Monday, January 31, 2011

The Name

As the dust started to settle among the hills and mountains, tribal groups clustered among them. As in any culture, when you first meet, you ask "What is your name?", and "Where are you from"? In the earliest days, it was common to give your name and some sort of physical description. This might be like...Peter, the Tall, or Peter, The Short, or David The Red Headed, or David with the Dark Skin. As the families became more organized and settled, and their history more prolonged, the founding fathers (tribal leaders) would become more important. "Who was your father?" came to be extremely important, especially if you had a score to settle or reprisal to take.

On the island, the Picts appear to be the first group to adapt the system of linking their name to that of their father. Drust Mac Erp is the earliest to recorded such a name, living around 449 A.D. Here, Mac means "son of", thus Drust is the son of Erp.(p.169)[These names are taken from a reference called "British Kings & Queens, by Mike Ashley, Barnes & Noble, 1998. The page numbers from this reference are given.] It was some 80 years later that around 530 A.D. Cynlas ap Owain appears in the Welsh Kingdom of Powys.(p.150) This is closely followed by:

Erbin map Custennyn, 540 A.D., from the south-east and south-west (p.116)

Bodgu ap Serguil, 560 A.D., from Ceredigion and Seisyllwg, (p.130)

Meurig ap Tewdrig, 580 A.D., from Gwent and Glywysing, (p.125)

Beli ap Rhun, 580 A.D., from Venedotia and Gwynedd, (p.144)

Owain map Urien, 590 A.D., from northern Britain, (p.106)

From this listing, it can be seen that this system of naming had taken root before 600 A.D. The Welsh system became "ap" (before a constant), and "ab" (before a vowel) to mean "the son of".

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Language

A glue that helps bind a people together is their language. It is their language that signals their presence to other cultures, and becomes an integral part of their society. Being forced into the hills and mountains of the western most part of the island, the Welsh language evolves 500 A.D. - 600 A.D. from its Celtic roots. The land being central to the family settlements, it became imperative to be able to claim and keep what little geographic area you could. What land have you settled? What land do you claim? Where do you live and how do I get there if I need to? Understanding this need, helps one understand the Welsh language and its use in naming and genealogy. Many Welsh place names are based on words that describe a landmark or a feature of the countryside. For example: a forest or woodland came to be called Coed, and the lower location would use the word isaf. This isaf-coed would tell the hearer the lower forest. A Bangor settlement in the lower forest that needed to be separated from a Bangor settlement in the upper forest, would become Bangor-Is-Coed. A settlement that took on a church at its center was called a Llan. This was often followed by the chief supporter of this church being frequently the tribal leader. Thus the settlement named Llangorwen would mean the settlement(enclosure) that was cleared by Gorwen, and the church there was being established and supported by Gorwen. On and on it goes, name that land! Welsh words are:

mor = sea [important since the land was surrounded on three sides by the sea.
glan = shore [a lot of shore line]
afon = river [a lot of rivers]
bryn = hill [from the oceans come the hills]
bron = slope of a hill
mynydd = mountain [lots of mountains]
bwlch = mountain pass
llyn = lake
bro = vale
nant = stream
ogot = cave
rhos = moor/marsh
ynys = island
carreg = stone
craig = rock
clun = meadow
clwyd = perch/gate
dros = over
glyn = valley
ty = house
plas = hall/mansion
maes = field
mawr = big
bach = small
caer = fort
dinas = hill fortress
pen = head/top/end
pont = bridge
twr = tower
uchaf = upper/highest
wrth = near/by
tref = town

In Welsh, my present house would be Plas-Gwyn. Where do you live?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tribes, The Tribes

Before the Romans arrived, there were Celtic tribal groups that had settled the land and made their homes among the hills, and mountains. Of course, these tribal groups were given their name by the Romans who were the first to record their history on the written page. The map to the right is my attempt to show the names of these Celtic tribes, and their approximate geographic distribution. The boundaries of these groups were certainly fluid, and I imagine they moved about between the warring families. The Cornavii and Dobuni received the most influence from the Romans, having their land occupied. The Ordovices and Venedotae remained at war with the Romans and maintained some of their Independence.

The "Chronicle of Ystrad Fflur" states:

49 "In this year the Romans first fell on the men of the Deceangli"

52 "In this year Caradog was defeated and taken to Rome in chains"

61 "In this year the men of the Silures broke the Second Legion"

75 "In this year the Romans crossed the water to destroy the sacred
groves of the religion"

78 "In this year Julius Agricola defeated the Ordovices"

These tribal groups were the foundation for much of the Y-chromosomes yet to come.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mountains, The Mountains

From 600 feet, to more than 3,000 feet goes the land. The highest peak being 3560 feet located in the extreme northwest. In the south, the highest peak being 2960 feet. Climb every mountain would seem to be the theme of this land!

The map to the right is my attempt to show the geographic distributions of these mountain peaks. Scattered about in several clusters, they divide and break apart this land into distinct settlement areas. After Roman withdrawal, these areas became open to any group that could get there first and hold on to the land.

Early Welsh writers identify several folks who took charge during this period. [400 A.D.- 600 A.D.] The Cunedda conquests are part of this history. Left alone alone in the northern most boarder of the Roman defenses, called Antonia Wall, he came with his sons to defend the northwest area from the Irish. He and his sons are identified as the founding fathers of what was to become the Kingdom of Gwynedd. [Some early writers also call this Venedotae from the tribe thought to occupy this part of the world.]

You have already read about Vortigern (Gwrtheyrn) and his many escapades involving the Saxons. He is credited, good or bad, with the founding of what was to become the Kingdom of Powys, after being driven there by the Saxons and most of the Britons. [This is where my JONES family derives its Y-DNA.]

The southwest corner came under Irish influence through the spread of Christianity. David, a Celtic priest, came to this area and established a monastic house at what came to be called St. Davids. His name was given to Dyfed, which became the Kingdom of Dyfed.

The southeast sections split in several small areas with competing interest. It is in this area that the "Men of Gwent" settled.

The founding fathers are many. You can begin to understand their history and genealogy based upon the geography of the land. As the Welsh language developed, it was used to describe the location of their family's land. Over the hill, past the large meadow, to the small lake was about the only way to give directions. Understanding these facts begin to lay a foundation to understanding Welsh genealogy, and the Welsh language.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Hills, The Hills

An outline of the land has been given, showing the ocean on three sides. An outline of the rivers has been given, showing the headwaters and flow of the major waterways. The following map shows the hills above 600 feet. Now just imagine, if you came ashore at any point along this coast, you would start climbing fairly quickly. There was some farm land at the extreme northwest and southwest. A small island resided off the coast to the north, which over the years became known as the "bread basket" of Wales. The southwest offered land that was often challenged for control by those who lived across the Irish sea. The eastern boarder along the Severn gave some relief to the hills, and the small land bridge between the Dee and Severn gave access to the hills. A fairly narrow coast line outlines the county. Unto these hills came my family many generations ago.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Rivers, The Rivers

Gildas (ca. 504-570 A.D.) was the first cleric to write of the island after Roman withdrawal. In his text he writes regarding the island of Britain:

"It is enriched by the months of two noble rivers, the Thames and the Severn, as it were two arms, by which foreign luxuries were of old imported, and by other streams of less importance."

The Severn forms the eastern most natural boarder of our little part of the world. The map to the right shows the major rivers that wind their way out of the mountains. [Mountains are yet to be shown.] These rivers are the major highways that gave life to the valleys, lakes, ponds, and streams. They also provided a natural barrier for areas that became the settlements of those who first were to arrive to this part of the world. For my JONES family, the narrow land bridge between the Dee and the Severn would prove to be the central area of our families settlement. Recognizing these natural barriers will be helpful in understanding the future of Welsh genealogy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Land, The Land

Welsh genealogy really begins with the land. Understanding the land; its boarders, its heights, its valleys, its rivers, its streams, its topography, is starting to understand the heart of Wales.

The map to the right shows an outline of my JONES family's land. It is approximately 150 miles, north to south, and 90 miles east to west. It is surrounded by ocean on three sides which supplied much of the food for many generations. The major rivers are draw showing a watery boarder on the east side. There is a narrow strip of land between the two major waterways on the eastern side, giving a land bridge access to the interior. You can imagine how animal migration would have been funneled into this area, especially those critters seeking salt and water which was common among the limestone formations to the west. The human element would be close behind, following the animal herds.

The northwest and southwest extensions (peninsulas) were the closest by water to the next land mass. [To become Ireland!] This watery highway provided continual access between the two islands, which was to have a direct impact on the genealogies of these areas. More to come.