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The Welsh Bible and family history.

Ja(me)s 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 present writer 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, 1826.


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 from Brynamman.
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 Times

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, 1852.

Married Jane Davis of Denlwyn, Cardiganshire in the parish of Llandysul. She was born 18 February, 1835.

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 Welsh. 


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 fields).

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. 

James 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). 


    ©  John Weston / Data Wales, 2002
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