If you login to Ancestry today, you’ll find a new addition to our records: the Church in Wales Anglican Parish Registers. As Content Acquisition Manager for UK and Ireland I’m thrilled to take you through these fascinating records, which are invaluable for researching your Welsh ancestors.
The collection spans from 1538 to 1994, with varying cut off points for the different event types. Baptismal records are available up to 1919, Marriages and Banns to 1935 and Burials to 1994. It’s made up of 13 different databases, each one dedicated to a historical county of Wales: Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Merionethshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire.
If you suspect you have Welsh roots, but don’t know which historical country your family came from, I would recommend using our group page to search across the whole country in one go.
Parish records typically began in 1538 and are extremely valuable in helping you dig deep into your family tree. The Church in Wales was the predominant religion well into the 19th Century, so these new records will help you trace Welsh roots from Tudor times until the Civil Birth, Marriage and Death records began in 1837. It’s worth noting that many non-conformists also chose to be baptised, married and buried in the Church in Wales, so you could find them in these new registers.
The start year of the county parish records does vary, with Brecknockshire records starting in 1538 and Cardiganshire records beginning almost a century later in 1633. A lot of the early parish registers were recorded on loose leaf pages, which have not necessarily survived over the years. Parishes may have merged over time or split in to two parishes as the congregation grew, so you can support your work with a modern map search to see where one parish is in relation to another.
Marriage records have long been a favourite of mine, and these Church in Wales marriage records are no different. Marriages bring together two sides of your family, and as a result they can help you get a generation back on both sides. Having both the bride’s and groom’s fathers’ names is very helpful for growing your tree, not to mention the added benefit of a lady’s maiden name.
Jones, Williams, Thomas, Davies, Hughes are just some of the common surnames you’ll see across Wales. A tip for helping you ensure you have the right record for your family is to triangulate your sources. Perhaps you have a census record that gives ages and occupations of the household. Use these facts to cross-reference the family in the parish registers to ensure the ages and more helpfully the occupation line up. John Williams the tailor in a census record is unlikely to be John Williams the police constable and father in the baptismal record. Occupations can also give you a sense of the family’s social standing within their community which helps you get a better sense of their lifestyle.
Did you have an ancestor who was born in Wales but perhaps moved within the UK or further afield in search of work? Be sure to search for them in the burial records in the area they were born, as they may have wished to be laid to rest in their place of origin. We see a classic example of this in the record for Robert Owens. Despite moving to Scotland and rejecting religion his whole life in favour of social reform, his burial is recorded in Newtown, Montgomeryshire in 1858, with the record referencing his Scottish abode in New Lanark.
As I alluded to above, Ancestry have Civil Birth, Marriage and Death records for Wales from 1837 to 2006, and the Census records from 1841-1911. Beyond these, you’ll also find your Welsh ancestors in our national collections, such as the 1939 Register, British Army Records, Incoming and Outgoing Passenger Lists, and so on. Our collection of wills for Wales dates from 1518 to 1858 and is the perfect collection to search alongside the parish records, given their similar timeframe.
Looking regionally, we have Electoral Registers for the Welsh counties of Pembrokeshire, Isle of Anglesey and West Glamorgan. We also have Poor Law records and Criminal records for West Glamorgan – the latter has a few photos of criminals thrown in to the mix and always makes for a great story when talking about your family history.
The above collections are just a short snippet of the types of records we have which will help you bridge the gap between your family as you know it today and your ancestors, to delve deep in to the Welsh Parish Registers. Enjoy the collection and happy searching!