What are the best resources for researching family history in Welsh archives?

Tracing your ancestry can be an exciting and enlightening journey. It's a chance to connect with your roots and discover your family's past. If your family history ties back to Wales, you're in luck. The rich and extensive Welsh archives provide a veritable treasure trove of resources to aid in your genealogical research. Whether you're embarking on this journey out of curiosity, to understand your genetic heritage or to create a detailed family tree, knowing where to look is half the battle.

Vital Records and Census Data

Your first stop in your genealogical research should be vital records and census data. These are primary sources which provide critical information such as birth, marriage, and death records, as well as household data from different eras.

Among the resources available, the National Library of Wales is a goldmine. It has extensive collections of parish registers, wills and probate records, and monumental inscriptions. The library's free online catalogue allows you to search these collections from the comfort of your home.

The Welsh census records are another valuable resource. Available from 1841 to 1911, they provide a snapshot of households in Wales every ten years. These records can reveal a wealth of information about your ancestors, including their names, ages, birthplaces, occupations, and relationships to the head of the household.

Online Genealogy Websites

The advent of the internet has revolutionised genealogical research. Today, numerous online platforms provide access to digitised records, databases, and other resources.

Ancestry, for instance, has a vast collection of Welsh records, including parish registers, census data, and military records. Its search feature allows you to filter results by various parameters, making it easier to find specific records. Ancestry also has a thriving community of fellow researchers who can provide support and advice.

Another excellent resource is FindMyPast, a website dedicated to helping people discover their British and Irish roots. It boasts an extensive collection of Welsh records, including exclusive collections not found on other websites. Additionally, it offers expert advice and useful guides to help you navigate the world of genealogy.

Local Archives and Historical Societies

While online resources are incredibly useful, nothing compares to the hands-on research you can conduct in local archives and historical societies. These institutions often house unique documents and artefacts that can enrich your understanding of your family's history.

For instance, the Glamorgan Archives houses records relating to the historic county of Glamorgan, covering a broad range of topics from education and health to business and industry. Similarly, the Gwent Archives preserves documents of historical significance related to the former county of Gwent.

Historical societies, such as the Welsh History and Cultural Society, can also be a valuable resource. They not only maintain archival collections but also organise talks, exhibitions, and events that can provide additional context to your research.

English Records and Resources

If your family history straddles the border between Wales and England, don't limit your research to Welsh archives alone. English records can also hold valuable clues about your ancestors.

The National Archives in England contains a wealth of resources for genealogical research. From military and court records to migration and naturalisation records, the collections are vast and comprehensive. The catalogue is available online for free, allowing you to browse and identify relevant records.

Moreover, the English census records, available from 1841 to 1911, can supplement your research with more household data. And websites like FreeBMD provide free access to the indexes of civil registration records, which include births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 onwards.

Utilising Libraries for Genealogical Research

Libraries are often underrated resources in genealogical research. Beyond books, they provide access to rare documents, historical newspapers, and more.

For instance, the British Library has one of the world's greatest collections of news media, spanning four centuries. Newspapers can be incredibly valuable for genealogists, offering insights into the lives of your ancestors and the historical events they lived through.

Furthermore, libraries often subscribe to genealogical databases such as Ancestry and FindMyPast, providing free access to patrons. Some even have dedicated local history and genealogy departments staffed with knowledgeable experts ready to assist you in your research.

So next time you're delving into your family history, don't overlook your local library - it might just hold the key to unlocking your past.

Maps and Land Records

Maps and land records can offer a unique perspective on your family history. They can provide both visual and textual information about the places where your ancestors lived, worked, and owned property. In Wales, tithe maps and associated documents are particularly useful for genealogical research.

The National Library of Wales holds a significant collection of tithe maps, which were drawn up in the mid-19th century to determine the payment of tithes - a tax, often in kind, levied on the agricultural produce of the land. These maps, along with the accompanying apportionment documents, can help you understand the landscape your ancestors inhabited and their relative social and economic standing within their community.

The UK National Archives also maintains a collection of tithe maps and records. Furthermore, their collection includes other land records such as the Valuation Office survey records and the Domesday Book – a manuscript record of the 'Great Survey' of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086. These records provide a rich tapestry of information, including land usage, property boundaries, and the names of landowners and tenants.

Military and Immigration Records

If your ancestors served in the military or migrated to or from Wales, military and immigration records can be indispensable resources in your genealogical research.

The UK National Archives is the official archive of the British government and holds an extensive collection of military records, including service records of men and women who served in the British armed forces. These documents can provide detailed information about your ancestors' military service, including their rank, units they served in, and medals they were awarded.

Likewise, immigration records can offer insights into the lives of your ancestors who may have migrated to or from Wales. These records can include passenger lists, naturalisation records, and correspondence relating to immigration policy. Many of these records are also held by the National Archives, but additional resources can be found on genealogical websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast.


Tracing your Welsh ancestry can be a deeply rewarding journey, offering a profound connection to your family's past and a greater understanding of your roots. From vital records and census data to maps and military records, there's a wealth of resources available to aid your research.

Remember the National Library of Wales and the UK National Archives as crucial starting points, but don't overlook the value of local archives, historical societies, and your local library. Online platforms like Ancestry and FindMyPast can provide quick access to a vast array of records, while libraries can give you access to historical newspapers and expert advice.

Dive into the rich tapestry of Welsh history, explore the lives of your Welsh ancestors, and create your own family tree. With patience, perseverance, and the right resources, your genealogical research can reveal fascinating stories that breathe life into your family history.