Re: Pembrokeshire Research

Brian Swann

You might also want to think about taking part in this course when it runs in October. Darris Williams is excellent.


This is an example he gives of a Welsh nonconformist chapel and how far the attendees came from.  I don’t think this is Rhydwilym, as that is in the parish of Llangynin, and this is the parish of Abergwili.  But I am sure other folk on this list will be able to identify it immediately.  He also does not give a date when this map was compiled, but it gives an idea of the general problem you face.


People seemed to have been motivated to either ride long distances, or take carts equally long distances, if sufficiently motivated by the local preacher at the time.




Trust this helps




From: <> On Behalf Of Brian Swann
Sent: 21 May 2020 09:11
Subject: Re: [WLS-Dyfed] Pembrokeshire Research


Hi Jerry


It will be very unlikely there is any specific document relating to your ancestors emigrating.


That does not make it impossible to research, but it requires a different strategy, which will almost certainly be time consuming, somewhat expensive, but I know can work.


First, let me start with this recent article.  Your problem is similar to this, but dealing with Nonconformists from Rhydwilym in Carmarthenshire, as opposed to Quakers from Pembrokeshire – but the challenges are the same – and both groups went to Pennsylvania.


Any clues you can get from the membership lists or research by other folk of other Welsh emigrants from Rhydwilym emigrating at around the same time that you calculate your emigrants may have gone will be important.  Folk very rarely migrated without knowing someone based in where they were going (chain migrartion).  So, do you know exactly where your ancestors first ended up in Pennsylvania, who were their nearest neighbours, and where would they all have worshipped in Pennsylvania when they first arrived.


This is Spreadsheets and surnames stuff.  I would like to think someone in America would have set up a database for this sort of thing in 2020 for early Welsh emigrants to Pennsylvania, or the specific Welsh tracts within Pennsylvania.  I know there are published books on this subject, and I even have a couple.  But again, much practical experience teaches me this does not happen in 2020 like it began to happen, say in 2005, and the earlier days of the internet.  Too many people blundering around online, thanks to Ancestry, and those who began all this have given up trying to cope with the myriad of folk out there who just want their specific family history problem solved for them, personally.  In some ways, it is a less altruistic and more fragmented research environment than it used to be.  That is due to the rise and rise of the internet and Facebook – in my opinion – which have their place but can make folk lazy.


The alternative is using Y-DNA testing to get at this.  First you need to get a valid Y-DNA genetic signature of this line.  James may be a difficult surname to work with, but as you are discussing emigration in about 1710 – I assume you can trace the lines in America back that far.  Almost certainly there will be a James surname project at FTDNA. It then depends on how active the James Surname DNA Project Administrator will be for that project.  Some are very good, others have given up with the advent of GDPR and other events and are moribund, to all intents and purposes.


Then you get to the other even more difficult part.  You are going to have to get involved in a James One-Name study around Rhydwilym. Unfortunately, it could have quite a large catchment area in its early days. Use any clues you can gain from other folk who may have researched other Welsh surnames going to the relevant tract in Pennsylvania and already got answers to their ancestors’ migration homeland parish in Carmarthenshire.


Then you get into tracing James families from the relevant areas of Carmarthenshire forwards and backwards.  In practice, what I would do is start with the combination of the 1851 and 1841 Census to sort out how many James families you are dealing with in this part of Carmarthenshire in about 1800.  You are ultimately looking for James families who were cousins to your emigrants, who stayed behind and left living male James relatives somewhere else.  So, you are going to have to track them forwards from 1851 to today and back in Carmarthenshire from the usual sources like Wills and parish registers.  Again, this is all Spreadsheet or Surname Database stuff.


I know this works for Picton as a surname. I have also used it to track a 1635 emigrant called William Swann into Virginia (which always has problems as so much of its Archives were destroyed in 1865) and continue to work on an Edward Swann who had arrived in Maryland by March 1653/4.  Just think that you are lucky, and that you do not have to cope with the English Civil War period, which I have to do with both of these folk. I cite the Swann examples, even though they are not Welsh, as there are about 10,000 of them in the 1851 Census, so it is a far more common surname, with all the challenges therefore of specific identifications.


So, I am suggesting there are no quick fixes, it is strategies like this which have been used to sort out several early emigrants to Virginia, Maryland, etc.  New England, by contrast, has far better records and so Americans, in general, love New England ancestry as so much has already been done – it is “plug and play”.


You may not like this answer, but this is what I think you are going to have to try and do, unless you strike a document miracle. You will learn a lot about research techniques outside of US Family History, but there is ultimately no escape from the tyranny of distance working against you.


I can send you links to videos on YouTube, if you are seriously interested.


Best regards




Brian P. Swann


From: <> On Behalf Of jburkeman1 via
Sent: 19 May 2020 20:18
Subject: [WLS-Dyfed] Pembrokeshire Research



I am new to the group so I hope I am posting to the correct group.

I am researching my wife's ancestors who born in Pembrokeshire and immigrated to the US.

Specifically, John James born in 1665 and his son Thomas born in 1690 is who I am searching.  Supposedly they immigrated in 1710 or 1711.

John was married to Elizabeth Evans Davis.

Any guidance would greatly be appreciated.

Jerry Burke
Knoxville Tennessee USA

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