The Welsh Bible and family history.
Jones. Mason. Carved in 1876 on a corner stone at
a church in Nelson, Madison County, New York State.
In days of old, Welsh people would often keep a record of important family
events by writing on the flyleaf of the family bible. The old Welsh bibles were
published in a large format and provided a secure repository for details of
marriages, births and other important data.
An American visitor asked us to comment on a translation of such personal data
from the bible of an ancestor, James Jones, who had emigrated from Wales in 1852. The
has reproduced the translation below (in the right hand column) and added notes and maps in an attempt to
identify the place names mentioned there. This exercise highlights some of the
problems facing researchers when confronted with Welsh place names in old documents. Spelling often presents difficulties for those copying old
handwriting, especially if they are not familiar with the Welsh language. Welsh
place names rely very much on landscape features and the names of saints - both
Celtic and those made popular by the Normans after 1066.
There is much duplication and even the combination of a village name and its
county cannot always guarantee the correct identification.
Llanllwni apparently means "the Church of St.
Luke" and is the name of a small village which thrives today.
It is around 15 miles south west of the town of Lampeter.
|James Jones was born in
Clawddcoch (his house - Red Bank), Llanllwni, Carmarthenshire, 23 March,
|There is a place called Peniel around 10 miles from
Llanllwni but this does not appear on modern maps and is not to be
confused with the better known Peniel in north Wales.
||Accepted into church in
Peniel near Carmarthen in 1846.
|Although there are several Welsh place names which begin
with Capel (Chapel) this does not appear to be one of them. This entry
seems to indicate a change in allegiance and a new place of worship,
presumably a chapel named for Non, the mother of St. David.
||Went from there to Capelnoni,
the place where my mother and father were members.
This appears to be the village of
Cwmllynfell, just a few miles
|Lived in Cwmllyfell,
Glamorganshire in 1847 ...
This would seem to be Troedyrhiw, just
south of Merthyr Tydfil. "Sanon" should be "Saron",
the name of a chapel which once existed there. See pictures
from Troedyrhiw ...
|... and in Sanon Trodrhin, Merthyr for eight months
in 1850 and 1851.
Information on Troedyrhiw and the Friends of
Saron - Troedyrhiw
It would seem that "Denlwyn"
should be Derlwyn. There are a couple of places of this name within
a few miles of Llandysul. (Thanks to Mr. Owen of Aberystwyth
for this information.) Although they married
in America, in 1855, the couple were from the same area of
Wales and may well have known each other from childhood. Llandysul is
just ten miles or so from Llanllwni, James' birthplace.
|Emigrated to U.S. last day of August,
Married Jane Davis of
Denlwyn, Cardiganshire in the parish of Llandysul. She was born 18
Jane Davis arrived alone
in America in 1850. Her mother had died on the long sea voyage from
Britain. She made her way to Nelson, N.Y. where two brothers were
already settled. On her arrival in America, Jane could only speak in
|Other than the bald facts outlined above, what does this
tell us about James Jones and his family? First of all, his original home Llanllwni was (and is) in a part of
Wales devoted to farming. It would be reasonable to suppose that he was
the son of a small farmer or a farm worker. Born in 1826, he was 21 years old when he moved to Glamorgan. At this time farmers were in
despair. Poor crops and prices combined with social injustice to cause
much unrest in Wales. The country did not suffer the recurrent famine
conditions of Ireland but Irish immigration added to the problems caused
by the economic recession which followed the end of the war against
Napoleon and France. The small farms of Wales became uneconomic and
taxes, tithes and tolls became more burdensome. The Hosts of Rebecca burned the hated toll gates
by night and in 1839 thousands of Chartists marched on Newport in
Monmouthshire in a prelude to the "hungry forties".
It is significant that the Glamorgan destinations mentioned were both
close to burgeoning industrial centres. The iron industry had only
suffered a temporary regression and by 1840 there were twice as many
blast furnaces as there had been in 1815. Cwmllynfell is just a few miles
from the town of Brynamman and Troedyrhiw just a few miles from Merthyr,
the industrial heart of Wales at this time. James Jones had become
part of the great movement away from the land which was to hugely
inflate the populations of the southern counties of Glamorgan and
Monmouthshire in the 19th. century.
Both commercial agents and non-conformist ministers promoted the
concept of emigration in the industrial towns and James Jones may well
have left Wales in the company of a small party encouraged by a vision
of greater opportunity and religious toleration in America. (At the
time he left Wales, worship in a chapel rather than a church of the
Anglican denomination could still be a bar to progress in certain
||Whilst in Wales James Jones had become a stone mason and he followed
this trade and that of a farmer after settling in Nelson, Madison County, New York State.
Years later an article in "Y Drych" ("The Mirror" -
an American Welsh language newspaper) noted that he had been the paper's
Madison County representative for 30 years. A modern day descendant
recalls that her family spoke Welsh until the time of her own father,
who knew just a few words of the language.
Jones helped to build
this church in Nelson around 1876. A member of the Jones family
was married here in 1998.
||This map shows the pre-1974 counties but for reasons of
space I have omitted the "shire" suffixes*.The numbered
squares show the approximate locations of 1. Llanllwni, 2. Cwmllynfell,
3. Troedyrhiw and 4. Llandysul.
Note: The roadmap thumbnails were produced by Microsoft's handy AutoRoute
2002. The county map is copyright of Data Wales.
* The names of these counties were generally formed from the names of
the most populous market towns in the relevant areas, with the addition
of the English "shire" (from the Anglo Saxon "scir"
or "scire", a province).