Family photo connected to Bethania Baptist Chapel, Maesteg C639546. Donated to and digitised by the Royal Commission’s Digital Dissent project

Using the National Monuments Record of Wales: Welsh places from your family’s history

With our daily lives disrupted this is a difficult time for many of us.  However, it also provides a unique opportunity for some people to carry out historical research, whether on the history of their house, family, or local area.  Unfortunately, like most archives, the National Monuments Record (the archive of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales) is currently closed to visitors.  However, that needn’t be a barrier to research; there are still plenty of resources available. 

This is the second in a series of blogs, each focusing on a different historical topic and how they can still be explored using our online resources.
This week’s topic is Family History.

Family photo connected to Bethania Baptist Chapel, Maesteg C639546. Donated to and digitised by the Royal Commission’s Digital Dissent project
Family photo connected to Bethania Baptist Chapel, Maesteg C639546. Donated to and digitised by the Royal Commission’s Digital Dissent project

Family history, or genealogy, has enjoyed something of a popularity boom in recent years.  Birth, marriage and death certificates, census, military and parish records are the bread and butter of genealogy and are well looked after by The National Library of Wales, The National Archives, and County Record Offices, among others.   These resources will enable you to build up your family tree with names and dates, but what next?  For many, the natural next step is to develop a deeper understanding of their ancestors’ lives and environment, and this is where we can help.

For many of us the buildings and places where our ancestors lived, worked, worshipped and spent their time are no longer accessible. Perhaps they have not withstood the passage of time or they are far away from where we live now. However, whether or not the buildings still exist or are accessible, we can always learn more about them.    

Read more:  For guidance on how to research areas of Wales read our blog on researching local history.

Homes

We hold information on a huge number of houses in Wales, especially those of historic or architectural interest, including workers’ housing, cottages and farmhouses, from council estates to grand gentry estates.  If your ancestors were unlucky enough to have spent time in a workhouse, prison or alms-house, or lucky enough to have lived in a mansion or plas, we may well hold photos and information on those sites.  Likewise, if they lived somewhere slightly unusual, perhaps connected to their workplace, such as a pub, lighthouse, schoolhouse or lock-keeper’s cottage, then these sites probably have entries on Coflein.

Workplaces

Coflein is a mine of information when discovering more about the places where your Welsh ancestors worked.  Perhaps they worked in a slate quarry in Gwynedd or a coal mine in south Wales.  If so, we have a wealth of information on these types of sites.  We also hold material on other industrial sites, ranging from factories to dockyards and railways.  Those whose ancestors  worked on one of Wales’ many farms may find information on Coflein, and it is also worth looking at the National Library of Wales’ excellent collection of digitised Tithe Maps.  Shops, offices, cafes, hotels and many, many other places of work are all well represented on our database and in our catalogue.

Penhyn Quarry near Bethesda in north Wales was once the largest slate quarry in the world and employed approximately 3,000 people in its heyday. Photograph C907414
Penhyn Quarry near Bethesda in north Wales was once the largest slate quarry in the world and employed approximately 3,000 people in its heyday. Photograph C907414

Places of worship

Wales has a rich religious history and many family histories will reflect close connections with places of worship.  Discovering more about these significant places in our ancestors’ lives, especially where noteworthy events such as baptisms, marriages or burials took place, can be fascinating and insightful.  Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Wales is often associated with Nonconformity and Welsh chapels are very well represented, both on Coflein and our sister website Welsh Chapels.  We hold information on every chapel in Wales and photographs of many.  However, chapels are not the only places of worship on which we hold information; churches of all denominations, synagogues, mosques and any other religious buildings are all represented.

To see a range of photographs from across our holdings on Welsh Places of Worship see our Gallery here.

Enquiry Service

Hopefully this blog has inspired you to use our resources to better understand your ancestors’ surroundings. If you have any queries about our resources or need advice on where to take your research next please feel free to contact us. Our enquiry team is made up of highly experienced information professionals, archivists and historians.  Like all staff at the Royal Commission the enquiries team are currently working from home.  However, they are responding to new enquiries submitted via email, phone or our website.  We may not have access to the physical archive at the moment, but we are happy to draw on a wealth of digitised material, online resources and the diverse experience and expertise of Royal Commission staff to answer your queries and help guide you in your research. 

Everyone is welcome to send us enquiries and there is no fee; we only charge for copying archive material, licences and datasets, which we are happy to discuss before you place an order.  

Rhodri Lewis

Further Information:

Using the NMR for Local History:  https://rcahmw.gov.uk/using-the-national-monuments-record-of-wales-local-history-from-your-armchair/

See our leaflet: Adding Context to your Welsh Family History Discovering the Welsh Past Online: https://rcahmw.gov.uk/discovering-the-welsh-past-online/

05/14/2020

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