 796 AD)]

This account is taken from Nicholas, Vol. I, p.388, p. 437. The title of his book is : Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales. It was first published in London, 1872 and reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1991. I am not sure if some of the landmarks are still standing as listed. If any reader can make any correction please post. It was along this Wat's Dyke that many of my Welsh family made their Welsh genealogy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A New Blog : Cadwallader Jones

For those with Welsh ancestors and an interest in Welsh genealogy, the surname JONES is paramount. Cadwallader is a Welsh name meaning "War Ruler" or "War King". After many years of research into his life, I wish to tell his story. If interested the link is:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Basingwerk Abbey

The northern most anchor of Wat's dyke was a stronghold called Dinas Bassing. According to Nicholas, this was felt to be of Saxon origin, but the beginnings are unknown. The area was first inhabited by the iron age peoples leaving their hill forts, cairns, and circles. The Ordovices are credited with building some of the fortifications. [ See: Prehistoric England and Wales, by James Dyer, Penguin Books, pp. 346-347.] The area was also occupied during the Roman period. Its location on the coastal road to NW Wales was certainly a strategic military location. Its "heyday" was during the kings of Mercia where Offa's [Offa's Dyke fame!] own son Cenwulf was reported to have died there in the year 821 AD.

The abbey was founded in 1131 AD by Ranulf, Earl of Chester. [The Order of Savigny established 14 such abbeys in Britain. See: "The Abbeys & Priories of Medieval England", by Colin Platt, pp.26-27. A view from the air is shown on p. 207.] However, this Order was merged with the Cistercians in 1147 AD and the monks took on the "white habit" of the Cistercian. [It was officially made a Cistercian abbey by Henry II in 1159 AD.]

It was during the summer of 1277 AD that Edward I established his personal head-quarters here while the castle of Flint was being constructed. It was only a matter of time until the conquest of Llewelyn was completed. (Statutum Wallie of 12 Edward I) [ See: "The Welsh Wars of Edward I", by John E. Morris, pp.130-132.]

Just north along the coastal road is Mostyn. Just west in the town of Whitford. Holywell surrounds the abbey, and Flint Castle is to the south. All these locations were to become the home of my family's DNA. Certainly a strategic location it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wat's Dyke

Building fences has been part of the Welsh landscape since the causewayed camps of the Neolithic folks. Intruders [first wild animals, then wild men!] could only be kept out by vertical walls with, probably, water-filled ditches outside them. As time passed, and the needs changed, these fences became more complex taking all sorts of shapes and sizes. Hill forts became the norm, and all sizes were constructed depending upon the manpower and the resources.

The Romans of course went all out, building stone fences (walls) which parts still stand today. These were linear fences, marking long distances, which would certainly provide quite an impression to those on the other side.

The Anglo-Saxons followed with a series of wooden fences that would clearly mark a border to their most recent conquered lands. Starting in the south, the Wessex folks separated Cornwall from Wales following the battle of Dyrham [around 577 AD] by building Wansdyke. Thus the southern flank was somewhat protected from those wild Welsh.

The Northumbians and Mercians fought one another for the privilege to set the northern border. At first, the Northumbrian folks took the lead, and at the battle of Chester [ca. 613] defeated the folks from Powys. [It was here that the slaughter of monks at Bangor-Is-Coed is recorded.] Then, the Mercia Kingdom felt that the Northumbians were getting too powerful, and at the battle of Oswestry [Cogwy] around 641 AD, they put a stop to the Northumbrian folks. It was then the Mercians turn to set the stage for building Wat's Dyke. [The Annales Cambriae records ca. 634 AD that the Britons lost the crown of the kingdom and the Saxons won it!]

The drawing above shows the rough location of Wat's Dyke. Its name most likely comes from the Anglo-Saxon, "wat", meaning "guards". [See: Hand-Book of Anglo-Saxon and Early English, by Hiram Corson, 1873, p. 472.] It "guards" the northern most section of the Welsh border, protecting the northern flank of Anglo-Saxon settlement [colonists]. It was in this area where the onset of Welsh attacks was most frequent and destructive, making for the productive lands of Shropshire.

Starting at Oswestry (Oswestry Old Fort), the dyke moved northward along a series of lands and settlements which ended at Basingwerk Abbey. The locations identified [shown on the map] fell along both sides of this dyke, and represented my own family's locations. It was along Wat's Dyke that my JONES family had settled many years before the Anglo-Saxons arrived. Understanding this relationship [Wat's Dyke to family's land] has helped me sort through my Welsh genealogy...but that's another story.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This End of the World

Understanding the dynamics of this new faith, first called "Christian" at Antioch [see Book of Acts 11:26], is important in realizing the implications that it had on individuals for generations to come. Just as the Celtic world would never be the same, the whole world would never be the same. It is hard to imagine, that a small group of folks who had huddled around fear, discouragement, and doubt, would lead this new faith first in Jerusalem, then to Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the end of the world.

Eusebius writing some three centuries later, outlines the early centers of this faith. Jerusalem beginning around 41 AD, followed by Antioch; then Rome [54 AD], followed by Alexandria in Egypt.

It was under Diocletian [starting 284 AD] that the destruction of these early centers occurred, ending the Church at Jerusalem [35 leaders listed from 41 AD to 282 AD], Antioch [ 19 leaders listed 41 AD to 286 AD], and Alexandria [17 leaders listed 54 AD to 286 AD]. The Church at Rome was the only one to survive, listing Miltiades as the leader in 311 AD. [Rome had 29 leaders listed between 54 AD to 286 AD.] It was during this period of persecution that many of the faith fled to areas at the edges of the known world.

One such group moved to the edge of the Egyptian desert. Prayer and contemplation was certainly needed and a fellow named Antony lead the way. His example is credited with the movement titled "monasticism" [ca. 251 AD - 356 AD] which by 370 AD had spread to Tours in what is now France. By 400 AD disciples of Martin of Tours had established a monastery at a place on the coast of what is now south-west Scotland. It was called Whithorn, and a monk named Ninian (d. 432) started things off on this end of the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Never Be The Same

As early as 60 AD, Paul the Apostle indicated an interest in visiting Spain. [The book of Romans 15:24.] At this time in the Roman world, the "Diocese of Spain" was administratively considered part of the "Prefecture of Gaul". In this Prefecture, besides the Diocese of Spain, and the Diocese of Gaul, was the "Diocese of Britain". It was the increase in persecution of this new "sect" that would lead many to flee to this western most part of the end of the world.

By the time Christianity had become the state religion, Eusebius (ca. 325 AD) had recorded countless names of those killed by the state from the time of Tiberius [14 AD], to that of Maximin. [306 AD] Eusebius himself had been placed in prison 309 AD for his Christian faith. Gaul was listed by Eusebius with three centers of church activity at 1) Arles, 2) Lyons, and 3) Vienne. Out of these three centers, much was done to spread Christianity to the Islands.

However, it was those folks from the Egyptian desert that seemed to play the earliest roll in bringing the Christian faith to the Islands. Hermits and monks they were often called. Living a life of strict self-denial, they brought to the Celtic world a life style that would easily be recognized in the wilds of this western most frontier. Besides, who in their right mind would want to come to this part of the world unless their very life depended upon it!

It would have been a slow and gradual process from this migration of monks from Gaul and the Iberian peninsula. These islands would never be the same.

The work of Eusebius is found: "The History of The Church" translated by G.A. Williamson, Dorset Press, 1984. A listing of the martyrs are given on pp. 418-420. The centers of Church activity (Bishoprics) are given on pp. 417-418.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Flow and Ebb

From Central Asia, the Huns started the ethic flow to the west. No other ethic group seemed to match their martial skills and ferocity. They are credited with annihilating everything in their path! By 370 AD, the Goths had been divided by the Danube with a western branch (Visigoths) and an eastern branch (Ostrogoth). Their western flow pressed on to the City of Rome itself, being sacked by Alaric, "The Visigoth" in 410 AD.

It was at this time that the Christian Church was trying to make heads or tails out of all these happenings. A mystic in North Africa named Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote down his thoughts. It certainly contained the view held by what was left of the Church at Rome. [Augustine began to write his book three years after Alaric completed his work in the city of Rome.] The destruction of the city of Rome, who many had thought "would stand forever", left just as many feeling demoralized. There were still folks remaining in the Empire who wanted to blame these "Christians" for its very downfall. Of course the Christians wanted to blame the "pagans". Who indeed were guilty for all this catastrophe.

In 22 chapters (called Books), Augustine writes his "City of God". In Book I, he censures the pagans especially for the sack of Rome. Book II - Book III he reviews the calamities suffered by the Romans before Christianity, claiming their gods had plunged them into corruption and vice. He then presents his view of theology, and the workings of a "Supreme God" who really had things in hand all along. [Book IV- Book XXII] The "real" city was not Rome, but a "City of God". In his first paragraph Augustine writes:

"For the King and Founder of this city of which we speak, has in Scripture uttered to His people a dictum of the divine law in these words: 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.'"

The flow and ebb continues...right up to the Celtic Church located at the end of the world.

Reference: "The City of God by Saint Augustine", translated by Marcus Dods, with an Introduction by Thomas Merton. The Modern Library, NY. Random House, Inc. 1950.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Ebb and Flow

The ebb and flow of the forces that effect mankind make for some interesting genealogy. Having explored these forces "on and off" for many years [roughly 52 years now!], I often think I have made some progress in understanding what factors impacted our ancestors lives. What seemed to make them do what they did to survive!

Welsh genealogy has opened many doors to this exploration. It is certainly not a simple matter for those of us from this side of the great pond. Where to begin is a key questions, but where to end this tree climbing endeavor is a never ending one. [There is always another branch to climb out!]

For most of my years I had operated under the assumption that Welsh genealogy began with the fall of the Roman Empire. It was the withdrawal of this central Roman government that left the Celtic tribal groups to return to their own roots. [Starting around 410 AD.] It was then important to try and understand this Celtic culture that surrounded the folks who occupied the most western part of the Island. [Starting around 400 B.C.]

I then realized that it was this very Roman Empire that conquered the Celtic culture hundreds of years before, leaving the Celtics at the western fringe of the world. [Take that you Romans I thought.]

The earliest writers on the Island, (Gildas, Bede, and the like), begin the fall of the "Britons" [meaning those Celtic tribal groups left on the Island] with the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. However, it is clear that the Romans had already faced these folks across the Channel with their extensive coastal defenses called "Saxon Shore forts". [Some started as early as 300 AD!] It is now clear that these "Saxons" [By some the word means pirates.] were themselves being forced westward by forces beyond their control.

Originally called "Hsiung-nu" , these folks from Central Asia became the most feared military force to arrive on the central European theater. They became known as the "Huns". [It is believed that the "Great Wall of China" was built to keep these folks from moving eastward.] Thus, turning westward they forced the "Goths", who became the "Visigoths" (western Germany) and the "Ostrogoths" (eastern Germany) to moved further westward by 376 AD. It was some of these folks who sacked Rome in 410 AD! Thus begins the start of the Welsh nation and Welsh genealogy.

The ebb and flow...will it ever end?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Normanisation: The Beginning of the End

Two "counties palatine" were created by William I on the newly formed borders of Wales. The "earls" selected were practically independent administrators of the lands they had been awarded. The Palatinate of Chester, and The Palatinate of Shrewsbury were designed by this military mind to oppose the more powerful Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys. Chester was over against the Princes of Gwynedd, whose power stretched out from Snowdon to Flint in the northwest. Shrewsbury was over against the Princes of Powys, who where settled on the upper Severn and upper Dee. These "earls palatine" had to hold the border [for William I], and were allowed to conquer across this border as they could.

The first "Earl of Chester" was the nephew of William I, named Hugh of Avranches. The first "Earl of Shrewsbury" was Roger of Montgomery, who had been left in charge of Normandy while William was taking control of Anglo-Saxon England. Personal loyalty was the key. This loyalty was expected to bind them to "the crown" [William I], and keep them from deciding to take matters into their own hands, and rebel against the crown.

Thus, the "Normanisation" of the Welsh borders began. This began as a conscious co-operation under sanction of the king, William I. A Norman colony with its own rights planted at the most important posts along the border of Wales. The beginning of the end!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Palatinate

For the genealogist, words often make a difference in the understanding of time and travel into the past. This is especially true when one travels "into the past" of Welsh history.

"The Palatinate" is such a word. It comes from the Latin... palatinus...which means, of or relating to, a palace. Of course you would have to live in a palace to really grasp its meaning. Living in a palace implies that the owner of the palace possesses "royal privileges". He, or she, would be considered to have sovereign power within its walls, and within the domain that surrounded the palace.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the Germanic kingdoms that came to the forefront. Of these Germanic kingdoms only the Frankish kingdom survived to form "The Carolingians". [Charlemagne and all those folks.] The main regions of their kingdoms were placed in the hands of the strongest noblemen who came to be called "the mayor of the palace". It would seem that great families struggled with each other for this position, thus laying the ground work for this concept.

After the Saxons, and then the Normans arrived to claim some land of the Welsh, this concept had been established. A "Palatine" was a feudal lord having sovereign power within his domains.
He was to have "complete" and "absolute" ownership of the land. A "Palatinate" was the territory of a "Palatine". Whew, enough already!

All this is said to help the genealogist understand that some of the earliest "English" records pertaining to Wales are called "Records of The Palatinate of Chester". This included the county of Flint. [I was always confused with the terms Palatinate because I thought Chester was a town, and then a county]. These records consist of the financial, judicial and administrative activities of the Exchequer of Chester, and of the common-law records of the ancient Sessions of the county.

Ancient Deeds have been assembled mainly from these records. [Ancient Deeds, Series F (Wales 29), from Edward I to Elizabeth I, a total of 516 deeds.

Anyone still live in a palace?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Long, long ago... in a kingdom... far, far away, a man of short stature established a new dynasty which came to be called "The Carolingian Dynasty". The year was 751 AD, and the man was called Pepin III, "the short"! His son, Charlemagne, is credited with laying the foundation of the feudal age, giving rise to kings, knights, knights fees, homage, scutage, palatinates, lords, manors, and all kinds of terms that tend to haunt the genealogist. It all seems to center around ownership of land, and the king possessing "Royal Privileges" surround his claims of ownership.

The first premise was that the king had complete and absolute ownership of the land in his domain. It was his right to used the land as he saw fit, and allow others to use the land as he wished. Since he needed a small army of fighting men to see that his wishes would be carried out, he needed to keep a gang of fellows around him, who would be happy and delighted to keep the party going. These fighting men had to swear allegiance to the king in order to be invited into the "King's Court" and participate in the goings on! [During this time, to give your "oath" was also to God and King, for God had allowed this king to represent him on earth as the temporal leader. The Pope was appointed by God to represent his interest in the spiritual matters surrounding mankind.]

As the "King's Household" expanded, his trusted advisers (King's Council) and trusted supporters (King's Court) needed to keep tract of their activities especially having to do with taxes, and the judgements that had to do with kings wishes and decisions. A "judicial" and "financial" aspect of the kingdom evolved. There was also a need to keep records of the events and decisions made, thus a "secretarial" branch evolved. [Those who could write were usually from the Church.]

At the time of Charlemagne, an Anglo-Saxon king name Offa, was reeking havoc along the Welsh border, raising fences and such. [Offa's Dyke] His kingdom, the kingdom of "Mercia" caused all kinds of trouble for the developing Welsh nation. He was the first to bring the "penny" to Wales...a penny for my thoughts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Family

Vocabulary becomes an important part in Welsh tree climbing. The two previous posts has demonstrated the distinctive nature of the Welsh language as it is compared to the Latin, French, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon [Old English] for the words that deal with life. The figure to right shows the vocabulary for the family.

A "husband" is gwr. A wife is gwraig. A boy [bashgen] is noted as "a son of" with ab, ap, mab, and fab. A daughter is verch, or ferch.

Welcome to the family!

The figure shows a method I have used to represent the family tree. For a discussion see:

Recognizing this vocabulary is helpful in understanding Welsh genealogy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Words of Life

In ancient Wales, at fourteen the male was to become essentially a ward of the state (gwlad). [See "At His Father's Platter", April 28, 2011.]

From the age of twelve years, the female was able to be given "to a husband". [See "Daughters", May 1, 2011.]

The following table gives more words of life, beginning with "boy" to "man", and "girl" to "women".

In the Welsh, "B" words again stay with the males, but "M" words shift to the women. The English of course follows the Anglo-Saxon. No real pattern continues for the Greek, Latin, and French. Again, the Welsh shows its distinct language for the sounds it makes to give the words of life.

The table is the same given last post, but the additional words are shown in "human development" order, giving a chronology of words which pronounce the stages of life.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Words of Life

Language is one part of a culture that defines its existance. Words express emotions, demands, descriptions, wants and desires, and become the words of life.

The following table list some foundational words of life. In our English language the word "life" come from the Anglo-Saxon "lif". In the Greek, it is "zoe" where the word zoology comes. In French it is "vie", and in Latin it is "vita". In the Welsh it is "bywyd".

The table shows other words of life from its beginnings. Birth, baby, infant, and child are shown for the English, Welsh, Latin, French, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon. Latin (Romans), French (Normans), and Anglo-Saxon all had something to do with the land of the Welsh. The Welsh words clearly show a difference in their structure, apparently not influenced by all these other cultures. They are words of the lips..."B" words, or bilabial. This shows the Celtic influence of its "P-Celtic" roots. [See post "Mind your P's and Q's", August 5, 2010, ] I guess when they saw one of those heads start to pop out, the "gaw" factor took over!

Words of life, spoken differently though the tongues of men. The Welsh had their own way.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Blog: The Brick Wall Protocol

Just started a new blog for those doing genealogy who face a "brick wall". See: Welsh genealogy certainly has a few!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Paramount to medieval Welsh culture was the "cenedl"...the kindred. In medieval Wales this was important for social stability and cultural survival. Inheritance of land and compensation for injury was accounted through the kindred. Surrounding the "cenedl" was the land occupied and claimed by the family. All families needed houses, and the plot of land carrying a house (ty) was called a "toft". Essentially the word implies land that was enclosed, thus giving rise to a settlement involving animals and gardens. Food production became the essential activity, and the land and homestead became the "tref".

Previous posts defined the "legal acre", which helped set boundaries and locations for plowing and feeding animals. Welsh law defined that four such acres would be in a "toft". The kindred shared land, and four "tofts" were to be in every "shareland". Thus, four related families might share around 16 acres. Now, four "sharelands" would be consided a "holding". This would mean that roughly 16 families would occupy and share 64 "legal acres" of land. Perhaps 32-40 family members.

Four "holdings" would become a "townland". Not in the same sense as we know towns today, but a group of rural families having an identity. Thus, 256 acres would organize a kindred into a recognizable unit.

Four "townlands" would provide a population needing political and judicial activity, recognizing that so many folks would come to disagreement. This was known as the "maenol" (manor), and became the center of legal activities. [The name "mayor" comes from this organization.] Now you can imagine the complexity as the number of family members grew. So roughly there was 1024 acres in every "maenol". [Remember today that 1 square mile contains 640 acres, so this would be around 1.5 to 2 square miles.]

Now 12 "maenols" (Maenolydd) would make up a "commote". This became the smallest social unit of administration for the multiple family groups that came to occupy the land. This would roughly be 12, 800 acres of land. [About 20 square miles.] This would be like a "county" in one of the states. Two "commotes" became a "cantred" (canfref). The "candred" identified as tribal land. Thus a tribe would be seen as a group of "kindred" occupying an area of land which acted together for peace and war. They were responsible for handling all criminal and civil issues occurring within their "cantref".

So let's review.

4 legal acres in every toft (farm with a house),
16 legal acres in every shareland (4 tofts = 4 farmsteads working together),
64 legal acres in every holding (4 sharelands),
256 legal acres in every townland (4 holdings),
1024 legal acres in every maenol (4 townlands),
12,800 legal acres in a commonte (12 maenols),
two commotes in the canfred. (English verson of Welsh Word is cantref.)

Wow, just think this all started with a kernel of barleycorn!

Information abstracted from Hywel Dda The Law, Law Texts From Medieval Wales, Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Legal Acre

Farming with a plow in the early days certainly had its troubles. When settlements got to the size that several families shared the land, who was suppose to know what could be planted, were to raise the chickens, were to graze the cattle, slop the pigs, and herd the sheep? Exactly how much land was needed to feed my family?

The farmers of the day came up with a system known as "the legal acre". This was based upon the barleycorn measurements outlined in the last post titled: "Leaps and Bounds". Remember that 3 lengths of the barleycorn defined the "inch". Three inches made a "palmbreath", and 3 palmbreaths made the "foot". The yoke became the next unit of measurement seeing how every farmer had his plow and yoke.

There was 4 feet in the short yoke, 8 feet in the mid-yoke, 12 feet in the armpit yoke, and 16 feet in the long yoke. A "rod" was defined as the long yoke (16 feet) in the caller's hand [the one doing the plowing] with the middle peg of that yoke in his other hand, and as far as he reaches with it with his arm stretch out. This method would set the measurement of the legal acre. The width would be one rod, and the length would be 30 times the rod. Thus, the legal acre was 16 ft. wide by 480 ft. long. [7,680 sq. feet] There was to be 4 such acres in the "toft" (homestead). So there you have it. A family (homestead) had roughly 4 legal acres to make a living. You could plow long rows before you had to turn around!

The measurements are taken from: "Hywel Dda The Law", translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990, p. 121.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Leaps and Bounds

The claim to land ownership was central to the cultural groups that came to our island. The earliest to arrive of course had "first dibs", when they settled and occupied the land. The "open spaces" thus became distinguishable by boundaries, based upon these claims to ownership.

Land ownership initially centered around the family units that occupied, farmed, had their young, grazed their animals upon, and buried their dead within [or upon] the land. Generations evolved that came to expect this land would be passed down to the next generation. Conflicts frequently arose when one member of the family thought they owned, or deserved, a sections of land that another family member claimed. Family feuds would arise creating all sorts of dilemmas for the greater good. Keeping everyone happy was a real challenge. Where are these boundaries anyway? Who is going to make me stay on my side of fence? Who's in charge here? I'll just take it! No one can take it form me! My might makes right!

The family groups that got along together would seem to have a better chance of survival. Frequently, one family member [or several] became the head and judge of these land disputes. [Or other family disputes as well.] His, or their, decision(s) would become the common practice of the family group, thus establishing some sort of order and authority among those living upon the land. If these decisions worked well, they might be adopted by other family groups or passed down to the next generations. Ultimately, a land holding system would be in place allowing for a more stable environment. These decisions, and others, became the common practice of the tribe...the beginnings of "common law".

Now it became evident very early, that one would soon have to figure out a way to measure this land and its boundaries. The farmers seem to have started things off, by using the corn plant that all would have grown and eaten. A kernel of corn held in the hand could be see by all and understood. [Grains of barleycorn were uniformly equal in size!] Three lengths of barleycorn was to equal one inch! Nine barley corn lined up in the palm of the hand was called a "palmbreath", and three "palmbreaths" would equal a foot. There were to be three feet in the step, and three steps in the leap. Three leaps would be called the land. [used as a measurement] A thousand lands in the mile. So 3000 leaps would be a mile! Gee, leaps and bounds! More to come.

These measurements are taken from "Hywel Dda The Law" translated by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990. pp. 120-122.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Parish Registers

In September, 1538, Henry VIII issued an order to every parish priest. Each parish priest was to start keeping a record of all wedding, christening and burials held in that parish. Each parish was to supply their own register, and could choose their own format in organizing the records. All entries from this point were to be make in Latin, and Welsh was banned from any official record. The Welsh language could be found in place-names, personal names, and occasionally in marginal notes.

For the genealogist, it is important to recognize that the usual dates recorded in these records include the "date of baptism" not birth, the "date of burial", not death, and the "date of marriage".

A detailed account leading up to these ancient parish registers can be found in a text, "Key to The Ancient Parish Registers of England & Wales", by Arthur Meredyth Burke. He describes the social and political response of the times, including of course the worry that this would only serve as a means to "tax" the churches.

What this requirement did do is produce a large number of "clandestine marriages". This is where those who did not agree with the new church organization, or authority, sought marriage outside the parish church. The "nonconformists" they were called. Roman Catholics ("Popery"), Quakers, Jews, Methodists, and other "dissenters" would not count their marriage acceptable under this Church of England. For the genealogist, this will mean that many of these parish records may not record a marriage, even though the family records state one occurred. This may also mean that your family may have been a member of one of these "nonconformists" groups. Certainly, many of these groups came to the shores of the colonies.

The main reference is:

Burke, A.M., Key To The Ancient Parish Registers of England & Wales, Clearfield Co.,Baltimore, MD, 1989. [First published London, 1908, reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1962.]

Friday, July 1, 2011


Invaluable is the work done by those who have gone before. Professor Emeritus, Wendy Davies has lead the way in exploring and understanding Welsh history, society, and culture from its earliest days. Dr. Davies (Phd) had done much to piece together what made Wales. The following is an outline of her work which reflects her contribution to Welsh history and genealogy. Her book "Wales in the Early Middle Ages" (Leicester University Press, 1982) gives a very readable account of early Welsh social structure. Her work does much to help those explore and understanding Welsh genealogy.

1. Davies, W., 'The Consecration of Bishops of Llandaff in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 26 (1974-6) 53-73.

2. Davies, Wendy, An Early Welsh Microcosm: Studies in the Llandaff Charters (London 1978).

3. Davies, W. 'Land and Power in Early Medieval Wales', Past and Present 81 (1978) 3-23.

4. Davies, W. 'The Latin Charter Tradition in Western Britain, Brittany and Ireland in the Early Mediaeval Periond', in Ireland in Early Mediaeval Europe Studies in Memory of Kathleen Hughes, edd. D. Whitelock et al. (Cambridge 1982) pp. 258-80.

5. Davies, W. 'Liber Landavensis'': its Constructions and Credibility', English Historical Review 88 (1973) 335-351.

6. Davies, Wendy 'The Landaff Charters (Aberystwyth 1979).

7. Davies, W. 'St. Mary's, Worcester, and the Liber Landavensis" Journal of the Society of Archivists 4 (1970-3) 459-489.

8. Davies, W. 'The Orthography of Personal Names in the Charters of Liber Landavensis', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 28 (1978-80) 553-557.

9. Davies, W. 'Unciae: Land Measurement in the Liber Landavensis' Agricultural History Review 21 (1973) 111-121.

10. Davies, Wendy, Wales in the Early Middle Ages (Leicester 1982).

Thanks, Dr. Davies.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peter Bartrum

Researching Welsh genealogies is a task. At least for most of us, reading and understanding Welsh genealogical tracts and text make for a long afternoon. Peter C. Bartrum was successful at both. Starting in the 1930's, he explored early and medieval Welsh history and genealogy. His publications have become the standard for Welsh genealogical research. The following gives the reference for his work:

1) Bartrum, Peter C., "Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts.", Cardiff: Wales Univ. Press., 1966.

2) Bartrum, Peter C., "Notes on the Welsh Genealogical Manuscripts", Part I, Transactions of the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion (THSC), pp. 63-98., 1968.

3) Bartrum, Peter C., "Welsh Genealogies, AD 300-1400." Cardiff: Wales Univ. Press., 1974.

4) Bartrum, Peter C., "Further Notes on the Welsh Genealogical Manuscripts", Part II, Transactions of the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion (THSC) , pp. 102-118, 1976.

5) Bartrum, Peter C., "Notes on the Welsh Genealogical Manuscritps", Part III, Transcations of the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion (THSC), pp. 37-46, 1988.

This work is being made available on line by Aberystwyth University at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Of Noble Descent

Gerald of Wales in 1188 AD kept a travel-diary of his preaching-tour through Wales which Archbishop Baldwin used to raise support for the Third Crusade. Being Welsh himself, [some writers count "three parts Norman and one part Welsh"], he records his view of the Welsh nation of his day which would be during the last years of Henry II. In Chapter 17, entitled, "Their respect for noble birth and ancient genealogy", he expresses the following opinion :

"The Welsh value distinguished birth and noble descent more than anything else in the world. They would rather marry into a noble family than into a rich one. Even the common people know their family-tree by heart and can readily recite from memory the list of their grandfathers, great-grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers, back to the sixth or seventh generation, as I did earlier on for the Welsh princes: Rhys son of Gruffydd, Gruffydd son of Rhys, Rhys son of Tewdwr, and so on."

Thus Gerald expresses the view that before the death of Henry II, who died 6 July 1189, the Welsh still maintained their Celtic roots, with the family unit being the center of social structure. In the same chapter he goes on to write:

"As they have this intense interest in their family descent, they avenge with great ferocity any wrong or insult done to their relations. They are vindictive by nature, bloodthirsty and violent. Not only are they ready to avenge new and recent injuries, but old ones, too, as if they had only just received them."

The title "Family Feud" might be applied. It was this continual tribal warfare that gave Edward I the edge to begin his conquest of Wales.

A source for "Gerald of Wales" is found:

"Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales", translated with an introduction by Lewis Thorpe, Penguin Books, 2004, London. Reference quoted above are on page 251.

P.S. Just in case some readers might feel that Gerald had an opinion which just applied to his time period in Welsh history, I quote Roman historian writing 98 AD regarding the Britons:

"Nature has willed that every man's children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonored under the names of friendship and hospitality." From: Tactitus, The Life of Agricola. Found in "The Historians of Ancient Rome", edited by Ronald Mellor, Routlede, NY, 1998. p. 400.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Early Welsh Documents (Part VI)

Part six of a series of post that deal with the early documents of Wales. Taken from the text published in 1856 by Richard Sims titled: "A Manual For The Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor".

"List of Lords Presidents of the Marches of Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 368, f.181; Add. MS. 5485, f.210".

"List of Deputy Lieutenants and Commission Officers in England and Wales, as they were brought into the House of Peers, in Nov. 1680; All Souls' Coll. Oxf. MS. ccxxiii, f.1."

"List of Chamberlains and Justiciaries of North Wales; Brit. Jus. Lansd. MS. 1218, f.64; Add. MS. 5485, f. 204."

"Justices of Peace for Wales; Brit. Mus. Lansd. MSS. 35, art. 40; 737, f. 149 - Harl. MS. 1933."

"List of Sheriffs of Brecknockshire, 1539 - 1717; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2289, f. 340."

"List of Bayliffs, Recorders, and Alderman of Brecknock, 1556 - 1715; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2289, f. 344."

"Names of Justices of the Peace in Co. Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke, 1587; Brit. Mus. Lansd. MS. 53, art. 87."

"Names of the Sheriffs of Denbigh, from 1541 to 1682; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2122, art. 32."

"List of High Sheriffs of Monmouth, 1647 - 1653; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 5832, f.181."

"Survey of the Cathedral Church of Bangor; Jesus Coll. Oxf. MS. cxvi."

"Surveys of the Cathedral Churches of Bangor, Llandaff, St.Asaph, and St. David's, by Browne Willis, were printed at London in the years 1721, 1718, 1720, and 1717, in 8 vo."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Early Welsh Documents (Part V)

This continues the series of posts (Part V) on early Welsh documents that deal with genealogy.

"A Display of Coat Armours now in use in the Six Counties of North Wales, by J. Davies. Salop, 1716. 12 mo."

"Arms of the Princes, Noblemen, and Gentlemen of Wales; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 15,018, f.307".

"Arms of the Founders of Welsh Families; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 1143; 1370; 1386; 1946".

"Arms of Welsh Families, sixteenth cent. ; Ashm. Lib. MS 32. - Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 1441, ff. 14-39; 1933; 4291; 6122".

"Arms of divers old Welsh Families, A.D. 1580; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1961".

"Arms of Flintshire Families, by Chaloner, 1670; Coll. of Arms, MS. D.26".

"A Book of all the Justices of the Peace in England and Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 7512, art.3".

"Names of Justices of Assize, Counsellors of the North, Counsellors of the Marches of Wales, Sheriffs, & c., A.D. 1562; Brit Mus. Lansd MS. 1218, f.64".

"Names of Gentlemen in Commission for the Peace in England and Wales, 1582; Brit. Mus. Lansd. MS. 35, art.40".

"Liber Pacis, or a List of Nobility and Gentry in England and Wales, qualified to act as Justices of Peace, circ. 1584; Brit. Mus. Lansd. MS. 737, f.149".

"List of Justices of Peace in England and Wales, circ. 1680; All Soul's Coll. Oxf. MS. ccxxiii".

"Shropshire: List of High Sheriffs for Shropshire, 1647-1653; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 5832, f.181". [Shropshire not officially part of Wales, but was part of Marches.]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Early Welsh Documents (Part IV)

This continues a series of posts on Welsh documents that deal with Heraldic Collections, pedigrees, and genealogies of Welsh families prior to 1850s. The first three posts record mostly Welsh Pedigrees. The following references deal with a variety of topics dealing mostly with Welsh documents.

"Heraldic Visitations of Wales and part of the Marches, between 1586 and 1613, by Lewys Dwnn, ed. by Sir Samuel R. Meyrick; 2 vols. 4 to. Printed by the Welsh MSS. Society." [1st published 1846.]

"The Royal Families of England, Scotland, and Wales, with their Descendents, Sovereigns, and Subjects, by J. and J.B. Burke. 2 vols, Lond. 1847-51. 8 vo."

"An Account of the Princes of Wales, from the first institution till Prince Henry, by R. Connak. 8 vo. 1751"

"The Royal Tribes of Wales, by P. Yorke, Wrexham, 1799. 4vo."

"Names and Arms of the Ancient Nobility and Knights of England and Wales, temp. Henry III. See the 'Antiquarian Repertory', vol. i."

"Descents of many of the Nobility and Gentry of Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1975."

"Thomas's Collections for a 'Genealogical History of the Ancient Nobility and Gentry of Wales'; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 6823; 6831; 6870."

"The Originals and Desents of the Nobility, Barony, and Gentry, in the Realme of England and Principality of Wales, by Richard Butcher, Gent.; fol. pap.; St. John's Coll.Camb. MSS. H.3; 4."

"Wales; Book of Funerals in North Wales, &c., A.D. 1600 and 1606; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2041; Lansd. MS. 879."

"Monumental Inscriptions upon Archbishops and Bishops of England and Wales, collected by John Le Neve; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 6407; 6414; 6416."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Early Welsh Document (Part III)

This continues the series on early Welsh documents that deal with genealogy. Its source is from the text by Richard Sims written in 1850 titled "A Manual for The Genealogist...". [See the two previous posts.]

"Arms and Descents of Welsh Families, temp. Hen. VII; ASHM. LIB. MS 32." [Not sure what the abbreviations for ASHM. LIB. represents. Anyone know, please post comment.]

"Copies of some Pedigrees in Fellows' Visitation of Wales in 1530; Coll. of Arms, MS. F. 9."

"Pedigrees from the Visitation of Wales, by Lewys Dwnn, edited by Sir Samuel R. Meyrick. 2 vols. Printed by the Welsh MSS. Society."

"Pedigrees of a few Welsh Families, compiled about 1587; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12, 471."

"A Collection of Welsh Pedigrees, compiled circ. 1590: Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 18,114."

"Welsh and Anglo-Saxon Genealogies in Welsh, seventeenth cent.; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 19,761."

"Descent of divers Noble Houses springing from Wales, eighteenth cent.; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14,914."

"List of Esquires in England and Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6804, art. 104."

"Willis's Collections for a History of Bangor; Jesus Coll. Oxf. MSS. cxv.; cxvi."

"Collection of Welsh Pedigrees, chiefly of Families of Brecknockshire; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2289."

"Pedigrees of Families of Carnarvonshire; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2300."

"History of Glamorganshire, by Rice Merrick, 1578; Queen's Coll. Oxf. MS. cclxxxviii. Privately printed by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart."

"A full Description of the County of Pembroke, containing some curious matter; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6250."

"Descents and Arms of Pembrokeshire Families; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6824."

"A Visitation of Pembrokeshire in 1671; Chetham Lib. MS. 6715."

"Observations on the Snowdon Mountains, with a Genealogical Account of the Penrhyn Families, by W. Williams. Lond. 1802. 8vo."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early Welsh Documents (Part II)

This is the second in a series of post that deal with Welsh documents having to do with genealogy. They have been recorded by Richard Sims in 1856. [A source not readily available to most folks.] He also compiled "Hand-book to the Library of the British Museum" where many of these references are stored. [Part II, taken from pp.227-228 of his text shown in the last post.]

"Pedigrees and other matter, chiefly Historical, relating to Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 4181". [See last post for definition of terms.]

"Genealogies of Welsh Families; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 5058."

"Arms and Descents of one hundred and ninety-seven Welsh Families; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6102."

"Pedigrees of Families of Shropshire and Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6153."

"Hugh Thomas's Collections for a "Genealogical History of the Nobility and Gentry of Wales"; Birt. Mus. Harl. MSS. 6823; 6831; 6870."

"Short Collections for a Feudal History of Wales; Brit. Mus. Add MS. 4232."

"Numerous Pedigrees of Welsh Families, sixteenth to eighteenth century; Brit. Mus. Add. MSS 6915, f. 445; 9864--9867; 14,915--14,919; 14,942; 15,041."

"Genealogies of the principal Families of Wales, in two vols; Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 15,017; 15,018."

"A Collection of Welsh Pedigrees; Caius Coll. Camb. MS. 537, f. 211."

"Pedigrees of Welsh Families; Coll. of Arms, Vincent MSS. 135--137."

"Ancient Descents of Gentlemen in Wales; Coll. of Arms, Vincent MS. 180."

"A short History of Wales, from A.D. 688 to A.D. 936, with some Genealogies and Epitaphs; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 3325."

More to come!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Early Welsh Documents (Part 1)

Welsh genealogy requires a great deal of interest in things of the past. Having some idea where documents exist which deal with this area is important. The earliest text I have found which deals with genealogy is titled "A Manual for The Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor..." by Richard Sims, published London, John Russell Smith, 1856. A copy of the title page is shown. In this text, an outline of Welsh resources [as they existed in 1856] is presented. I will try and outline these sources over the next several post.

Under "Heraldic Collections" beginning on page 227:

"A Tour in quest of Genealogy, through several parts of Wales, &c, by a Barrister. Lond. 1811. 8vo."

"Descents of Welsh Families; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1412, f. 54b." [Brit. Mus. = British Museum] [Harl. MS = Harleian Manuscripts] [f. = folio, meaning file which contains] [1412 = number of file in this series ] see

"Collection of Welsh Pedigrees in Welsh; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1935."

"Welsh Pedigrees, amongst which are those of each of the Fifteen Tribes, excepting one; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1969."

"Extensive Collections of Welsh Pedigrees, chiefly of North Wales; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS 1970 - 1979."

"Pedigrees of several Families of Wales, chiefly by Randle Holme; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS 2094."

"Pedigrees of several Welsh Families ; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 1936 ; 1995 ; 1997 ; 2218 ; 2288 ; 2291 ; 4031, ff. 58 - 71."

"A large Collection of Welsh Descents, principally in Welsh ; Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 2299 ; 2414."

"Welsh Pedigrees in detail; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 3538."

"Pedigrees of several Families in Wales ; Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 6068, f. 56."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welsh Adjectives as Names

Welsh names throw most genealogist into a cold sweat. What do they mean? How do you make heads or tails out of them. How do you find your ancestors in such a thorn bush of branches? The page to the right shows a listing of Welsh names as they were recorded in English records of 1301 AD. [The translation is provided by Professor G.R. Boynton, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City] Forty five percent (45%) of the 355 names listed were recorded in the form "Griffith ap Res". An additional 19% were listed as a Welsh birth name associated with a qualifier (adjective) . [For a discussion of these names see "Welsh Names in English Records 1301 AD" and "Welsh Birth Names 1301 AD" at ]

A list of qualifiers (adjectives) are given below, showing how a word used with a birth name often came to be part of the naming system. The word usually followed the birth name, but occasionally it was placed before.

Frequent Welsh qualifiers (adjectives): 1) abad = Abbot, 2) bach = little, 3) coch = red, 4) dew = fat, 5) du = black, 6) fychan = the younger, 7) glas = blue, 8) goch = red, 9) gwyn = white, 10) gwyrdd = green, 11) hen = old, 12) henaf = the elder, 13) hir = tall, 14) ieuaf/ ifanc = younger, 15) ieuanc = young, 16) leiaf = the younger, 17) main = thin, 18) mawr = the great, 19) melyn = yellow, fair, 20) rhudd = red, ruddy, 21) sais = Englishmen, Saeson (pl.), 22) sinobl = red, 23) teneu = the thin, 24) teg = fair, 25) tew = fat, 26) vychan/vaughan (from fychan) = the younger, 27) ychan/ v(f)ychan/ ynfyd = mad! So there you have many of the Welsh terms associated with a Welsh birth name. You can see how a genealogist might go ychan!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Between the Mead-brewer and Butler

Three main tribal groups formed the dominate Welsh Kingdoms. The northwest was founded by the post Roman administration of Cunedda and his nine sons. This became the Kingdom of Gwynedd which included "Ynys Mon" [Anglesey]. Vortigern is credited with the foundation of Powys, including what became "Northern Powys" and "Southern Powys". This Kingdom bordered the Anglo-Saxon expansion on the east, and Gwynedd expansion of the west. Dyfed was established by settlers from Ireland with major input from the early Celtic Church. An important religious center, St. Davids, became a strenght to the Kingdom and its founder a patron Saint to the Welsh. Eight smaller Kingdoms, mostly in the south, made up the mosaic of tribes.

You can certainly imagine the task that faced Hywel Dda when in 942 AD, he became the recognized head of Dyfed [905 AD], Gwynedd, and Powys, [942-950 AD]. He is credited with bringing all the lawyers, leaders, and scribes together to clarify the multiple tribal laws. [accepted social conduct]. He of course started with the King and his court! The law reads:

"It is right that there should be twenty-four officers in it:..." [The Court]. It goes own to say, "Three times every year the above twenty-four officers are entitled by law to their woollen clothing from the King and their linen clothing from the Queen - at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun." The twenty four members as listed were : 1) Captain of the Household, 2) Priest, 3) Steward, 4) Chief Falconer, 5) Court Judge, 6) Chief Groom, 7) Chamberlain, 8) Bard of the Household, 9) Usher, 10) Chief Huntsman, 11) Mead-brewer, 12) Physician, 13) Butler, 14) Doorkeeper, 15) Cook, 16) Candleman, 17) Queen's Steward, 18) Queen's Priest, 19) Queen's Chief Groom, 20) Queen's Chamberlain, 21) Queen's Handmaid, 22) Queen's Doorkeeper, 23) Queen's Cook, and 24) Queen's Candleman. [I had to laugh, being a physician, would place me between the "Mead-brewer" and the "Butler"!]

The information is taken from: "Hywel Dda The Law", translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990. The court is described on page 5. Also: "British Kings & Queens, by Mike Ashley, Barnes & Noble, Inc., 2000. The Welsh Kingdoms are presented starting on p. 121, going through page 164.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Liability and Status

More people, less space, produced a great deal of turmoil for those Celtic tribal groups that were driven into those western mountains. Defending the family's land and honour were a constant activity, especially when an insult from another family group was presented. "Eye for a eye, tooth for a tooth", was the common standard, and a tribal "feud" could last for generations.

It appears that Roman law started the concept of individual rights. Their term "iniuria" (injury) embraced an event where someone purposely disregard another's rights or personality. This usually involved some form of injury, or even death. In the place of returning equal retribution, a compensation was made to the victim or his/her family. Of course, this compensation varied according to the status of the victim. In Celtic culture, influenced by Roman laws, a "compensation payable" was called "sarhaed". When homicide was involved, this became a specific compensation called "galanas". This was the ancient Briton's attempt to limit death and destruction among the family groups and control vengeance (feud). The compensation for killing depended on the status of the victim, and the liability was spread among the kindred. Thus, if someone in your tribe killed, you would be held responsible, down to the forth cousin! So a Welsh name, gave your descent through six generations. If you were descended from a common 4-generation grandfather, then you had to pay into the compensation. What's in a Welsh name? Your liability and status!

A most important reference is: "Hywel Dda, The Law", translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990, the "galans" (p. 346), the "sarhaed" (pp. 379-380).

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Ancient Welsh law describes the social context of the daughter. It states:

"A daughter, after she is baptised, until she is seven years old, is not entitled to take an oath. From when she is born until she is twelve years old it is right for her to be at her father's platter."

This places the daughter under the care of her father from birth until age twelve. Since females mature earlier than males, they take on a defined role stated as follows:

"From twelve years old on, her breasts and pubic hair develop and she menstruates, and she is then of age to be given to a husband, and from then on, even if she does not take a husband she is entitled to control what is hers, and it is not right for her to be at her father's platter unless he himself wishes it."

"At twelve years old it is right for a woman to menstruate, as we have said above. And from twelve to fourteen years old it is right that she should not become pregnant, and from fourteen until she is forty it is right for her to conceive..."

Normal growth and development for the female became the outline for a females position within the family. At twelve she could be "given to a husband" and, at fourteen she was given the right "to conceive". What a deal.

Abstrated from: "Hywel Dda The Law, Law Texts From Medieval Wales", translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, 1990. pp. 131-132.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

At His Father's Platter

A male child born in the kindred was described in the Welsh law books as follows:

"From when the son is born until he is fourteen years old, it is right for him to be at his father's platter, with his father as lord over him. And no punishment of him is right save his father's."

Thus, from birth, a male child was the responsibility of the father, and no other person was allowed to punish the male child.

"At the end of the fourteenth year, it is right for the father to take his son to the lord and to commend him to him. And then it is right for him to do homage to the lord, and to be dependent on his lord's status..."

"And his father is from then on no more entitled to strike him than a stranger..."

"And from that age on he will be of the same status as an innate bonheddig [ a Welshman of full free status, a man of known ancestry]

At fourteen, the male was to become essentially a ward of the gwlad (state). His status (social standing) was to be that of his lord who was usually a kinsman. This "lord" was most likely the kinsman of highest statue within the tribe.

Now before any of the above could happen, a "son" had to be "legally laid" to his father. This was done by the mother in the following way:

"Whatsoever woman wants to lay a son legally, thus it is for her to lay him: she and the son come to the church where his burial-place is, and she comes as far as the altar and puts her right hand on the altar and the relics, and her left hand on the son's head, and so swears, to God first, and to that altar and to the good relics which are on it, and to the son''s baptism, 'that no father created this son in a mother's heart save' (such-and-such man, naming him) 'in my heart'. And so it is right to lay a son to a Welshman."

The above quotes are taken from "Hywel Dda, The Law" tranlated as "The Law of Hywel Dda, Law Texts From Medieval Wales, Translated and Edited by Dafydd Jenkins, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986. The quotes are abstracted from pp. 130-133.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church and State

Ancient history of the Welsh has been recorded by a couple of sources. The major source has been termed "The Annales Cambriae", compiled around 11oo AD from a number of older sources. Its entries are brief and to the point, describing events that have significance to the writers. Of course, the writers would be from the Church since they were the only ones who could write! I thought it would be of interest to see how much the Church and State interplayed among these early Welsh historians. These events have been analyzed by topics catigorized as "Church", "State", and "Nature". So here is my analysis.

There are 148 "events" recorded in the records. These are dated between 447 AD to 954 AD, a total of 507 years. The first event states: "Days as dark as night". This was classified as "Nature". The second event states: "Easter altered on the Lord's Day by Pope Leo, Bishop of Rome". This would be classified as "Church". In 516 AD there is a listing which states: "The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shield and the Britons were the victors." This was classified as both "Church" and "State". Each event was analyzed by content, and placed into the category(ies) that seemed to fit the best. Some events would fit into more than one category. Using this method, the following information was found:

1) The first 69 years (447-516) 100 percent were "Church" events [except for the very first date].

2) For the first 150 years (447-601), 67 percent were "Church" events, and 42 percent were "State" events. Only 8 percent were classified as "Nature".

3) The next 98 years (606-704) changed dramatically with only 21 percent "Church" and 72 percent "State". "Natural" events were listed at 24 percent.

4)The years 714 - 798 involved 20 percent "Church", 80 percent "State", and 10 percent "Nature".

5) "Church" and "State" events [the recording of these] remained fairly stable during the years 807 - 900 showing 18 percent "Church", 78 percent "State", and 13 percent "Nature".

6) The final years of record, 902 - 954, showed 19 percent "Church", but 92 percent "State", and no "Nature"!

Overall, for the 148 events recorded in "The Annales Cambriae, 23 [16%] were "Church" related; 96 [65%] were "State", and 15 [10%] were "Nature". Church to State, it seems to be the pattern.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birth of a Nation

Divided by mountains, rivers, and the sea, it was their first two centuries [400 AD - 600 AD] that taught the Welsh a new speech and a new social order. After Rome pulled out, it was clear that the strongest organ of defence [thus survival] was the family unit. Building homes, rearing the young, weaving garments, and trading surpluses were all part of this life. Cattle became the key procession, tilling the earth became a key survival skill, and defending the home a key activity. To conquer the cold, the mountains, and the sea would soon convince all that survival was allowed by permission of this physical geography! Common descent, common language, and common culture melted these Celtic tribes into the Welsh. Authority and power were based in your descent, not in your political allegiance to a common elite. The kin-group shared a common great-grandfather, held land in common, was held responsible for offences of the family, and sought retribution in common for any grievances. Cherishing their differences and their Independence, the Welsh nation and tongue was born.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mountains to Ministers

Christianity probably reached Britain around 200 AD. Most likely brought to the island by Roman traders and settlers, many being persecuted by the Roman authorities. Over the centuries things changed, and The Edict of Milan gave religious toleration. By 378 AD, Christianity had become the State religion. The Church that had evolved in the islands was rooted in the monastic movement, and was to have profound impact upon the Celtic nations forming among the islands. It was to have its own special character and developed along its own teachings and customs. Through Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, this Celtic Church took its roots. After the fall of Rome, this Church was isolated from the Church at Rome until St. Augustine arrived in 597 AD. However, it was not until 768 AD that the Celtic Church conformed to the supremacy of Rome.

The Celtic Church in Wales began its history among the tribal territories that occupied the landscape. Once a religious centre was established, it was a "Llan", meaning an enclosure that centered around a local church. This was of course "family land" and the name of the head of the family often followed this term. In "A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names", the spelling "Llan...." is the most common occurring place name starting with "Llanaber" on page 57, and ending with "Llan-y-wern" some 14 pages later!

It was often the case that family members would become the ministers of these family churches. They would become part of the family heritage, and would be past down from generation to generation. The drawing above locates the four major "modern dioceses" of the Church of Wales. They began in the mountains and moved into the "Llan...". These four major dioceses are listed from their mountains, to Celtic tribe, to Welsh Kingdom, to the principle religious center: 1) Snowdona - Decangi - Gwynedd - Bangor, 2) Berwyn - Ordovices - Powys - St. Asaph, 3) Plinlimmon - Demetae - Dyved - St. David's, and 4) Black Mountains - Silures - Morgannwy - Llandaff. One of the earliest centers called Bangor-Is-Coed is also shown which was located along the Dee. Mountains to ministers, the Celtic Church was formed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tribes to Territories

The Celtic tribes to have settled the lands on this most western side of the island, are shown on the figure to the right. They had settled among the hills and mountains centuries before those Latin writing Romans started to arrive. Their general geographic distribution is shown. These Celtic tribes were the foundation of the Welsh tribes which came to be organized around their family's land. They are shown in the figure above. The Royal and Noble tribes of Wales are shown. Each tribe has recorded a detailed genealogy in the families' of Wales, and give a foundation to many present day Welsh families. These tribal groups help settle the mountains and hills into what became called "gwlad" or states. The earliest gwlad's are shown in the figure to the right. These were view as the basic "kingdoms" of the Welsh nation before 700 AD. Using these three maps, you can begin to study the regional difference from the Celtic tribes, to Welsh tribes, to the earliest kingdoms of Wales. Tribes to territories, what a way to go.

Two figures have been taken from The Jones Genealogist, first published 1989, Library of Congress No. 6192-01064476.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Large Family

The "House of Hu Gardar" has been consider by the earliest of Welsh writers to be be the foundation of the Welsh nation. [Here, the term "house" meaning kindred, family, tribe, clan, etc., with the term "plant" being used in the Welsh.] According to "The Council of the Immortals", a family meeting was held, bringing all the kindred together. Besides Hu Gardar, the other important family members present were in order as record: 1)"Math fab Mathonwy the Enchanter" 2) "Tydain Tad Awen the Archdruid of the Gods" [Tad=father] 3)"Ceridwen Ren ferch Hu the Queen and Mother of the World" [ferch=daughter] 4)"the three disciples of Math: Gofannon and Amaethon and Gwydion, the three magnanimous Sons of Don" [Gofannon was the chief of the smiths] [Amaethon was chief of the husbandmen] [Gwydion was the chief of the bards "...he was unequaled, even among the Immortals, for laughter, and for narrating stories; and no subtlety of wisdom would ever be concealed from him."] 5) "Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel"[a sister to the disciples of Math listed above] "...who declares fates and destinies..." 6)"Don Ren herself" [no explanation for this immortal is given] 7)"The three Primitive Bards of the Island of the Mighty" 8) "the divine Disciples of Tad Awen"[the names which follow are "Plenydd Sunbright", and "Alawn with the Harp", and "Gwron Gawr the Hearterener of Heroes". I take it that these are the disciples of Tad Awen, but not sure.] 9) "Idris Gawr, the Marshal of the Stars" 10)"Einigan the Giant" 11)"Nefydd Naf Neifion, Prince of the Sea" 12)"Menu the Son of the Three Shouts" 13)"Mabon ab Modron" 14)"Modron Ren herself" 15)"Malen Ruddgoch Ren, the War-red War Queen". So there you have it. What a family! The reference for this post is: "The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed", by Cenydd Morus, Aryan Theosophical Press, London, 1914, pp.3-5.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Immortal Kindred

Welsh genealogy is rooted in the Celtic world view which was passed down from one generation to the next. The Welsh adopted this world view making it their own in a series of stories. Their "creation story" is recorded in an account introduced in the last post entitled "The Council of The Immortals". The story begins by stating that a meeting was called by the head of the kindred, "Hu Gararn". This meeting took place " the House of Hu Gadarn in the Wyddfa Mountains in Wales". The name Wyddfa Mountains refers to an area around a series of mountains in north Wales anchored by the highest peak "Yr Wydda" or present day Snowdon. This peak is surrounded by six lakes which are intimately connected with the heights that gather round Yr Wyddfa. [Prehistoric dwellings are found around some of these lakes.] A lake only quarter of a mile long lies almost directly under Snowdon and still has an ancient standing stone.

In this account "Hu Gararn" is described as follows:

"As to who Hu Gararn was, should any one have heard no tidings about him, and about his power, and fame, and sovereignty over the Gods and the Cymry: he was the one that was supreme over both those races; he had led them out of the Summer Country into the Island of the Mighty, ages before; and tamed Nynnio and Peibio, the Exalted Oxen, and with them accomplished the ploughing of the whole island, and the destruction of the Afange of the Lake of Floods."

It is interesting to note that Hu lead "those races" out of the "Summer Country". Certainly any place on the continent would be warmer than in these mountains. However, I suspect this relates to the practice of transhumance which involves the seasonal movement of livestock (especially sheep) between mountain and lowland pastures under the care herders. This cultural pattern involved a "summer home"(hafod) and a "winter home"(hendre). Of course, the herders would be family.

The importance of ploughing land is expressed by the fact that Hu's first task was to tame oxen. In the Welsh, a farmyard is called buarth, which also means a cattle enclosure. The Spanish certainly know something about taming bulls! [Iberian-Celts share our DNA] Cattle became the money of the time and a sign of wealth.

Floods played a major part of the early stories of many races. Here, Hu is credited with the destruction of "Afange of the Lake of Floods". In the Welsh, "afanc" means monster, and I would guess that a monster would be of great challenge. With Wyddfa Mountains being surrounded by six lakes, there would have to be an explanation for all the water. Interestingly, "afanc" may also means beaver. A large beaver population would create a lot of dams around six lakes! Which would you choose, a monster or a beaver.

Monday, March 21, 2011

In The Ancient Days

Before it was written down, the earliest Welsh stories were already very old. Having a pre-Christian origin, they originate from their Celtic roots, through Irish roots, to the Welsh language. As discussed in a previous post, Aneirin and Taliesin are thought to have flourished in north Britain, bring eulogy and glory to the independent Princes of Wales. [See last post "First Welsh Writers, The Bards".]

Copies of these tales where recorded in two manuscripts. The first was called "White Book of Rhydderch"[ Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch], which is believed to have been written ca. 1300-1325. The second is called "Red Book of Hergest"[ Llyfr Goch Herhest], written ca. 1375-1425. They record 12 medieval Welsh tales, which underwent translation by Charlotte Guest, publishing three volumes, during the years 1838-1849. It is her work that tags these stories as "The Mabinogion". A text called "The Fate of the Princes of Dyfed" by Cenydd Morus gives the following account in his translation, chapter I, "The Council of The Immortals" which is called "...the Immortal Kindred...":

"They were a peerless tribe, a family to be praised and lauded and honored; flaming bodied, even the least of them; august and beautiful. It was they who preserved the beauty of Britain, and the valor, and modesty, and truthfulness, and wisdom of the Race and Kindred of the Cymry, in the ancient days." So were the words of the ancients.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Welsh Writers, The Bards

Even before the time of the great grandfather of Concenn [Eliseg] ca. 700 A.D., the story tellers and song writers of the day had started to write down their muse. The poets, Taliesin and Aneirin, seemed to be the ones credited with starting this Welsh writing. In a reference titled "Book of Taliesin", there is a group of poems believed to be some of his authenic work. These also include religious, prophetic, scriptural, and legendary poems. The connections to the Celtic church must have been a major driving force. Aneirn (or Neirin) came to called "Aneirin of flowing verse, prince of poets". These folks were the first to show that the Welsh language could be used to document the flowers of the tongue.

The image of a Welsh bard is shown in the figure to the right. Harp is in hand, muscular arms and legs, leaning over the precipice to ring out the message of the day. This image was produced in 1784 by an Edward Jones. [Joneses seemed to be everywhere!] What a image it is. These first writers of the Welsh language

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pillar of Eliseg

Claim through lineal descent was a major requirement for those who sought to occupy the land in the mountains and hills of Wales. As early as 850 A.D., Concenn (Cyngen) claimed leadership of his family's lands through direct descent of his great-grandfather Eliseg (Elisedd). [Welsh law allowed heirs to claim "pencenedl" (head of family)to the fourth generation.] Eliseg is believed to have recovered his family's lands, the "kingdom of Provosia" (Powys), from the Anglo-Saxons. Concenn then erected a stone monument, crowned by a cross, apparently over the grave of Eliseg. This monument has come to be called "The Pillar of Eliseg".

During the English Civil War, the cross was broken and thrown down by Puritan fury who seemed to believe it was some sort of Popish idolatry. Re-erected, the "cross" now stands seven to eight feet tall. It is believed to have been originally at least 12-25 feet tall. The inscriptions upon the monument have long been illegible. At least some partial translations have been recorded before its destruction. Written in Latin [Church folks would have written it.] it is recorded by Edward Llwyd:

"Concenn filius Cateli, Cateli filius Brochmail, Brochmail filus Eliseg, Eliseg filuse Cnoillaine, Concenn itaque pronepos Eliseg edificavit hunc lapidem proavo suo Eliseg..."

Translated, this would roughly read: "Concenn was the son of Cattell, Cattell the son of Brohemail, Brohemail the son of Eliseg, Eliseg the son of Guoillaue. Concenn therefor the great-grandson of Eliseg built this stone to his great-grandfather Eliseg..."

Ashley in his book, British Kings & Queens, lists this lineage through Vortigen, who is credited with inviting the Saxons to the island in the first place! [found on p. 151 under "Powys and The Marches".]

Family, family, family; lineage, lineage, lineage; genealogy, genealogy, genealogy; this is the Welsh way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Made of Stone

The Battle of Hastings, 1066 A.D., introduced a new threat to the independence of Wales. At the time of Hastings, Wales was divided against itself by civil war with the three major tribes fighting against one another. In Anglo-Saxon England, the Normans brought a certain measure of unity and stability. In Wales, the Normans brought only added stress to the divisions already fighting to gain control.

The Normans took strategic advantage of the Welsh civil wars to establish themselves along the Welsh border. This was accomplished by placing Norman barons in fortified centers at key locations. The map shows the geographic strategy taken by the Normans.

The strategic centers were:

1) Chester: the northern border-placed under Hugh of Avranches (made Earl of Chester 1070 A.D.- confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd and Powys

2) Shrewsbury: the central border-placed under Roger of Montgomery (made Earl of Shrewsbury 1071 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Powys

3) Hereford: the south-central border,placed under William Fitaosbern (made Earl of Hereford 1067 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwent.

Fortified enclosures made of stone marks the gradual conquest of Wales. [The first stone castle built in Wales was by William Fitzobern in Chepstow, 1067 A.D.] This permanent occupation of the land also brought with it the introduction of the "borough". This Norman-French borough, organized the immediate areas surrounding the castle, providing military, political and social structure. Hereford was the first to receive a charter embodying the customs of the Norman borough. The borough of Hereford was to serve as a model for many of the future boroughs established in Wales by the Normans. Key military strongholds were established at Rhuddlan and Chester in the north...Montgomery and Clifford in the Central areas...Monmouth and Caerleon in the south. By 1086 A.D., it appeared that all of Wales would come under Norman control!

The map is taken from: The Jones Genealogist, Vol.IV, No.5, March/April 1993, p.3.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welsh Chronology - Part II

This is the second post on a chronological history by dates. On the most part, these dates have been selected based upon my genealogical research. They are not intended to be an all inclusive list, and represent my personal choice of events.

702 A.D. Cenred received the kingdom of Mercia. (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles)

704 A.D. Aethelred, son of Penda, who had been king of Mercia for twenty-nine years before Cenred, received monkshood. (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles)

Wat's Dyke most likely completed around this time period. An important landmark for
my JONES family genealogy.

754 A.D. Rhodri - King of the Britons- dies

755 A.D. Offa - King of Mercian Angles 755-796 A.D.

768 A.D. Easter was changed among the Britons- Celtic Church to Catholic Church calender

784 A.D. Offa - Devastated Britain - importation of Mercian setters to eastern part of Offa's Dyke

Offa's Dyke construction.

795 A.D. Pagans came to Ireland - start of Viking raids

822 A.D. Powys controlled by Saxons - fortress of Degannwy destroyed

Saxon townships bear English or Half-English names
field and farm nomenclature remain Welsh

850 A.D. "Black Gentiles" invade Wales -

853 A.D. island of Mon wasted by Vikings

855 A.D. Rhodri took Powys - Powys under control of Welsh

916 A.D. Anarawd ap Rhodri - King of Britons - dies

917 A.D. Hywel Dda - visitor to Saxon court

Edward the Elder establishes Saxon burh= fortified town at Rhuddlan

924 A.D. Edward the Elder died -

Athelstan brought Welsh princes to tribute at Hereford

945 A.D. Hywel Dda - Welsh Laws codified

949 A.D. Hywel Dda dies during Viking raid

950 A.D. - 1066 A.D. Welsh Civil War - internal struggles

1017 A.D. Llywellyn ap Seisyll sized the throne of Gwynedd

1037 A.D. Leofric, Earl of Merica - defeated at Welsh-pool

1039 A.D. Gruffydd ap Llwelyn becomes "High King" ruled Gwynedd and Powys

1055 A.D. Hereford burned

1056 A.D. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn - Kingship of All Wales
4 provinces = Dyfed (Demetia), Gwent, Gwynedd, and Powys

1063 A.D. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn killed at Snowdoia - 5 Aug 1063 A.D.

1066 A.D. Battle of Hastings!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welsh Chronology - Part I

In genealogy, a detailed chronology, a time line, is very helpful in understanding a family's story. A time line is also very helpful in understanding the history of a people. The following outline gives a rough chronology for the Welsh nation from its beginnings until just before the Norman invasion. The dates are combined from a number of sources and are roughly accurate plus or minus 5 years or so. [Dates varied between sources depending upon how their calender was kept.] So here goes:

429 A.D. last of legions sail from Britain-Cunedda comes from Manaw Gododdin (Antonie Wall)

446 A.D. appeal of Britons to Aetius

447 A.D. Welsh history started-"Days as dark as night" (Annales Cambriae)

449 A.D. King Vortigern - listed - PICTS WAR

Saxons "invited" to settle in Britain

470 A.D. "Welsh" term first used by Saxons (The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles)

473 A.D. Hengest/Aese - fought the Welsh - SAXON WARS

500 A.D. Cadwallon ap Einion ap Cunedd - begins Welsh Rulers

516-517 A.D. The "Battle of Badon"- Arthur

570 A.D. Saint Asaph - St. Asaph founded

597 A.D. St. Augustine sent to Britian - summon Celtic church to Catholic faith

603 A.D. Scots invade Northumbia

613 A.D. Battle of Chester - Northumbia invades

615 A.D. Bangor-Is-coed destroyed by Northumbian army

655 A.D. loss of Shropshire area to Mercians - Kings of Britain killed

664 A.D. Synod of Whitby - Roman Catholic Church Calender adopted in Wales

682 A.D. Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon died on trip to Rome

More to come!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Social System

The family group formed the foundation of Celtic society. This agnatic group [related through male descent or on the father's side] extended over four generations. It centered around groups of farmsteads, each the property of a particular family. The original settlement of the kindred group was called the "henfref". In the Welsh this family property came to be called the "trefs". As the number of family settlements began to increase in number and size, the holding of family meetings (courts) and the collection of dues (taxes) became more of a logistic problem. The "trefs" [12 - 16 in number] were then grouped into "commotes" to help facilitate the collection of dues and hold family meetings in a more central area. As the number of "commotes" increased in size, their organization became more important, and a group of commotes [4-6 in number] were formed into larger social units called "cantrefs". The cantrefs were roughly synonymous with the Anglo-Saxon hundred. The further up the social chain, the most distant the family relationships. You can begin to see how the leadership of the cantrefs would come into question, as the number of cantrefs increased, each being a different family [kindred group]. A group of cantrefs might form together to help one another in certain disputes. This group of cantrefs would need a chief leader, and soon these groups of cantrefs came under the control of a head, called ultimately a "king" by the Romans. Thus, the largest administrative unit in the Welsh culture became viewed as a "principality", under the rule of a single individual, which then became the rule of a single dynasty. In the Welsh, these political units were called a "gwlad". The head (king) exercised certain privileges which came to be called "prerogatives". As a male born into this social system, it was his standing in a network of kindred [trefs], rather than his standing as the citizen of a state, that determined his social status, his economic rights, and his legal obligations under tribal law.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sounds to Symbols

It took our human race a few years to get to the point that sounds became symbols, our alphabet. The human voice [sound] represented by something that could be visualized [ a symbol]. Then taking that symbol and turning it back into voice. Who would have thought you could do such a thing?

The Canaanites seemed to have started things off, followed by the Phoenicians, then followed by the early Greeks. A sound a symbol had to start sometime. These early writings started with the hard sounds like k, b, p, and t, and it was not until the Greeks came up with the idea of softer sounds [vowels], that things really began to take off. Etruscan, Roman, and Italic alphabet became the foundation. Each generation building upon the past.

The Celtic tongue was spoken. It was taboo to write it down, for the bards and poets had spent their life memorizing the stories and history. They would be out of work if anyone started to write something down! It was the Irish who started first to write their language and keep their history and laws. The impact of the church [Latin] was the main force in this change, but the Celtic tongue was phonetically different. As the Roman world became the Christian world, Latin became the dominate expression in all things except the local tongues (vernacular). As discussed in another post, the Anglo-Saxons (Germanic) had a word for those Celtic tribes who started speaking the Latin. They were called "Walas"!

The Welsh language had this backdrop. Only to be spoken, the poets and bards continued their positions. Consonants dominated. There was even the combination of letters ch, dd, ff, ll, ph, rh, and th which were counted as a single consonant. Vowels softened things down a bit and had both long and short sounds...a, e, i, o, u, w, and y. Other letter combinations like ng and si had their own sounds. Twenty eight letters make up the Welsh alphabet. The English consonants j, k, q, v, x, and z are omitted.

It took the Welsh several centuries before they developed their own alphabet and writing. [Following the Celtic tradition.] Of course the poets had the upper hand, having both the oral traditions and the stories intact. Their poetry is thought to be the earliest written items. [called Y Cynfeirdd] The native Welsh tales (prose) came to be called " The Mabinogion".

It is these Welsh sounds to English symbols that caused all kinds of trouble yet to come.