If you have Welsh ancestors then the chances are that you already know that up until the 19th century in a number of the more rural areas the Welsh tended to use the ancient Patronymic naming system.
This is where the offspring from a marriage would mostly take their Father’s forename as their surname. I have added the word ‘mostly’ in the last statement as on occasions there have been cases where it was the mother’s name that had been passed on as a second name. Matronymic surnames, however, are far less common than patronymic last names.
Because of this tradition of using the Patronymic, or Matronymic for one’s child, surnames were not fixed and would change from generation to generation. For example, if Thomas JONES had three sons, Thomas, William and David.
The three sons may have gone by the names of:
Thomas ap Thomas or Thomas Thomas Jones;
William ab Thomas or William Thomas Jones;
David ab Thomas or David Thomas Jones;
And if Thomas ap Thomas had a son, David, he could be known as David Thomas while if William ab Thomas also had a son called David, he would be known as David William.
As a general rule an ‘ap’ or ‘ab’ was added between the child’s name and the father’s name. In the example, David ab Thomas is David “son of” Thomas. For a woman’s name, the word ferch or verch (often abbreviated to vch), meaning “daughter of”, was used.
As with any rule, you may not be surprised to learn that there were many exceptions to it. Your Welsh ancestors could well have dropped the ‘ab’ or ‘ap’ altogether. In the case of a David, son of Owen Thomas, his name may well have used the simple name of David Owen. Other exceptions are where your ancestors decided to drop the ‘a’ from ‘ap’ or ‘ab’ and just attach the remaining ‘p’ or ‘b’ to the father’s name. For example, ‘David ab Owen’ could have been known as ‘David Bowen’.
In dealing with patronymic names, the researcher needs to bear in mind that the absence of ‘ap’ or ‘ab’ does not mean the family adopted a permanent surname. In south Wales particularly, patronymic surnames appeared without the ‘ap’ or ‘ab’.
By the later years of the Middle Ages the patronymic system was gradually being replaced by fixed surnames. Although the use of patronymic names would continue to be used by some right up until the early 19th century in some rural areas.
When your Welsh ancestors started to fix their surnames then all their descendants used the same surname. In our example, all of David Thomas’s descendants now took the surname THOMAS and all David WILLIAM’s descendants had the surname WILLIAM OR WILLIAMS.
This explains why, when we are researching in Wales, that we may be surprised to find that the number of Welsh surnames is comparatively small. The majority of Welsh surnames have been drawn from a limited number of forenames that were most popular among parents at the time that Welsh surnames became fixed.
If your ancestor held a prominent position in a religious organisation then you may find them in amongst a number of recent releases at TheGenealogist.co.uk. The new records include:
These records compliment an already wide range of religious occupational records such as Cox’s Clergy Lists and Crockford’s Clerical Directories, Jewish Seatholders, Catholic Registers, and Directories already on TheGenealogist.
Diamond subscribers can access these records by going to the Search tab on the home page – scrolling down to Occupational Records and then selecting the type of records that they are interested in.
Head over to TheGenealogist to search these records
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This Press Announcement came from the team at TheGenealogist:
TheGenealogist adds to its growing collection of Parish Records with the release of those for Nuneaton & North Warwickshire.
- Released in partnership with the Nuneaton & North Warwickshire Family History Society there are over 454,000 new fully searchable records of individuals
- Allowing the researcher to discover more than 300,000 people recorded within the baptisms from this area in the heart of England
- Family historians can also discover the details of over 90,000 individuals from marriages and nearly 60,0000 people listed in the burials of Nuneaton & North Warwickshire
Nuneaton & North Warwickshire FHS worked with TheGenealogist to publish their records online for the first time, making 454,525 individuals from baptism, marriage and burial records fully searchable.
“The officers of Nuneaton & North Warwickshire Family History Society are delighted to be working with The Genealogist to bring their collection of baptism, marriage and burial transcriptions for north Warwickshire online…” John Parton (Chairman)
With some of the surviving records reaching back into the 1700s this is an excellent resource for family historians to use for discovering Nuneaton & North Warwickshire ancestors.
The records are also available on TheGenealogist’s Society website FHS-Online.co.uk where societies get 100% of the income.
“This new initiative will provide for those researchers preferring online access, while allowing us to continue offering the data on CD. NNWFHS members have opportunity to take out an enhanced subscription which includes access to the data.” John Parton (Chairman)
This is an ongoing project with the society working on transcribing many more records.
“We’re delighted to welcome NNWFHS to both TheGenealogist and FHS-Online. This release adds to the growing collection of parish records on both websites. These partnerships help societies boost their funds whilst bringing their records to a much wider audience, through online publication.” Mark Bayley (Head of Online Development)
If your society is interested in publishing records online, please contact Mark Bayley on 01722 717002 or see fhs-online.co.uk/about.php
Examples from Nuneaton & North Warwickshire Parish records
In these records can be found the famous novelist, poet, journalist and translator George Eliot, under her real name of Mary Anne Evans. She was born in Nuneaton and baptised at Chilvers Coton All Saints church in 1819 – she used the pen name of George Eliot in order to be taken more seriously as a writer.
For the settings of the stories, Mary drew on her Warwickshire childhood. Chilvers Coton became Shepperton. Shepperton Church is described in great detail in The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, and is recognisably that of Chilvers Coton.
Also to be found in these records are members of her family that she used as inspiration for some of her characters. For example the record for her sister Christiana Evans, baptised in 1814, contains a relevant note by the society that reveals: Sister of George Eliot. Christiana, ‘Chrissie’ as she was known to her family, was the original of: “Celia” in ‘Middlemarch’ & “Lucy Deane” in ‘The Mill on the Floss’.
If we search for Mary Anne’s brother, Isaac Pearson Evans who was born in 1816, there is a note which tells us that he was the brother of George Eliot and that he was the basis of Tom Tulliver in “The Mill on the Floss”.
Another person to be found in these records is a Henry Harper, born 1830, whose mother Anne has the note: Anne Harper – daughter of Rev. Bernard Gilpin and Mrs Ebdell (“Mr Gilfil” and “Caterina”) and was the son of “Mr Farquhar – the secondary squire of the parish” in “Scenes of Clerical Life” by George Eliot.
Additionally there is Isabell Adolphine Gwyther born in 1834 and Edward James Wilson Gwyther born in 1837, who share a mention that reveals: The Rev J Gwyther was Curate of Coton. He and his wife were the originals of “Amos & Milly Barton” in ‘Scenes of Clerical Life’ by George Eliot, “Milly Barton” was the mother of six young children.
Using these records you would also be able to find the death in 1836 of Christiana Evans, the writer’s mother.
Check out the parish records on TheGenealogist
I found this very interesting after having spent a week with my parents who could remember stories that their own parents told about the time.
Exploring how TNA designed and built a resource uncovering experiences of British life on the Home Front during the First World War…
I’ve been looking into a collateral line ancestor this week and that took me up to Wolverhampton City Archives.
In initial research, that I had carried out previously, I had found my great-grand uncle had left the army and moved to Wolverhampton to take up the position of Chief Constable in the Borough Police.
Making a return trip to the archive, in order to do some research for another tutorial that will eventually go in my English/Welsh family history course, I decided to take a further look into Major R D D Hay.
If you are new to family history then you may be a little unsure of using the facilities of an archive. Perhaps you worry about what sort of reception you may get. From my experience, of visiting these establishments over the years, I always get wonderful help and service from the staff on the desks up and down the country.
Ah but you are somewhat experienced at doing research, you may say.
I really don’t think that that is really a factor to consider. When I am looking to find someone, in the many small collections that the local archive or county record office has, I am in the same position as a newbie may be. I approach them and ask for their advice as to where they think I should look in their collections.
So it was this week when in the reading room at Wolverhampton. I gave them the name of the person I hoped to trace and the dates I was interested in. The staff looked on their computerised catalogue and were able to offer me the Watch Committee reports that covered both the start and the finish of Robert Hay’s tenure.
From my point of view this was fascinating as I could read the names and some details about the 106 candidates for the Chief Constable’s job. I could also see the selection process and even read who it was, on the Borough Council, who voted for my ancestor to be given the job. As it was Robert David Dewar Hay had a landslide victory over other short-listed candidate.
For other researchers, with Wolverhampton ancestors from around this time, the records may reveal your ancestor if they had any dealing with the Police, Fire brigade, or even the Weights and Measures in the borough – as all of these activities fell under the jurisdiction of the Police and the Watch Committee.
If you have a policeman ancestor he may well be mentioned if he did well or needed reprimanding. Alternatively if he was to fall ill and so required to resign, or if he died and the committee felt an obligation to his widow, again he may be mentioned by name.
I saw names of those suppliers of goods and products, such as uniforms for the police officers and firemen contained in the records. As you would expect names of local criminals appeared in the lists of warrants executed on felons, which gave a description of what they had done to deserve a visit from the boys in blue and even the report on the lady owner of a brothel that the police were trying to close down.
I do commend these types of interesting small record collections to you. As I say in my English/Welsh family history course: don’t just collect names and dates from the vital records and the census sets – try to flesh out your family tree research with some colour to add to your family history story.
The reading room at Wolverhampton City Archives
If you would like to learn more about English and Welsh ancestor research then take a look at my family history course. Or to pay in US dollars check this page out for more information: http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/specialoffer/aindex.html
I’ve been visiting the Submarine Museum at Gosport http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/ and it is a fascinating experience especially if you have an ancestor that may have served in these boats.
Three submarines – HMS Alliance, Holland I and X24 – form the core of this Museum’s unique collection. There are also many other items to view including many photographs, various documents, ship plans and artefacts to supplement these vessels and also tell the broader story of the service.
The Submarine Museum is also part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) whose wider collections include items relating to the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Marines, Surface Fleet and naval firepower among many other things. For more information please see their main NMRN collections page.
I found it helpful, when going onboard the HMS Alliance submarine that the two guides on the boat were ex-submariners themselves – you get a very personal viewpoint of what it was like to serve with 64 other men on patrol during the cold war period and I take me hat of to them.
The ‘Submarine Service Movement Record Index Cards’ can be used to give the researcher some background information, which can include the movements of submarine personnel during World War II. These records had previously been kept by the submarine drafting office at HMS Centurion in Gosport, but with the opening of the Submarine museum they were transferred there.
A word of warning for those researching their submariner ancestors, the card records are not a complete record of everybody who served in submarines, but they are the best place to start covering the period 1918-1969 for naval ratings and 1935-1969 for the officers.
These records can be searched using simply by name. If a card is located on file at the museum archive then you may be able to find out such information as where your submariner relative served during his time in the submarine service. You must be aware, however, that they are not indexed nor are they digitised.
Other holdings at the museum include photographs, ship plans and artefacts. You will, however, need to provide at least two weeks’ notice for an archive visit, having first submitted a research request form. See the information on their website: http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/what-we-have/historical-enquiry
Reading Simon Fowler’s book “Tracinging your Naval Ancestors’, tells us that information on ancestors who may have served in this branch can be found in similar places to other Royal Navy records, as sometimes they don’t have a special category. However, it is worth looking at the surviving log books of submarines from 1914 to 1987 which can be found in ADM 173– “Admiralty and Ministry of Defence, Navy Department: Submarine Logs” at The National Archives in Kew. This is the only open access set of records you will find there, as most other relevant records they hold are classified at present.
I wanted to share with you today a little about the Poor Law of England and Wales before I incorporate this into an expanded new module in my English/Welsh family history tutorials.
For years the ecclesiastic houses up and down the country were responsible for looking after the poor and so as consequence of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the problem passed to the government.
The old Elizabethan Poor Law was devolved to the Parish Vestry to administer. This was a council of officials from the parish and an arm of local government with responsibilities that covered more than just the church whose vestry they may have used in which to meet.
While the funds used to support the poor of England and Wales were collected in a standard manner, by charging rates to land holders, the individual parishes had discretion in how to deal with their paupers. This is explained in more detail at the beginning of a fascinating webinar by Paul Carter, from the National Archives, in his online seminar: http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/webinar-people-fear-victorian-workhouse/
The expense of looking after the poor had been growing year by year up to 1834 and as it was being funded by the middle and upper classes in each town there was a real suspicion amongst this section of society that they were paying the poor to be lazy and avoid work.
After some years of annoyance to the rate payers, a new Poor Law was introduced by the government in 1834 and this new Poor Law was meant to reduce the cost of looking after the poor and also bring in a universal system across all the country.
Under the new Poor Law, parishes were grouped into unions and, if they hadn’t already got one, then each union was required to build a workhouse to serve its area. Except in special circumstances, poor people could now only get help if they were prepared to leave their homes and ask to go into a workhouse.
Conditions inside the workhouse were made to be unpleasant and deliberately harsh, so that only those who were so desperate for help would ask to be admitted. Families were split up and housed in different parts of the workhouse, males and females in different wings. The inmates were made to wear a uniform and the diet was monotonous, while breaking the rules could deprive a person of the normal rations as a punishment.
Inmates, male and female, young and old were made to work hard, often doing unpleasant jobs such as picking oakum or breaking stones. To get an impression of what it was like you can visit the National Trust’s Southwell Workhouse as I did. The damage that unpicking old ropes, to recycle the oakum, did to the hands of people who may once have worked in Nottinghamshire’s silk and lace industry meant that they would not be able to get work again and seems rather harsh. You can see what picking oakum looked like from my picture in the post I wrote after my visit to Southwell.
Children or the poor may have been hired out to work in factories or mines by the Board of Guardians of the workhouse, something that we find hard to understand today.
As many of our ancestors would have been poor, it is a sobering thought that this feared institution was a huge threat hanging over a worker should they became unemployed, sick or old. Not surprisingly the new Poor Law was hated by the poor as it seemed to punish people for falling on hard times even when it was through no fault of their own.
A well recommended website for doing more research is Peter Higginbotham’s http://www.workhouses.org.uk/
If you would like to learn more about English and Welsh ancestor research then you may be interested in taking a look at my family history course.
While this is not a brand new title (it was published in 2012) I have just begun to re-read Helen Osborn’s book Genealogy: Essential Research Methods and so far I find myself nodding in agreement with the author’s viewpoint on a number of things.
The first statement that I line up behind is when in Chapter 2 she talks about the nature of that the well worn phrase the “brick wall”.
“Your brick wall may not be my brick wall” Ms Osborn writes and later: “Brick walls are only met when you have truly exhausted all the available options.”
All to often a person new to our pass time will find a brick wall in their research, but they have only come to the end of their own competence and lack the knowledge to find out more. In some cases they may just have searched the easy records, or used the basic search on a website and so failed to have found their ancestors. With a bit more know how the researcher may learn techniques, such as simply searching more widely – as Helen Osborn highlights in this book.
The next major statement that I found myself wholeheartedly in agreement with was that the family history researcher has to understand something about the legal and administrative setting of the period in question, plus putting our ancestors into the geographical and historical environment in which they lived. Laws passed inevitably created records and these documents may contain record our ancestors.
We really need to understand why a record was created and what they included or excluded. For example if we are to look at the tithe records for England and Wales (searchable on TheGenealogist) do we know who was included and who was not, and also what exemptions might there have been?
With the tithes the owner and the occupier of the land was recorded in a period from 1837 to the mid 1850s, so while you may find your ancestor from any level of society included, you will not find all the names of their household.
At the time of the survey approximately 25 percent of England and Wales had no liability to tithes, as they either had been bought out earlier or for historical reasons had never been subject to the tithe and so you will not find your ancestor in the records if they lived in one of these areas. This is just one example, but the same principle has to be applied to other records by family historians. We must find out what we can expect to find in a record set and what we can’t.
When we are dealing with the last will and testament of an ancestor we need to pay attention to the places that we are likely to find their will – what is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction for will? Do we know the archdeaconry or deanery that they may have been proved in and what were the conditions for the will to be proved there?
I do recommend this title.
Or as a Kindle book…
I am just back from a visit to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
I was there last summer and went around the Mary Rose museum when the wreckage of this Tudor ship was still completely encased in a hot box chamber and slightly obscured by the ducts being used to dry her out after preservation.
As someone with a deep love of history, and a great respect for artefacts that can make a connection for us back to our ancestors, to get this close to a 506 year old ship that served in King Henry VIII’s navy and which was sunk 470 years ago, was a very special experience.
I have no idea if any of my ancestors had any connection to her. I know that many of my paternal line were sailors, some from Devon and others from Hampshire (on both sides of the inlet that makes up Portsmouth Harbour).
It is just possible, therefore, that my ancestors may have served on her. If not then they would surely have been aware of her terrible loss in July 1545 as she sank just off their shore in the Battle of the Solent.
Hundreds of men aboard the Mary Rose drowned as she went down, with only around 34 survivors. Little is known of who served on this ship, apart from the only positively identified person who went down with the ship, Vice-Admiral George Carew.
From the personal effects that have been recovered, however, the museum reveals so much information about the crew that is fascinating in the details.
Take the Master Carpenter, for example…
One cabin in the ship contained a range of tools for carpentry, including a mallet, brace, planes, rulers and a mortise gauge. It seems that the ship’s carpenter also had his prized pewter safely stored away in his sea-chest, along with some valuables such as silver coins, jewellery and an embroidered leather pouch.
Pointing to him being an educated man was the fact he had a book and a sundial in an embossed leather case.
All of this suggests that the carpenter was wealthy. The Mary Rose website states that “Only someone with wealth and status would have owned such items, and have been able to justify having a personal chest which would have taken up precious room on the crowded ship.”
The Mary Rose website also tells us more about the ship:
“When Henry VIII became king in 1509 he only had a handful of warships at his disposal – usually, in times of war, merchant vessels would be loaded with guns and used. However, with threats both from the Scots to the north and the French to the south, Henry knew he needed a standing navy, available at a moment’s notice. Thus, he got to work building his ‘Army by Sea’, starting with two carracks, the Peter Pomegranate and her larger sister ship, the Mary Rose.
and this about the crew:
The first recorded crew list for the Mary Rose dates back to 1513 and consists of mariners, soldiers and gunners, although their names were not given. Servants also appear on some of the later pay rolls. The artefacts found on board give us a unique insight into what their life was like.
There were 415 crew members listed in 1513, but during wartime operations there would have been more soldiers on board, with numbers perhaps swelling to around 700 men in total. Even with the normal crew size of around 400, conditions would have been very crowded.
The Mary Rose was the crew’s home and their workspace. As the ship was rapidly buried in very fine silt, a lot of their possessions are very well preserved, including wood, leather, human and animal bones.
We were able to recover a number of chests from the site, so we could study collections of objects and ascertain which crew members might own which possessions. There were a number of professional objects, such as the tools owned by onboard carpenters, or the ointments and medicine flasks used by the surgeon.
One other unique aspect of the objects found on board is the huge numbers of identical objects, such as 6,600 arrow bits, or the large number of wooden dishes. Having so many similar artefacts enables historians to study the standards of production and the quality of goods manufactured at a specific time.
Find out more about the Men of the Mary Rose here”
I thoroughly enjoyed my second visit to the Mary Rose, coming away much more enthused than before. I was impressed by the special effects of the crew carrying out their daily tasks being projected onto the timbers of the hull before the lights came up to reveal the wreck in all her glory. I was mesmerised by the artefacts recovered from the sea floor that gave huge insight into the lives of these men. And to be able to look down on her from the top floor of the galleries, without any obstruction was amazing.
10 out of 10 from me…
I would highly recommend a visit.
News from TheGenealogist this weekend tells of new Military record releases. I am particularly interested to see if I can trace a man in the Waterloo Roll, so off to take a look!
This month TheGenealogist is pleased to announce it has added several new early military records. Joining the ever growing and fully searchable Military collection is:
The Waterloo Roll Call 1815
Battery Records of the Royal Artillery, 1716-1859
The Manchester Regiment, 63rd and 96th 1758-1883 Vol I and 1883-1922 Vol II
Certificate of Musters in the County of Somerset 1569
Four more Army Lists, from 1838 to 1886
The Waterloo Roll Call of 1815 enables researchers to find ancestors within a list of nearly 4,000 men, most of whom were officers present at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium on June 18th 1815 under the Duke of Wellington – whose record we can find in this collection. You can search for your ancestors in ‘The Waterloo Roll Call’ using Title, Forename, Surname, Regiment, Rank, Decoration and Staff position.
Many of our forefathers would have served in the British Army, and with the military known for their record keeping these can provide researchers with valuable information on ancestors. The earliest records in this new release are 16th century Militia Musters for Somerset. The Certificate of Musters in the County of Somerset 1569 contain names of Militiamen (soldiers raised from the civil population) and what role they carried out including archer, pikeman and light-horseman.
The Battery Records of the Royal Artillery 1716-1859 is a prime reference record containing tabulated Battery records, numerous useful historical notes, lists of various officers and more.
For Mancunian military forebears The Manchester Regiment 63rd and 96th 1758-1922 includes the succession of Colonels and an alphabetical roll of regimental officers from 1758 to 1923 showing dates of service with the Regiment, dates of promotion and date and reason for being struck off. With the centenary of the First World War these records can be used to find casualties of all ranks from “The Manchesters” in the Great War. With a list of Honours and Awards, including foreign, these digitised books also provide an interesting in-depth history of the regiment so that researchers can follow the postings of The Manchester Regiment and the action in which it took part.
Those researching Victorian soldiers will welcome the inclusion of several early Army Lists in this release for January 1838, December 1838, April 1886 and The Annual Army and Militia List 1855.
Image sources: https://commons.wikimedia.org
To search these and countless other useful family history records take a look at TheGenealogist now!
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