Beginners start here
Advice sites on how to start/carry out your research
- Genuki's "Getting Started in Genealogy"
- Another Genuki site explains in simple language how to begin your research .
- A tutorial on Genuki's "A-Z of British Genealogical Research"
- The LDS Wales Research Guidance site
- The FFHS's First Steps in FH site
- Rootsweb's Guide to tracing your Family Tree
- Life on the Net/Genealogy by ft.com [ Financial Times]
- The UK based Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (AGRA) has a site on http://www.agra.org.uk - has a list of professional researchers on there
- County Archives (Records Offices) do offer research services themselves, they also may hold lists of local pro-researchers
- Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents
- Association of Professional Genealogists based in the USA
Here is the gateway page to the Wales Lookup Exchange which has separate sections for;
- All Wales
- One Name Database
- Mid Wales Lookup Exchange
To prevent double counting, people were listed at the addresses where they were on census night, or to which they intended to return the following day after a night's work or travel. It is simplest to refer to the separate censuses by the dates either side of the midnight of census night.
- 6-7 June1841
- 30-31 March 1851
- 7-8 April 1861
- 2-3 April 1871
- 3-4 April 1881
- 5-6 April 1891
- 31 March -1 April 1901
- 2 - 3 April 1911
- 19-20th June 1921(delayed by strikes from April)
- The 1931 returns were destroyed by fire in WWII.
- The 1941 census was not taken because of the war.
A census of the population of England & Wales was first taken in 1801, followed by others every 10 years except for 1941 when the country was again at war.
When decennial census taking was first mooted in 1800, the country was at war with France and was suffering bad harvests and food shortages - it would not be surprising if government wished to find out more about the makeup of the population at large.
The range of questions asked were added to as the century progressed and social and medical scientists came to the fore.
After each census an official Census Report was issued including all manner of statistics and commentary.
Apart from 1841 the censuses were held in the spring to avoid distortions caused by seasonal movement of agricultural workers in the summer months - see Census dates above
These were taken for statistical purposes and contained no individual names as such (with some local exceptions).
They were organised by one John Rickman who worked for the House of Commons,the parish based data collection being devolved to the officials of the Poor Law system and the established church.
Although there were differences between the 4 returns, the questions broadly revolved around ;
- numbers of inhabited/uninhabited houses, occupied by how many families
- numbers of persons to be found in the parish, male/female
- numbers of people employed in agriculture, manufacture, retail, mining, fishing, servants, retired/disabled/
The clergy were also required to provide data on baptisms, marriages and burials for a range of dates over the previous century.
An additional question in 1830 was the number of illegitimate children born in a parish.
1841 (The TNA reference is HO 107)
Following the establishment of a civil registration system, responsibility for census taking was taken over by the GRO in 1840. The census was also based on the new registration districts, themselves modelled on the older Poor Law unions which sometimes overlapped 2 or more counties - this latter fact should be kept in mind if having difficulty finding a particular place in what may seem to be the obvious enumeration district.
All that remained was for the registrars to divide their sub-districts into smaller enumeration districts (maximum 200 inhabited houses), and appoint an enumerator for each one.
Enumerators had to be able to read and write, be temperate, orderly and respectable - as an example, my gg grandfather, Benjamin Evans, schoolmaster, seems to have been the enumerator for Llanybyther in Carmarthenshire for the 1851 census.
See here for the detailed Instructions to the Enumerators from the 1841 Census
The census was held on a single night of the year (to avoid double counting), the idea being that they would include every person at a house "that night" - one apparent omission (in 1841 only) was not to give clear guidance to include night workers who would be returning to that residence next day, another was how to deal with lodgers and boarders.
Household schedules (with instructions) were to be issued to each household ahead of census night, to be completed by the householder and collected by the enumerator the day after census night. A Welsh translation of the schedule was available from 1841 onwards but the data provided had to be written in English.
Should the householder have difficulties with completing the schedule the enumerator was required to assist and no doubt ended up completing some entirely - for example, it is recorded that in 1871, in Anglesey, the enumerator completed the majority.
The schedules were then to be copied into printed books - it is digital copies of these enumerators' books that are now used for searching/transcribing/indexing.
This first 'named' census could be seen as something of a 'suck it and see' affair, it was designed to be as simple as possible - the principal difference between it and those that followed is the absence of relationships shown between the residents; the requirement that ages were rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5, unless under 15; and that the place of birth question was only to say whether born in "the same county or not" (also whether born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign parts).
All factors which we genealogists now gripe about !
No named account was made of the crews/passengers of merchant vessels for this census, unless they were ashore of course. A head count was carried out.
Neither was any count taken of those aboard fishing vessels in this census, likewise itinerants/travellers which was unfortunate given the census was taken in June when annual movements were well under way.
Royal Navy personnel ashore on census night were fully enumerated as households or institutions. The position with those on board ship isn't clear, a head count was carried out - if they existed no named returns seem to survive for 1841/51.
Soldiers serving abroad were never fully enumerated until 1911, those living in barracks within the UK were.
On this page on Ancestry.com (scroll down, down) there are details of 'known problems with the 1841 census' for Wales (work back to find the England page)
Searchable indexes on Find my past
1851 (HO 107)
This census was a considerable improvement on 1841 - "relation to head" being introduced, also marital status, and "where born" to include county and parish/town in that order. A straight forward "Age" question replaced the convoluted rounding down of 1841. The number of a house in a street was now to be included although that assumed that 'proper addresses' existed at all at this time in most places.
The first medical question appeared - householders were now asked to indicate if anyone was deaf, dumb or blind.
The position with the merchant marine, fishing vessels, inland navigation vessels, itinerants & travellers from 1851 onwards is too complex to describe here - the book mentioned above has chapter and verse.
See here for Census instructions for 1851
Searchable indexes on Find my past
1861 (RG 9)
The storage of the 1861 returns in particular could be described as haphazard in the extreme and they didn't get into the safe hands of the PRO until the 1960s, unfortunately sections are permanently missing.
From 1861 commanding officers of Royal Navy ships, either in home of foreign waters, were required to fully enumerate their officers and crews.
On this page on Ancestry.com (scroll down, down) there are details of 'known problems with 1861 piece numbers' for Wales (work back to find the England page)
Searchable indexes on Find my past
1871 (RG 10)
The medical question was expanded to include those who were 'imbeciles, idiots or lunatics'
Searchable indexes on Find my past
1881 (RG 11)
This return has been indexed/transcribed for the whole of the UK, a combined undertaking by the Genealogical Society of Utah [Mormons] and the FFHS, it is searchable online on their own site or Find my past
See 1881 census place name index for details of 1881 census Registration District overlaps for All Wales/Mon and a place name index for the Dyfed and Glamorgan counties only.
1891 (RG 12)
In 1891 & 1901 an extra question was introduced in Wales only to ascertain whether people spoke only Welsh, only English, or both.
Additional questions were introduced, namely boxes headed Employer/Employed/Neither
Searchable indexes on Find my past
1901 (RG 13)
See http://www.1901censusonline.com/ for a fully searchable index online .
See the Genuki page Directions to Enumerators on the completion of 1901 Census Enumeration Books, and Genuki for other census related odds and ends
The surviving 1911 census pages consist of the original household pages and the enumerators' summary books.
See http://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/search-menu/census-land-and-surveys for a fully searchable index online
On 1911 census co uk is a guidance section for Welsh Records with useful Welsh translation tables
See 1911 census org uk for summary information
The Census Returns become available for public inspection after 100 years, or 1922 in this case.
The 1931 returns were destroyed by fire in WWII.
See 1911 census org uk for summary information
Not taken because of WWII
General notes and guidance
- See Abbreviations for Relationships to heads of household on census returns
- There is an extensive list of places and parishes within the Dyfed counties with their respective hundreds and census registration districts on the Dyfed FHS website.
- For Glamorgan, there is a Class List produced by the PRO of places included in each part of each census - on this site under Glamorgan
- Genuki has an index to the place names in the censuses and this covers Wales, England and the Isle of Man .
For each place listed is shown the county and registration district in which they were situated during the years 1837-1930.
- See also Genuki for general information
- The National Archives have an online research guide
- There are a number of commercial organisations, as well as Family History Societies such as Glamorgan FHS, who sell Cds, or online access, of/to various UK censuses.
Some are name-indexed with transcriptions, others are only the digital images of the enumerators' books, mostly with some sort of street index etc.
- Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. University of London School of Advance Study/Inst. of Historical Research/TNA, 2005. 232p. ISBN 1 905165 00 5. Available from TNA (The National Archives)
- Census: The expert guide by Peter Christian and David Annal, (The National Archives, 2008) Available from TNA (The National Archives)
- Local census listings 1522-1930, Holdings in the British Isles by Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott, (Federation of Family History Societies, third edition, 1997, reprinted 2001)
Welsh Counties, then and now
The boundaries and names of many counties in England and Wales changed both in 1974 and again in 1996. This can make it difficult to locate parishes and records.
This is an outline summary of the boundary and name changes in Wales in 1974 and 1996. In 1996 some new County Boroughs were also formed in some urban areas. However be aware that those counties which reverted to their pre-1974 name in 1996 may not have reverted to exactly the same geographical boundaries.
The changes may also be seen in map format by clicking the links below
PRE 1974 1974-1996 1996
Anglesey / Ynys Mon
Wrexham County Borough
Conwy County Borough
Neath Port Talbot
Rhondda Cynon Taff
Vale of Glamorgan
County of Swansea
Gwent (included a small part of Glamorgan)
Monmouthshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent,Torfaen
The recent changes in the county boundaries and names mean that some records have also been moved causing problems for Family Historians, therefore recommended reading for anyone researching in Wales is:
" RESEARCHING FAMILY HISTORY IN WALES" by Jean Istance and E.E.Cann., Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Ltd. 1996. ISBN 1-86006-030-7.
This book provides the following information:
- 1) A brief history of the pre 1974 counties and details of the changes made in 1974 and 1996.
- 2) Addresses, phone nos., opening times and holdings of all Record Offices.
- 3) Addresses, phone nos., and holdings of all libraries and museums.
- 4) Addresses and phone nos., of all LDS Family History Centres.
- 5) Addresses and phone nos., of all Register Offices.
- 6) Addresses and phones nos. of all Tourist Information Offices.
- 7) Details of local attractions of interest to local historians.
These are mainly books I have personally, there are many others available.
Listed in no particular order
- 1. Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research, 2nd ed, chapters by various authors. Edited by John & Sheila Rowlands. Published by the Assoc. of Family History Societies of Wales and the FFHS.[ISBN 1-86006-065-X] 1998, 325 p. The chapter titles are: Introduction, Archive Repositories in Wales, Family History Societies of Wales, Parish Registers and, Bishop's Transcripts, Civil Registration and the Census, Nonconformity, The Surnames of Wales, Place Names, Some Basic Welsh for Family Historians, The IGI for Wales, Estate Records, Maritime Records, Wills and Other Records of Inheritance, Education Records, Parochial Records, The Welsh at Law, The Records of the Courts of Great Sessions for Wales, Printed and Manuscript Pedigrees, Migration
- 2. Researching Family History in Wales by Jean Istance and E Cann 1996. Detailed information about the Record Offices and Libraries of Wales. [ISBN 1-86006-030-7]
- 3. The Surnames of Wales for family historians and others, by John & Sheila Rowlands 1996 A description / analysis of the development of surnames within Wales down to modern times. ISBN 1-86006-025-0.
"The dominance of a small number of common surnames in Wales can be a major stumbling block for those researching their Welsh ancestry or those wishing to distinguish between individuals within a given community as part of a local history study. This book attempts to dispel the myths that surround the subject of surnames in Wales - such as the widely-held belief (outside Wales) that nearly everyone is called Jones - by describing the development of surnames within Wales down to modern times. Equal emphasis has been given within the text to common names found throughout Wales and to rarer ones found only in specific localities. [The survey given] of surnames in Wales in the period 1813-1837 can be used to suggest a place of origin within Wales for groups of people (a minimum of two) about whom all that is known is that 'they came from Wales'. For many people whose ancestors left Wales for other parts of Britain or the New World this predictive method could offer the first real opportunity for making progress in tracing those elusive (and often seemingly anonymous) Welsh ancestors by narrowing down the potential search area."
- 4. The Family Tree Detective 3rd ed, by Colin Rogers 1997. Tracing your Ancestors in England and Wales. ISBN 0-7190-5213-0
- 5. Basic Sources for Family History. 1: back to the early 1800s, by A.Todd 1989. 2nd ed.[Allen & Todd]
- 6. Ancestral Trails . The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. by Mark D. Herber 1997. [ISBN 0-7509-1418-1] Published by Sutton Publishing/S.O.G. 674 pages.
There is a revised and updated 2nd edition published in 2004. (CN 120647)
- 7. Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry, 1999, edited by John and Sheila Rowlands. ISBN 1-86006-066-8. 'Success in researching our Welsh ancestry requires some understanding of the social, cultural , religious and economic background to the communities in which our ancestors lived, this book aims to broaden that understanding, especially for the period before 1800......'
- 8. -
- 9. Tracing the History of Your House, a guide to sources. By Nick Barratt. PRO, 2001. ISBN 1-903365-22-8
- 10. Tracing your Ancestors in the PRO. By Amanda Bevan. ISBN 1-903365-34-1. 6th ed, PRO, 2002. 524 pages.
- 11. The Local History Companion. By Stephen Friar. ISBN 0-7509-2722-4. Sutton Publishing, 2001. 506 pages.
- 12. The Welsh Almanac. By T D Breverton. 2002. ISBN 1-903529-107. Crammed with facts about Wales and Welsh events, a most informative book
- 13. Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. University of London School of Advance Study/Inst. of Historical Research/TNA, 2005. 232p. ISBN 1 905165 00 5
The following have been recommended by other researchers;
- 1. The Family Historian's Enquire Within by Pauline Saul & F.C Markwell (FFHS 1991)
- 2a The Oxford Guide to family History
2b The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History
Genuki, a route map
What is Genuki ?
The aim of Genuki is to serve as a large virtual reference library of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a free service using computer resources that are kindly provided by various universities and individuals.
Its front page can be accessed at Genuki.
Or go direct to the Wales page .
There are separate county Surname Lists reached via Welsh genealogy, these are for you to post your own interests, and check out the names other people are researching.
David Hawgood has written a book on Genuki and it is also available online in its entirety on http://www.hawgood.co.uk/
The International Genealogical Index is a database containing well over 100 million names , mainly baptismal entries from parish and non-parochial registers all over England & Wales, together with a smaller number of marriages. Neither deaths or burials are included.
The Index has been compiled and computerised by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It is arranged under counties, the entries are listed in alphabetical order of surnames grouped under spelling variations as decided on by the compilers.
The surnames themselves are arranged in alpha order of forenames and then chronologically.
Marriages are indexed under the names of both parties.
The coverage of any given parish is not necessarily complete.
In Wales the LDS has not been allowed to microfilm or index the parish registers so the Welsh IGI contains only a small number of entire registers. But this is less serious than it seems as they have been able to use the BTs instead.
The IGI can be a most useful resource but should be used as a finding aid only, indexed entries should be checked to the actual register etc.
There is a problem peculiar to Welsh research in that the method adopted to cope with the patronymic system,when registers pre 1813 also contained no surname column , assumed incorrectly that in all cases a son took his father's christian name as his surname.
For example, a 1783 bapt for William son of John Thomas would be indexed under John, not Thomas in the Surname Index.
It gets worse, if there are more than 2 father's names, the rest are discarded completely, so the actual surname may not appear at all never mind in the wrong place.
There is also a Given Name index, where, for example, all the Williams are grouped together.
The IGI is available on fiche for searching at many Records Offices, and some FHS centres, as well as the LDS FHCs where name extracts are increasingly downloadable to CD for taking away with you. [see also Patronymic)
Some sites with links to many other Welsh language sites;
http://www.anoeth.demon.co.uk/cyfall.html#CADG "Cymraeg, a Dysgu'r Gymraeg" (Welsh, and learning Welsh)
http://www.gwybodiadur.co.uk/ "These pages are designed to help you find books, tapes, CD-ROMs and online resources to do with the Welsh language, focusing particularly on Welsh dictionaries. They are aimed mainly at Welsh learners and therefore written in English. You won't find much here about Welsh literature, music, history, politics, genealogy, tourism, mythology, recipes, Celtic jewellery or whatever, although some of the links will still be useful to you........."
Welsh/English and English /Welsh online dictionary (Univ of Wales, Lampeter)
http://www.cymraeg.org.uk/ "apertium-cy, the first free automatic translator for Welsh"