Sources of Welsh Family History information


Elfed Owen has written the following guide to assist anyone who wishes to embark on such

a venture, in particular with regard to Welsh ancestry. He has kindly allowed it's publication on line. This follows two talks that he gave in 2006 and 2008 meeting where he is able to trace back 29 generations.



The first and most important step is to obtain as much information and recollections from your elderly relatives. Obviously this has to be done tactfully and the important thing is to record every detail that is said , preferably using a tape recorder . What may initially appear to be irrelevant information may later turn out to be a vital piece of information for unravelling your family history.

Check if other members of your family have already been researching your ancestors.


Births, Marriages and Deaths Registers.

The next step is to work back in time from the information you have. Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths started in July 1837 and the birth certificate provides a persons full name, date of birth as well as the name of the father and the mother’s maiden name, occupations and abode.

The indexes of the Births, Marriages and Deaths are available in the Family Records Centre in London or at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. From the index information the relevant certificate can be purchased.

More recently some of these indexes are becoming available on the internet and there is a current volunteer project to index all the North Wales Births , Marriages and Deaths in North Wales from 1837 to 1950 which is free to access on the internet.


Census Records.

By far the easiest way to start the research of a person who was alive in 1881 in this country is to visit the Chelmsford Library, where there is an indexed copy of the 1881 census. All that is necessary is to have the persons name and approximate year or birth. The result provides you with the age of the person from which their year of birth can be deduced, the relationship to the head of the household, occupation, birthplace and their address. This 1881 census is also available free on the internet.

Having found the relevant information of a person on the 1881 census it is then advisable to progress to search for that person on the other census records which are available for every 10 years starting in 1841 to 1901.Later census records than 1901 are not available because of the 100 year rule. Many of these census records are now available on the internet, but there is usually a fee to use them. The Chelmsford library has copies of local Census records, but to see copies of the Welsh Census records it is necessary to visit Archives in the area in Wales you are interested in.

The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and The Family Records Centre in London have all the Welsh census records.


Parish Registers.

If, for example, information about an ancestor has been found in the 1841 census and that the person was say, 25 years old and born in Aberystwyth , then he or she would have been born in 1816. The registration of births, marriages and deaths only started in 1837, so it is necessary to search in the Parish registers of Aberystwyth for the baptism of this person. Most of the original Parish registers date back to about 1660 and are now held in various Archive Record Offices throughout Wales.

Many of these Parish registers have been transcribed into booklets by various Family History Societies or individuals and are very reasonably priced and can save hours of researching handwritten registers. However it must be remembered that transcriptions are only as good as the transcriber and errors can be made, so it is always wise to check the original registers if you have any doubt.

The Clwyd Family History Society, for instance, has published the Parish registers of 110 parishes covering from approximately 1660 to 1837, in the old counties of Flintshire, Denbighshire and part of Merionethshire.


Bishops Transcripts.

Bishops Transcripts are also a source for baptisms, marriages and burials before 1837. Each parish in England and Wales had to send annually to the Bishop a copy of entries in the Parish Registers and these were called Bishops Transcripts. The original copies of the Bishops Transcripts are held at The National Library of Wales but local copies on microfilm are also available in some Archive Offices.

Another consideration for this person born in 1816 is that he or she may have been a nonconformist and therefore the baptism record or burial may be in a Chapel register. Chapel registers can cover the period between about 1795 and 1837.Most of the original chapel registers are now in the National Library of Wales but some are still held in local Archive record Offices, or in the possession of the chapel, if it is still an active chapel. All marriages of nonconformists before 1837 were recorded in the Church Parish Registers.


Marriage Bonds.

Another very useful source of Marriage information are the Welsh Marriage Bonds and Allegation documents held at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth..

These cover the period 1661 –1837 and the index to all these records are available free on the internet, and copies of the document can be purchased from the National Library of Wales.

Providing the persons concerned were married by licence, these documents can be very useful, when the situation is such that the Parish Registers and the Bishops transcripts have been lost, or are difficult to read because of damage.

Perhaps I should explain what a marriage bond and allegation is - Before marrying in a Parish Church, you had to make sure that there was no impediment to the marriage .The usual way of doing this was by publishing banns, but better off people could avoid publicity and delay by marrying with a licence . In Wales a licence would be issued in a Bishops name and to obtain a licence the bridegroom would appear before a surrogate, who was a person who was authorised to act on behalf of the Bishops Court in the granting of marriage licences , The bridegroom would then have to swear on oath that he knew of no impediment to the marriage. The oath was then recorded in a document known as an affidavit or allegation.

Until 1823, the bridegroom and a friend would also enter into a Bond, obliging them to pay a sum of money .The bonds were known as marriage bonds. If an impediment to the marriage should come to light, or the condition of the marriage should be breached, then the bridegroom and his friend would forfeit a considerable amount of money noted in the bond.


The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

There is an enormous amount of documents, manuscripts, books and information relating to Family history research held at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth,- I can only list a few here –


1841-1901 Census records for the whole of Wales.

Welsh Wills from 1521 –1858.

Copies of almost all the Welsh books which have been published .

Local and national Welsh Newspapers, journals and periodicals from all over Wales.

Bishops Transcripts original and on microfilm.

Nonconformist Chapel records.

Records of the court of great sessions in Wales. 1730-1830

Estate records, title deeds, rental and Account books.

Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Wales from 1837 –the present.


Morman Church Family History Centres.

There is of course a problem in accessing all this wealth of information at Aberystwyth while living in Essex, since a great deal of time is sometimes needed to search and read the information you are looking for. Fortunately there is a solution to this nearer to hand and that is at the Latter Day Saints or Mormon Church Family History Centres. The nearest of these centres to Chelmsford is at Hornchurch with bigger Centres at Cambridge and Ipswich. There is no charge for using the facilities at these centres and more importantly the people there are very helpful and there is no pressure put upon you to join the Mormon Church when you use the facilities.

The Morman Church has a very comprehensive site on the internet which is free to use. There is an index of most of the the entries in the Welsh Bishops transcripts and many Welsh chapel records, all the Census records from 1841 -1901, and listings of information relating to Family History for all the parishes of Wales including.

The original information for all these records has been transferred on to microfilms which are identified on the indexes on the internet. It is then possible to order these microfilms for a modest fee of about £2-50 per micro film.The microfilms ordered can then be viewed on the viewers provided in the Centres and take about 3 weeks to arrive depending on availability.



There is a vast amount of Family history information available on the internet with information being added almost daily. The Booklet “Family History on the web” is very useful directory for identifying these web sites.


County Archives.

As well as the National Library of Wales there are other local County Archives scattered all over Wales . For instance in North Wales they can be found at Caernarfon, Llangefni, Dolgellau, Llandudno, Bangor University, Ruthin , Hawarden and Wrexham. The information which these archives hold will be mainly related to the area around where they are located.


Family History Societies.

Another very important part of Family history Research are the various Family history Societies (FHS) in Wales.

These are –

Cardiganshire FHS.

Dyfed FHS, which covers the old counties of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

Glamorgan FHS.

Gwent FHS.

Gwynedd FHS, which covers the old counties of Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and part of Merionethshire.

Clwyd FHS,which covers the old counties of Flintshire, Denbighshire and part of Merionethshire.

Montgomeryrshire FHS.

Merionethshire FHS.

Powys FHS, which covers the old counties of Breconshire, Mongomeryshire and Radnorshire.

Some of these Societies have their own Family History Centres which contain local records, census records and books relevant to Family history and also provide advice from experienced researchers.

There are many booklets available from Family history Societies which list Church and Chapel gravestone transcriptions which are also invaluable for tracing your ancestors.

It is well worth joining one or more of these societies, usually about £10 per annum and they issue about 4 journals each year full of information about the region they represent. Members can exchange information and help each other with research problems and it is not uncommon to find someone who is researching the same ancestors as you, which could save you years of work !


Old Books

If your ancestors were nonconformists then you will find many books have been written, mainly in Welsh, about the various denominations. I found a great amount of information about my maternal ancestors in the book “The History of the Methodists in Eastern Merionethshire” published in 1902. The book related in great detail the history of all the chapels, big and small in the east Merioneth area and included names and addresses of the minister, deacons and many of the members.


Research guide books.

Welsh Family History – A guide to research.

Edited by John and Sheila Rowlands

2nd edition 1998 .

ISBN 1 86006 065 X

Federation of Family History Societies Publications Ltd.


Second stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry.

Edited by John and Sheila Rowlands

1st edition 1999

ISBN 1 86006 066 8

Federation of Family History Societies Publications Ltd.


Family History on the Web.- an Internet Directory for England and Wales.

Stuart A. Raymond.

3rd Edition 2004

ISBN 1 86006 180 X

Federation of Family History Societies Publications Ltd.


Family Trees.

There are many computer programmes available for storing family history information and constructing family trees.

The one which I recommend and use is –

Broderbund - Family Tree Maker.

A free Family Tree computer programme can be downloaded from the Latter Day Saints (Mormans) website : -


Our thanks to ELFED OWEN of the CHELMSFORD & DISTRICT WELSH SOCIETY for sharing his experiences and supplying this "Geneologists Guide" for those researching families in Wales.



Derrick Thomas' daughter Ceri has also been researching their family tree and offer the following information to help you on your way.


Ten Tips for Starting Research on Your Family History


1. Work backwards in time.

Start with yourself and work backwards.


2. Ask the family

Ask other relatives what they remember about their family history. Make a note of any nicknames name changes and dates etc. Ask them to tell you any family stories, what their ancestors did for a living, what they looked like. Be aware not all stories turn out to be fact.


3. Get some documentary evidence

Your family history will be drawn from myriad of records and sources throughout history in which your ancestors will be mentioned. Birth, marriage and death records, censuses 1841-1911, wills, church records occupational records, education and apprenticeship, military service records, tax records, criminal records, poor law, newspapers, trade directories, ecclesiastical licences, church court records, tombstones etc might all throw up valuable information.


4. Take notes and get organised

You never know what information will come in useful in your family history research so get into the habit of taking notes on what you have looked for and what you found. There are many useful computer software packages that will help you keep your records in an orderly manner and help draw up pedigrees and family groups sheets so you know who you are dealing with.


5. Check out the Web

The Internet can be a useful tool for contacting relatives and finding data. has census, birth/marriage/death indexes, military records. Very useful site if you have ancestors in London pre 1920. also has census including the latest 1911 census, BMD indexes & emigration records.


6. Meet other family historians

Family Historians are incredibly help to each other. There is a network of local societies with regular meetings up and down the country. Here you can meet like minded people with the same interests and local expertise.


7. What's been done before?

It's worth checking if anyone else is doing research into your family history before you start.

The following websites maybe useful to find distant cousins who are ready researching one of your lines.

8. Read up on the subject.

There are many good books and magazines devoted to family history. Your local library will have lots to choose from.

9. Stay focussed

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information that's available to family historians. Remember to have a clear idea of what you are looking for and why you started the search in the first place. Family history is fun and thoroughly absorbing. If you like detective stories and have a mind for solving puzzles then it's definitely the hobby for you. Good hunting.

10. Seek assistance

If you would like help from a couple of amateurs feel free to contact either Ceri or Roma via the contact form below and your message will be passed on.







& Phrases






of Wales



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