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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Welsh Language

Welsh historians begin their history dated 447 A.D. In the earliest recognized accounts, the "Annales Cambriae", it states:

"447 Days as dark as night". [see]

Dark as night, an interesting beginning to a nation.

It was at this beginning that the tribal groups had made their claims to the land, and had begun their settlement patterns. In their hills and mountains, a branch of the Celtic tongue evolved seeming to concentrate on the bilabial consonants p, b, t, and hard palate sounds k. (the Welsh c) This "Brythonic" branch became the Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Thus Welsh must have been fairly well developed before the emigration to Brittany, from Wales, where the Brythonic tongue took root. Welsh was spoken centuries before it became a written language. [Following the Celtic tradition of oral transmission of history, legends, and family stories.]

To add to the complexity of the language, the Celtic languages had developed a process called "mutation". This was a change of an initial consonant, depending on the character of the preceding word. Thus, depending on the preceding word, the initial consonants of the word that follows will sometimes change. Knowledge of these sound changes [mutations] became important for anyone wishing to understand the sounds and pronunciation of the Welsh. [This was particularly a problem for the English ear recording their sounds in future documents.]

The following is a list of the mutations which need to be recognized:

mutation of B = F and M

mutation of F = B and M

mutation of M= F

mutation of P = B, Mh, and Ph

mutation of T = D, Nh, and Th

L at the beginning of a word always signifies a mutation.

Wow! There you have it. For a discussion of the Welsh language see:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Living

As the family groups expanded, their claim to the land became one of the most important aspects of their forming society. What seems to be the fundamental unit of their social organization was the kin-group. In the Irish [earliest Celtic society to form with a written record], this was called the "derefine". This was a 4-generation descent group through the male line of descent.[patrilineal] They would share a common great-grandfather. They held land in common. They were held responsible for the offences of family members. They sought retribution in common for any perceived grievances. Most importantly, anyone to the forth generation had equal claim to the land and its resources! The family groups that settled in the mountains of what was to become Wales, took things a little bit farther back the family tree.

Two articles by Wendy Davies, present this history in great detail. In her article titled "Wales in the Early Middle Ages", Leicester University Press, 1982, and her article titled "Patterns of Power In Early Wales", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990, she describes the six generation Welsh kindred [cenedl] and the Welsh laws that developed around this society. In this tribal setting, one may be called upon to the 4th cousin to take part in tribal activities. The head of the kin was called pencenedl. You can begin to see how important your identify would be among the various tribal groups. You certainly would not want to help pay for a wedding if you did not belong to the family. Thus, the name you were given at birth, took the names of your father, grandfather, great-grandfather...etc. This name essentially became your Social Security number! The elders of the family would know if you really belong to the tribe by giving your name to the 6th generation.

At birth, each male child born to the cenedl was presented to the tribe. The one claimed to be the father had to accept his fatherhood and give the name of the child. The elders would then accept the child into the tribe, and add the name of the family. Thus, if you where given the name Thomas, and your father was named Peter, you would become Thomas ap Peter, who was the son of David...Thomas ap Peter ap on and so on...until the male descent was completed. Thus your Welsh name would become: Thomas ap Peter ap David ab Owen ap Jevan ap Griffith. Your first cousin may have been David ap Jevan ap David ab Owen ap Jevan ap Griffith. With a bunch of youngins you can begin to see how complex the naming would become to anyone outside the tribe. What a living it would be.