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Wales Gotoarrow.png Beginning research

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Beginning Research
Record Types
Wales Background
Local Research Resources

Beginning Research[edit | edit source]

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centert Back to Wales

Wales[edit | edit source]

Finding a Place Name[edit | edit source]

Events in the lives of your ancestors, such as births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths, were recorded at the places where they occurred. In most cases, you need to know where an event took place in order to find a record of it. If you don't know the place, you may be able to find that information in sources readily available to you. This guide suggests sources that may help you identify place-names. You are looking for the name of the place where an event in the life of one of your ancestors occurred. Follow these steps to find sources that will help you identify a place-name.

Identifying Place Names[edit | edit source]

  • Gather information from home and family sources. Many sources for identifying place-names may be found in your own home or in the home of a family member.
    • Birth,Death and Marriage certificatesFreeREG
    • Letters
    • Family Bibles
    • Obituaries and Funeral Cards
    • Naturalization papers
    • Wills
    • Photographs
    • Any other sources that might have any information about the family.

Write information on Genealogical forms[edit | edit source]

  • Genealogy forms can be found on your computer.
    • Write the information you find on pedigree charts and family group record forms.
    • Use a research log to cite sources.
    • Copy the information from the record exactly as it was given onto the family group sheets and pedigree chart for your ancestor. Be sure to record the source of the information onto a research log. You may want to make a photocopy of the record for future use.
    • You can purchase a program for your home computer that helps you organize your genealogy and allows you to print out these forms.
    • Programs such as Ancestral Quest,RootsMagic/RootsMagic,Legacy Family Tree may be downloaded online.

Decide on a research goal[edit | edit source]

  • Once you have gathered information and recorded it you can see what information you have and what is missing.
    • You may have dates without places to go with them.
    • Determine a place name, such as a place of birth, that you would like to find or verify.
    • This is your research goal.

Look for compiled research sources[edit | edit source]

  • After selecting a research goal, look for research on your family compiled by others.
    • Someone else may have already identified places where the events in the lives of your ancestors occurred.
    • Compiled research may be found in private and public collections of individuals, libraries, and societies, as well as on the Internet.
    • Look up genealogical histories under the family name.
    • Look in county histories for the family name

Look for indexes[edit | edit source]

  • Surname indexes to collections of records may provide the names of places where people of your surname lived.
    • Look for indexes to records with broad coverage for Wales.
    • Indexes may also be available on line.
    • Indexes are available for almost every kind of record.

Find information about a place[edit | edit source]

Once you have identified a place, you should find information about it. You should also locate it on a map.

Analyzing what I know about my ancestor[edit | edit source]

  • Analyze the facts you already know about your ancestors to help determine where to look for missing information. Go over all your information and go from there.
    • Compare any information you found in compiled sources with knowledge you already have about your ancestor.
  • Does it:
    • Conflict with what you know? (If the information conflicts, use other sources to verify it.)
    • Support what you know?
    • Add to what you know?

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has a large collection of indexes to records of Wales that could help you identify place-names. There is no fee for using the library's collection in person. For a list of the library's holdings, click on FamilySearch Catalog above. Select the Places Search. Check on both the country and county levels, and look for topics with Indexes as subtopics. When looking at the catalog entry for a specific index, checked to see if it is available in microfilm and can be sent to a Family History Center.
For more information about contacting or visiting the library or a Family History Center, click on Family History Library System above.

Wales, How to Find Compiled Sources[edit | edit source]

Compiled Research[edit | edit source]

  • When you begin family history research for one of your ancestors, you should begin by looking for compiled research. Compiled research sources contain names of individuals for whom data has been transcribed, indexed, or collected. These sources were created by individuals, groups, societies, universities, archives, and commercial businesses. Determining what research has already been done by others, including your own family members can:
    • Save you valuable research time.
    • Help you find information in original records more quickly.
    • Help you avoid unnecessary duplication of work.
    • Provide clues for further research.
  • Search compiled sources that:
    • Deal with your specific family name.
    • Cover your specific place of interest.
    • Cover a range of years during your ancestor's lifetime.

What You Are Looking For?[edit | edit source]

  • You are looking for compiled sources which may give information on your ancestors. The information you find varies from record to record. These records may include:
    • Names of children, spouse, parents, siblings, and other family members.
    • Birth or baptism, marriage, and death or burial information
    • Dates of other important events, such as immigration or land purchases.
    • Age at the time of dated events
    • Place or street of residence.
    • Occupations
    • Schools attended
    • Military service.
    • Religious affiliations.
    • Countries, counties, or places of origin.
    • Other biographical data.

Identify compiled sources.[edit | edit source]

  • Identify as many compiled sources as possible. They can include:
    • Published family histories.
    • Unpublished manuscript histories.
    • Local histories.
    • Computer databases and surname listings.
    • Compiled pedigrees.
    • Biographies.
    • Record collections.
    • Registries for research exchange (help you find other individuals who may be researching the
      same family as you).
    • Surname or one-name lists (help you find other individuals researching a particular surname).

Locate compiled sources[edit | edit source]

  • You can find compiled sources through:
    • The Internet.
    • Family History Centers.
    • Archives and Libraries.Societies (family history, county, regional, and national).

Decide which compiled sources to search[edit | edit source]

  • Search compiled sources that:
    • Deal with your specific family name.
    • Cover your specific place of interest.
    • Cover a range of years during your ancestor's lifetime.

Verify information from compiled sources with other records[edit | edit source]

When you obtain information from compiled sources, you must verify the information by searching original records.
Where to Find It Internet Sources
FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service
Many compiled sources are available on the Internet. You can search for compiled sources through FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service. FamilySearch Internet can search online records and other web sites to see if they contain the information you need. To look for compiled sources through FamilySearch Internet, go to Search for Ancestors, and use either the All Resources or Web Sites search option.
Web sites

Family History Centers

Family History Centers have some computer databases of compiled sources. Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world. For the address of the Family History Center nearest you, see Family History Centers.
Family History Library
The Family History Library has one of the world's largest collections of compiled research sources. These include:

  • International Genealogical Index You may access the index here by clicking on Search for Ancestors above and then selecting International Genealogical Index.
  • Ancestral File You may access the index here by clicking on Search for Ancestors above and then selecting Ancestral File.
  • Pedigree Resource File--index only, available on the Internet. You may access the index here by clicking on Search for Ancestors
    above and then selecting the *Pedigree Resource File.
  • British Isles Vital Records Index
  • Click on FamilySearch Catalog above and then selecting Surname Search. Search for your surname of interest.

Sources for Previous Research in the British Isles lists and discusses major compiled sources available in the Family History Library. Some of these sources are available in other archives and libraries. For information about contacting or visiting the library, click on Family History Library System above. Archives and Libraries Compiled sources are available in archives and libraries throughout the world.

Some major archives and libraries are:

  • National Library of Wales.
  • The British Library.
  • The Family Records Centre.
  • Public Record Office.
  • Society of Genealogists.
  • The Newberry Library.
  • The Library of Congress.
  • The New England Historic and Genealogical Society Library.
  • The National Archives of Canada.

You can find addresses for archives and libraries at The UK National Archives.
Contact an archive or library before you visit to find out what compiled sources are available. Lists of the holdings of some archives and libraries are included in: National Register of Archives.
National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).


Family history and genealogical societies extract and index many records and have collections of research done by their members and others. Family history societies represent each county in Wales. Many provide indexes and publish journals and periodicals that include compiled research.
The Federation of Family History Societies provides coordination between these county societies and lists addresses for each. The Federation also provides publications concerning research and records that are available for purchase and may be found in some libraries.

  • Examples of these are:
    • Specialist Indexes for Family Historians.
    • Marriage and Census Indexes for Family Historians.
  • Other societies you may wish to contact are:
    • One-name societies.
    • Record societies.

Wales, How to Find Information About the Place Where Your Ancestor Lived[edit | edit source]

Once you have identified the name of a place in Wales where your ancestor lived, you should learn more about it. Knowing details about a place will help you find records about your ancestor.
Sources that provide information about places include:

  • Gazetteers.

Topographical dictionaries

The information you find varies from source to source. In these sources you may find information about:

    • Location.
    • Jurisdictions.
    • Local religions.
    • Geographical descriptions.
    • Manors or estates.
    • Industries and manufacturing.
    • Land use.
    • Population.

5 Steps that will help you find information about a place in Wales.

Step 1. Choose a place where your ancestor lived.
Look at the information you have gathered and choose the name of a town or parish where your ancestor lived. If only the county or country is known, go to How To Find a Place-Name.
Step 2. Choose a gazetteer.
Choose a gazetteer to search. The following gazetteers are listed in order of the amount and value of the information they give. These gazetteers are available at the Family History Library.
Other gazetteers may be available at a library near you. You may want to look at more than one
gazetteer to gather details about the place you have chosen.
Wales, How to Find Information About the Place Where Your Ancestor Lived

  • Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales.
    about 1870 Gives location, jurisdictions, geographical description, local religions, local manors or estates, industries and manufacturing, land use, and population.
  • Lewis'sTopographical Dictionary of
    1833 and later;
    several editions
    Same as above.
  • Hill and Cook's A Gazetteer of
    1953 Includes information collected from other sources. Briefly gives description, location, jurisdictions, and a reference to the source.
  • Davies's A Gazetteer of Welsh
    1967 This serves as the Welsh locality
    authority for the FamilySearch Catalog and gives type, location, and O.S. map grid.
  • Richards's Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units, Medieval and< Modern.
    1969 Briefly gives description, location, and jurisdiction. Includes maps.Gazetteers and topographical dictionaries are not the only sources for information about placenames.

For more sources, see Tip 1.
Step 3. Obtain a copy of a gazetteer.
You can find gazetteers at:
Family History Centers.
The Family History Library.
Other archives and libraries.
Step 4. Search the gazetteer for the place-name.
Once you have obtained a copy of a gazetteer, look for the name of the place where your ancestor lived. Information in gazetteers is arranged alphabetically by the place-name.
If you cannot find the place in a gazetteer or other place-name source, see Tip 2.
Step 5. Copy the information and note the source.
Copy the information about the place-name onto family group sheets, onto a pedigree chart, and in to your notes. Some of the information may not seem helpful at this time but may be important in future research. You may want to make a photocopy of the information directly from the source.
Be sure to write down the source of the information on a research log, including any library call numbers. Be specific when writing down this information. If you should ever need to look at the
source again, your documentation will show where to find it. If others consult your research, they
will also see where to find the source. Your research log will serve as a guide to your research.

Tips Tip 1. Where else can I find information about a place?
Information about places can also be found in:
County histories.
Town or parish histories.
County directories.
Descriptive regional guides.
Look for these other types of sources in the FamilySearch Catalog. Go to What to Do Next, select the Catalog, and look for the county, town, or parish, and your topic of choice.
Tip 2. What if I cannot find the place-name in any of the
suggested sources?
You may not find a place-name because it is:
Known by another name.
A farm or other property name.
This source may help you identify and locate your place-name:
The Ordnance Survey Gazetteer of Great Britain. This is a good source for smaller localities if they still exist today. This gazetteer relates to the detailed, large scale Landranger maps published by the Ordnance Survey Office of Great Britain.
Tip 3. How can I find a map showing the place where my ancestor lived?
For information on how to find a map, see How To Find Maps.