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 http://harleian.org.uk/

"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 http://thejonessurname.blogspot.com ]

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.