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Emigration from Wales to America.
We hear from quite a few visitors whose ancestors left Wales many years ago in search of a better life. (See our map illustrating the major movements.) The early emigrants faced a sea journey fraught with danger and they suffered discomfort difficult to imagine today. What motivated these pioneers? It has been said that poverty, persecution and ambition were the main motives. This is not the place for a broad survey of these issues but we can illustrate just some aspects of Welsh life which the emigrants were glad to leave behind. 

Tolls. At the beginning of the 18th century the system of "road trusts" was formalised. The 17th century had seen a revival of road tolls and the setting up of gates or "turnpikes" at which tolls were collected but now local gentlemen could obtain private acts of parliament to enable them to borrow money on the security of turnpike tolls and to use this to improve the roads. The system spread quickly and country people disliked the tolls enough to attack and destroy some of the toll houses in the period of the Rebecca Riots. Many of the old toll houses survive, however, and now find a use as private residences. Take a look at some examples: Penhow and Trellech in Monmouthshire. NB: Modern visitors will be glad to hear that it is now very unusual to find a toll road in Wales but they should be aware of the tolls payable at the two Severn Crossings when entering Wales from England. 

Tithes. Tithes were traditionally a tax of one tenth of the produce of land, designed to support the church and clergy. In 1836 the Tithe Commutation Act provided for the substitution of an annual tithe rent charge. The collection of tithes (and the extortionate practices of individual tithe owners) caused great anger in an era of economic depression and religious dissent. Tithe maps of parishes were drawn up to apportion responsibility for payment and these maps are amongst the earliest highly detailed maps of Wales. We have re-drawn a section of an 1846 tithe map for the parish of Langstone in Monmouthshire. 

For a learned yet readable study of the economic problems facing rural Wales in the 19th century see The Rebecca Riots by David Williams (U. of Wales Press 1986, ISBN 0-7083-0933-X). 

Emigration pictures: 

The Albion - Cardigan to Saint John's and New York, 1819. 

Credo - Aberystwyth to Quebec, 1848. 

The coming of steam. Liverpool to New York, Baltimore etc., 1854. 

Leaving lodgings in Liverpool for the Cunard ship Lucania in 1895. 

A South Wales Mining Valley . Typical home town of many 19th Century emigrants. 
See also: The Welsh in Patagonia and The Welsh and Anthracite Coal Mining in America.


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