A Family Journey

A Family Journey

A familiar story, knowing where you’re from, helps to point you to where you would like to go.

A family journey, not quite through all time, through some time, and through some places.

It’s quite long so I’ll get it done in a few episodes.

First Step

Starting early 1820’s, in Llanegwad, a place described by Mr. Samuel Lewis in 1844 as.. “a parish, in the union of Llandilo-Vawr, partly in the lower division of the hundred of Cathinog, and partly in the higher division of that of Elvet, county of Carmarthen, South Wales, 7 1/2 miles (W. by S.) from Llandilo-Vawr; containing 2113 inhabitants. This parish derives its name from the dedication of its church to St. Egwad, who is said to have lived here in seclusion and devotional retirement, probably near the spot still called “Eisteddva Egwad,” where are the ruins of an ancient and very extensive mansion. The parish extends for nearly seven miles from north to south, and about four from east to west, and is intersected by the river Cothy, which falls into the Towy at this place. The lands, which with the exception of a very small portion, are inclosed, are fertile, and in a good state of cultivation; and the village is pleasantly situated. Search was made by N.B. Jones, Esq., within the last few years, for copper-ore, of which a vein was discovered, but it dipped so considerably below the bed of the river as to render the working of it altogether impracticable. . . There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Welsh and Wesleyan Methodists. . . A day school, containing 50 boys and 20 girls, is partly supported by endowment, and partly by voluntary contributions .”

Genuki. Llanegwad. www.genuki.org.uk

Llanegwad now. Photo © Humphrey Bolton (cc-by-sa/2.0)

An agricultural labourer living in this parish, 21 years old, married in St. Egwad’s 1830, his wife the daughter of his father’s neighbour. By 1831, 1 child is already born. The family is depending on seasonal work, planting, reaping, and harvesting employed then de-employed hired and fired. Prone to the cold and damp of the weather vagaries. This family was typical of the village.
In 1831 an occupation breakdown for Llanegwad was:
Farmers employing Labourers 60.
Farmers not employing Labourers. 54
Agricultural Labourers 208. (Shows how rural life was just outside the S. Wales coalfield).
Manufacturing 6.
Retail & Handicrafts 118.
Capitalists, Professionals 5.
Labourers (non-agricultural) 19.
Servants 0
Other 35.

First move.

The father of our family hears of some better paid work, and a stone house to live in, about 12 miles away in Betws. In common with any others in the village he leaves, here’s a change in population chart for Llanegwad:

 GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Llanegwad AP/CP through time | Statistics |, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: https://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10193175/cube/POP_CHANGE Date accessed: 2nd March 2024

Samuel Lewis says about  Bettws… “a parish, in the union of Llanelly, hundred of Iskennen, . . . 8 miles from Llandilo-Vawr; comprising the upper and lower divisions, and containing 1109 inhabitants. . . situated within a short distance of the turnpike-road leading from Llandilo-Vawr to Swansea . . . A considerable part of the surface is mountainous and barren, and the level portion contains some tracts of woodland . . . a small quantity of grain is grown, but the chief produce is cheese and butter. The river Amman runs through the parish, and two brooks called Cathan and Nantyfin. Slate is quarried, and coal and iron-mines are in operation, a rail-road having recently been made. The living is a perpetual curacy, annexed to the vicarage of Llandebie , , . The church, dedicated to St. David . . . contains 250 sittings, of which 40 are free. A Sunday school affords instruction gratuitously in the Welsh language to about 110 children of both sexes.”

Genuki Betws. www.genuki.org.uk

By 1851 the population of Betws was nearly double that of 1831.

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Betws AP/CP through time | Statistics |, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: https://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10008141/cube/TOT_POP Date accessed: 2nd March 2024

15 years later 12 children born, 7 miraculously still live, the other infants succumbed to TB. Our worker, hewing in the mine half a mile underground in the heat, freezing when he gets out. Time to move on in. Nearly 45 now and well into his working life, older than many of his colleagues. Wheezing and paining but OK.

Second move.

He has heard of the copper working in Swansea, there’s a railway line, the wages seem to be better, at least that’s what he has heard. Llansamlet is not so far, 12 miles over the mountain, 15 through Pontardulais. He and his sons and daughters find work in Birchgrove. Men labouring in the works near the River Tawe, the air’s not so clean and the river looks like it’s on fire, but the money is better. Bit more varied here, Cornish, Irish, some still speak his language though. Life is precarious, expectancy was 39 in 1850, even less in the works. He gives a couple more years of work to support his family (and another family. living in the clear western air near Gower), dies of bronchitis lungs destroyed by the fumes, acid and dust. The eldest boy has found work in the mine at Glais, sister’s knitting stockings, mother’s taking in laundry. The eldest in turn hears of the streets of Merthyr Tydfil, Mr. Crawshay has had his iron works lease extended. There’s iron ore to be mined, coal to be mined, limestone to be smashed. Workers have had houses built, the wages are better, it’s got to be better.

Copper works now.

The story will continue.

Of course if you want to follow in your family’s footsteps, I’ll research, find the places and my friend Janet can put your tour together.

Janet Redler Travel.

Email john.colclough@genealogy-and-you.com

Phone-WhatsApp-Text 07305733850

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