Friday, 14 November 2014

Keeping up with the Joneses, or making sense of census place names

Well, it had to happen. Anyone researching Welsh genealogy is likely to find a Jones somewhere in their tree. I’d been lucky until I started looking at my paternal 2x great grandmother, Elizabeth Lloyd (c1820 – c1890).
I’m planning a post about how I discovered more about her on my A Rebel Hand blog, so I won’t go over the details here, but eventually I found enough evidence pointing to her being born Elizabeth Jones in Llandysul, Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion) in Wales. Jones! Now that’s going to make research into her family easier, I don’t think.
Some of the material I used came from maps. If you’re a regular reader of Worldwide Genealogy you’ll have noticed that I love maps, old and new. They can fill in so much detail about our ancestors’ lives and can help solve the problem of streets, houses and farms which have changed names as well as when they were built. I’m going to write about how maps gave me a bigger overview of the background of Elizabeth and her husband, John Lloyd, who married in 1841.
1841 Wales census via Ancestry
Here she is with her parents, Jinkin [sic] and Anne and her brother David in the 1841 census. (I still haven’t come near to pinning David down. David Jones in Wales? I mean, please!) But where are they living? It looks like Gwarllenoydor. Google couldn’t find anything like that. Luckily I had an image of Elizabeth’s marriage to John Lloyd which had Gwarllwynoedos as the farm’s name.
Image via Findmypast
Of course, census enumerators could have, ahem, eccentric spelling, and if this one didn’t speak Welsh he’d have made a stab at it without being able to recognise some words,such as llwyn, bush or grove. So armed with the new spelling I searched again and found... nothing. I went back to the census and looked for a nearby farm, Cribor, adding the parish name, Llandysul (also spelled Llandissil), to get an idea of where to look. Yes! It was near Pontshaen (also Pontsian).
Now this is where luck came in. I was looking at the family story that my Lloyds were related to Frank Lloyd Wright. I’d been intrigued by Eliot Ball’s Wikipedia Ancestor Challenge at North Sydney Family History (thanks to GeniAus’s GAGs for pointing it out). And Frank's family came from... near Pontshaen.
I tingled. I had a map of the area already saved!
Ordnance Survey map showing Gwarllwynoedos
And what a map. I’d found it by looking for Frank’s ancestors’ chapel, since his Lloyd Joneses were famous Unitarian preachers, and luckily it was a listed building. The Listed Buildings Online site led me to this Ordnance Survey (OS) map. And there, in the top right corner, was... Gwarllwynoedos. Thank you, genealogy map fairy! So, here’s a hint: if you’re looking for ancestors in Britain and they lived near an old or unusual building, try Listed Buildings Online.
Google map not showing Gwarllwynoedos
I find the OS maps better than Google's for places in the countryside – here’s the equivalent – and Bing is great for getting an idea of the landscape, which can be so important to how our ancestors lived and who they met and married.
Bing aerial view of Gwarllwynoedos area
But for finding named buildings, OS is the one for me. Why not try all three out for yourself? I’m not so keen on the OS’s own get a map feature, though.
After I’d had my genealogy happy dance, I decided to see if I could find where John Lloyd, Elizabeth Jones’s husband, lived. The marriage document said Blaencerdyn, also in the parish of Llandysul, which was backed up by the 1851 census (as Blaencerdin). I had no luck with the Blaencerdyn spelling, so I tried the other. This time Google recognised the name – but came up with Blaencerdin Fawr and Blaencerdin Fach, both in the same area of Llandysul. Fawr means big and fach means small, it’s a common pairing in Welsh place names, so I was fairly confident that I was looking in the right place.
But Google Maps didn’t recognise either spelling, so I tried GenUKI’s list of Llandysul farms. I was excited to see that Blaencerdin Fawr was in the district of Llanffrene, just like Gwarllwynoedos was. I tried the OS get a map site, and was thrilled to see that the two farms were near each other. Elizabeth and John were neighbours! So that’s how they met.
OS get a life map - you can see why I'm not mad about the picture quality
With this information, I went back to my listed buildings OS map and found Blaencerdin Fach. So I had the ‘big’ farm and the ‘little’ one on two different OS maps. I needed both on the same map, though.
OS map of both Blaencerdins
I took a gamble and zoomed in on the listed buildings OS map and got lucky. Hint – use the + and – symbols, not your mouse scroll wheel, they’re more accurate for this map.
But which one was John Lloyd’s farm? This is where Ancestry’s back and forward arrows on the census images came into their own. I’d usually pinpoint the building by seeing what their immediate neighbours were and check the enumeration district details at the beginning of the record, then hope to find the places on the map. But this time I got lucky. One page on in the 1851 census there was a family living at... Blaencerdin Fach! So I knew that John was at the ‘big’ farm, Blaencerdin Fawr.
OS First Series map showing Blaencerdin (top left) and Gwarllwynoedos (bottom right)
I could also have checked at A Vision of Britain, Ordnance Survey First Series 1:63360, 1805 to 1869, which shows the two farms as Blaencerdin and Blaencerdin Fach, or Old Maps Online, but I’d need the co-ordinates for that since Blaencerdin doesn’t come up in their search. I’d have needed more information to use the National Library of Scotland’s wonderful map-matching service, too.
There was one last map I needed to go to. My own. I mark the places where my ancestors lived using Google Maps. I added them to my Lloyds map, alongside Sadlers Hall, where John and Elizabeth's son Rhys (my great-grandfather) later lived. And only this week I was able to add Rhyol, another Jones farm. Now that was a real toughie to track down!
But this post is l-o-n-g enough already. I hope you weren’t put off by the length. I wanted to ‘show my workings’, as they told us to at school, and hope that something here gives you a helpful tip for using maps to trace ancestors from Britain, if you have any.
Have you got any map tips to pass on?


  1. Thanks for sharing your tips. Another source for maps is CuriousFox; and when I have trouble identifying UK place names the Parish Locator programme often helps.

    1. Thank you, Judy, I'd forgotten about CuriousFox (tsk!) I'm off to look at Parish Locator now.

  2. Great piece of research! I will have to give this a try.

    1. Thanks, Diane. Let us know if you find anything new, won't you?

  3. I think Elizabeth's father was Jenkin. This fits with the Jenkins surname being popular in Wales.

  4. Super helpful post - and I love maps! I think I have some Welsh ancestors way back - they were found in Caernarvon Pennsylvania (big clue...), but haven't even begun to start to commence searching for them. Thanks for all the tips for maps, and searching areas in Wales.

  5. I think you're right, Hilary. The enumerator might have been using 'phonetic' spelling, which would fit with his eccentric way of writing down the farm's name...

  6. Enjoyed your post, the thoughts, the theory, the research, and the maps!!

    1. Thanks, Carol! And since posting I've found another (hand drawn) map of the area... only three days later. And people ask when we'll 'finish' our genealogy research...

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (Removed because of spelling mistake I didn't spot until I'd posted. Sound familiar?)


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