Welsh genealogy: the best resources for tracing your Welsh ancestors

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23 May 2022
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Are you one of the millions of people around the world with Welsh roots? Discover the best Welsh genealogy records with Family Tree's family history guide.

Welsh genealogy records

The Welsh census

The Census for Wales is available for researchers to explore in the following years: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 and 1921. You can access these online (£) at Ancestry and FindMyPast, or free of charge at FamilySearch centres around the world. Note: The 1921 Census is only available online at FindMyPast, but is also free to view at the National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth.

Births, marriages and deaths for Wales

National Library of Wales is home to copies of the indexes of Welsh births, marriages and deaths from 1 July 1837 onwards (please note that the library does not hold or issue certificates). At the library, you can access microfiche copies of the indexes from 1837 to 1998, and also access FindMyPast and Ancestry online indexes free of charge.

North Wales BMD is another useful resource, an ongoing project by Welsh family history societies to make available the indexes of births, marriages and deaths from the local register offices of North Wales (as opposed to the GRO indexes) from the start of civil registration in 1837.

Pre 1837 parish registers

Welsh baptisms, marriages and burials recorded within church records are extremely useful for tracing your family tree back before the start of civil registration.

Before the start of civil registration, you will find Welsh baptisms, marriages and burials recorded within church records. The registers of these original records are kept by county record offices around Wales, which are listed at National Library of Wales here. National Library of Wales has over 500 parishes on microfilm on open access, as well as transcripts and indexes of various parish registers made by family history societies, and online collections accessible via Ancestry and FindMyPast. Bishops Transcripts, wills and marriage bonds are also available, to replace or supplement the information found in baptism, marriage and burial records. 

Wills 

Wills/ Ewyllysiau at the National Library of Wales allows you to search for wills proved in the Welsh ecclesiastical courts before 1858.  If you have a readers’ ticket to the NLW you can log in and view the will online.


FOR MORE ON USING FAMILY HISTORY RECORDS, SEE THE LATEST ISSUE OF FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE


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Online Welsh genealogy records

Archives Wales

Archives Wales/Archifau Cymru is an online gateway to thousands of records held in more than 20 archives around the country. The online catalogue here allows you to search archive descriptions, allowing you to locate collections of interest. 

Glossary of Welsh place names

As a Google search will show, there are dozens of Welsh Place Names glossaries available to help you research a particular settlement. We like this one at Welsh Family History Archive/Archif Hanes Teulu Cymru. As its author John Ball explains, many Welsh place names have their roots in extremely descriptive landscape elements and so if you delve into the history of the name, you might well come to discover much about what life was like there when it was your ancestor's home. 

Welsh Newspapers Online/Papurau Newydd Cymru

Explore 15 million newspaper records at Welsh Newspapers Online, including family notices, advertisements and lists. The site is particularly useful for local news it might be difficult to find via other resources.

Welsh Journals Online/ Cylchgronau Cymru 

Explore what life was like in years gone by in this collection of journal articles published between 1735 and 2007. Search by name, place, year or journal title.

Welsh Family History Archive/Archif Hanes Teulu Cymru

Created by John Ball, Welsh Family History Archive is full of valuable information for family historians that's difficult to find elsewhere. Highlights include a place name pronunciation guide, photographic images, a gazetteer of place names, gravestone inscriptions and a Welsh ancestor list, the latter created from information submitted by family historians.

Maps and place names

List of Historic Place Names/Rhestr o Enwau Hanesyddol 

List of Historic Place Names contains hundreds of thousands of place names taken from various historical sources, and is extremely useful for pinpointing smaller towns and villages. You can search by specific place name, or browse different places using the maps feature. 

Welsh Tithe Maps/ Mapiau Degwm Cymru 

Welsh Tithe Maps allows you 300,000 entries and their accompanying apportionment documents using present-day and historic maps. If your ancestor had a connection to the land, perhaps working as a farmer for example, you can find out more about the type and size of the land they owned. 

Societies and associations

There are many different societies and associations to help you find out more about your Welsh ancestors, and many of these groups are members of the Association of Family History Societies of Wales. Here, you will find links to the different member societies 

The site also has an extremely useful list of Welsh parishes where you can look for a place name and find its pre-1974 and post-1974 parish name, as well as which family history society is applicable. 

Ceredigion Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Ceredigion

Formed in 1995 to encourage the study of Ceredigion family history, Ceredigion Family History Society welcomes members from around the world. The society is currently running several projects which welcome volunteers, including and 1851 Census project, and 1813 to 1837 baptisms.

Clwyd Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Clwyd

Founded in 1980 to encourage the study of genealogy in north east Wales, Clwyd Family History Society has around 1,000 members around the world. The society has its own resource centre in Cefn Mawr, which is open to both members and non-members.

Dyfed Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Dyfed

Dyfed Family History Society exists to serve anyone interested in the genealogy, heraldry, family history and local history of the three Welsh counties of Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. 

Glamorgan Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Morgannwg

Known for its comprehensive collection of baptisms, marriages, burials, monumental inscriptions and school records, Glamorgan Family History Society acts as a focal point for anyone whose roots are in Glamorgan. Society Members help with the various on-going projects - dealing with the transcription and indexing of relevant Glamorgan documents and records. The results, produced in booklet & microfiche, are available to all members worldwide.

Gwent Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Gwent

Discovery your Gwent ancestors with the help of Gwent Family History Society, which exists to help family historians in Gwent, and anyone seeking ancestors in the historic county of Monmouthshire. Branch meetings are held in five areas of Gwent. Members have transcribed and compiled a large number of parish registers, monumental inscriptions and census index entries, which are available to members.

Gwynedd Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Gwynedd

Founded in 1980, Gwynedd Family History Society exists to help and advise anyone with Gwynedd ancestors. It has several regional branches in order to serve the entire Gwynedd area. The group has its own resource centre in Caernarfon, where its collections are held, and where volunteers are on hand to offer advice. 

Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society/ Cymdeithas Achyddol Sir Drefaldwyn

In addition to having published virtually all Montgomeryshire memorial inscriptions and parish registers, Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society has for some time had a manorial documents project underway, the resulting information from which is available from no other source. This now extends to well over 100,000 records.

Powys Family History Society/ Cymdeithas Hanes Teuluoedd Powys

Powys Family History Society can help you trace your ancestors in Breconshire, Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire. The group makes indexes, transcriptions and library items available to its members and holds monthly meetings. 

Genealogy resources at archives and libraries

The many record offices in Wales are listed, with their contact details at FamilySearch. Record offices can be a great source of genealogical information that isn't always held centrally or online, such as education records, maps, photographs, council records and much more. You will generally need to book an appointment before visiting. 

Genealogy guide to Welsh ancestors

Beryl Evans’s book, Tracing Your Welsh Ancestors, published in 2015, is a comprehensive, authoritative guide to tracing ancestors in Wales.

With grateful thanks to Joanna Jeffery for providing the inspiration for this article, as well as several of the resources listed above.


For lots more family history tips and inspiration, read Family Tree magazine