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.