1. "History of Wales" by John Davies is the classic of course, and was written first in Welsh as "Hanes Cymru".
2.For those who find it a bit dry and academic try his later book "The Making of Wales", published by CADW in 1996, which is lavishly illustrated with colour photos, maps and sketches and it's a much easier read covering the history of Wales from the "Red Lady of Paviland" of Palaeolithic times right up to1995.
3. For those Welsh-speakers among you Gwynfor Evans' book "Land of My Fathers" [ISBN 0-86243-265-0]came out first as "Aros Mae" [It Endures] in1971 and is still in print. Gwynfor himself autographed my copy. He is a lovely gentleman, enjoying his well-deserved retirement in the depths of his much-loved rural West Wales. See below for a full Contents listing.
4. When Was Wales? Those of you who remember HTV's series on Welsh history in the 1970s "The Dragon Has Two Tongues" will remember those lively and stimulating discussions and exchanges of views between Wynford Vaughan Thomas [see below] and Professor Gwyn Alf Williams. They really did see Welsh history from two opposing viewpoints! I really enjoyed Gwyn Alf's subsequent book "When was Wales", published by Penguin Books in 1985, reprinted as late as 1991. On the front cover the subtitle says "The history, people and culture of an ancient country." Highly recommended particularly if you like history from a more unconventional viewpoint. When Gwyn Alf was Professor Emeritus of History at the University in Cardiff students would actually queue up and pack the lecture theatre as his lectures were so fantastic and stimulating. No one would know what he would say next. With his untimely death three years ago Wales and its people lost a great champion of their cause.
5. Cardiganshire County History Volume 3 Edited by Geraint H. Jenkins and Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, published by University Wales Press, Cardiff 1998. This is a "must-have" for anyone with Cardiganshire ancestors as this is a mine of information in 633 pages. It covers the period from the beginning of the eighteenth century up to 1998. There are 26 chapters on social, cultural, political, religious, educational aspects of life in Ceredigion as well as the Welsh Language,agriculture, industries, ships and shipbuilding, house design and architecture, poor law administration,and tourism etc. It is lavishly illustrated with colour and black and white photographs, drawings, maps, charts and tables. Rather an expensive buy at £60 but copies are available for consultation at libraries . I had mine somewhat cheaper by subscription and it was my bedside read for many weeks. Some chapters were so fascinating I burnt the midnight oil in order to finish reading them.
6 . Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families By Major Francis Jones, published by Brawdy Books in 1997 is another book I subscribed to as it has a lot of local interest for me. There are over 600 houses and 2000 families detailed alphabetically throughout the county. Ordnance Survey grid references are given for each property, a history and description of the house and any estate, genealogies of the families and useful references for further research.
7.There is also a similar book written and published by the same people for those with Pembrokeshire connections Historic Pembrokeshire Homes and their Families.
8. The Welsh Revival of 1904 By Eifion Evans, first published 1969 and reprinted yet again in 1996 by The Evangelical Press of Wales. Until comparatively recently the majority of the population attended either chapel or church in Wales. Following the great Methodist Revivals of the latter part of the eighteenth century and subsequent revivals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Wales became a land of chapels, large and small, in town and isolated rural uplands. I remember an elderly uncle of mine, who was a young boy at the time of Evan Roberts last great Welsh Revival of 1904, telling me of the overflowing chapels and prayer meetings uinderground at the pit.. This revival started in rural Ceredigion, in New Quay, in Blaenannerch, in Newcastle Emlyn before spreading like holy fire to the industrial valleys of South Wales. This book gives a clear, good, if rather studious background to those Bethels, Bethanias and Zions throughout the land, many of which were rebuilt or extended after 1904, only to start declining after World War1. Many people do not realise that this revival had a ripple effect in England, Scotland and further afield as in the mission fields of India and Madagascar.
9.Wales; The Shaping of a Nation By Prys Morgan and David Thomas, published by David and Charles in 1984. This is a general and cultural history of Wales. The authors show the distinctive characteristics which differentiate Wales from its big brother neighbour, England. As well as describing rural and industrial Wales they also talk about "The Dragon's two tongues", The land of song, and Rugby. In the appendix there is a short history of Welsh Surnames and a useful chronological table comparing the timetable of events in Wales compared with the rest of the UK and also the wider world :for instance in1801, the census showed the population of Wales was 587,000, in the same year there was the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, while abroad, Napoleon was in power in France and at war with England, culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar in1805.
10. Atgofion Ceinewydd An online index and review by Mary Jane Stephenson is available on INDEX
11. Historic West Wales By Paul.R.Davis published by Christopher Davies in 1992. Another book about West Wales, covering Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. It is mainly a tour about 150 places such as prehistoric monuments, churches, castles,wells and old houses. They are all indexed, O.S.grid references given and also locations are shown on a sketch map. There are black and white photographs and sketches illustrating this useful book if you are interested in the background history of West Wales although much of it refers to older times than I have found on my family trees.
12. A Short History of Wales . Welsh Life and Customs from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day.By A.H.Todd published by B.T.Batsford Ltd in 1979, reprinted several times, mine is 1987. This is a comprehensive general history beginning with the earliest inhabitants and relating the main historical happenings in Wales up to World War 1 with as an epilogue sketching subsequent events. This is a readable, quickly-read book which gives the background history Of Wales and her people, illustrated with black and white contemporary drawings. It is often a good idea to read a short history like this before tackling John Davies' "A History of Wales" so you get the general picture before filling in on the details.
13. Farmers and Figureheads By Susan Passmore, published by Dyfed County Council in 1992. An essential and informative book for anyone with ancestors in New Quay and surrounding areas in Cardiganshire in the 19th century. Full of names, places, ships and events with a comprehensive index, it is a very interesting source of information and there are plenty of references and a bibliography for further research. Of particular value is the list of ships that were built or sailed from New Quay but, in addition to all the information to do with the sea and associated trades, there are details of farming, education, religion and politics.
14. Gwalia in Khasia By Nigel Jenkins, published by Gomer Press in 1995. Did you have an Welsh ancestor who was missionary in India? Until Nigel Jenkins wrote this book the story of the 200 Welsh Calvinist Methodist missionaries who toiled for many years in the mountainous area of the Khasi Hills in North East India had largely been forgotten or ignored. As a result of his research, programmes on Khasia were broadcast in Welsh and English on S4C television. Unfortunately there is no index of names of the preachers, ministers, missionaries, wives and children in this book but there is a bibliography for further research. There is quite a lot of history about the families while they were in India and details of their descendants and also where they died and were buried. The first of the missionaries was Thomas Jones from Montgomeryshire who arrived in 1841, and 150 years later a quarter of a million people gathered in Shillong, the capital, to celebrate and mark the anniversary. The missionaries went from all parts of Wales and many never returned: the death of one far from home is recorded on a gravestone in New Quay churchyard. The last ones left India in 1969 leaving many legacies of Christianity, Bibles and hymn singing.This is an interesting book written in Nigel Jenkins inimitable style.
15. Wales of one hundred years ago By R. Iestyn Hughes and Paul O'Leary. Published by Sutton Publishing, in conjunction with The National Library of Wales, 1999. A beautiful book, yes really. Fabulous photographs from the National Library of Wales' extensive collection with text taken from contemporary records I saw this book, which had just arrived in Fred Coopers Bookshop in Newcastle Emlyn last week and bought it straightaway as I found it so fascinating. Who was it who said that a picture is worth a thousand words? And anyway, you 've got the words as well here; from sources such as newspaper archives, council reports, books, Royal Commission extracts. It is rather expensive at £18.99 but is well-bound on high quality glossy paper which does justice to the photographs, which cover all areas of Wales, North, South, Mid and West Wales. There are nine chapters on subjects such as Industry and Commerce, Rural Society, Culture and Religion, Travel, Entertainment, Politics. This is not a criticism of the book as most of the people portrayed are ordinary folk so have not left their names for posterity but I would love to know who are they, these people who look out at you from the past.There's Llanilar Sunday Scool in 1913, trams in Swansea in 1893, the staff at Lipton's shop c1910, a slate splitter in the 1880s, Evan Roberts c1903 and many, many more, After reading this book you get an overall picture of the dramatic social changes that have occurred here in Wales over the last century.It's the kind of book one would like to receive as a gift for a birthday or Christmas.
16. Historic Rhondda By Paul R. Davies, published by the author in 1989. I bought this local history book from Paul when it was first published as, at that time I lived in Tonyrefail, just outside that fascinating part of Wales, the Rhondda. The history in this book begins in prehistoric times, travels through the Roman period, Dark and Middle Ages, post-medieval and up to 1850. There are many maps, sketches, plans of buildings and black and white photographs. An interesting book for anyone who had ancestors living in the Rhondda to get a feel of how the area was in the days before King Coal came and desecrated what was a beautiful, off-the- beaten-track place. Unfortunately there is no index at the end but included is an inventory of sites and monuments.Many of the farm builings still standing and lived in today are hundreds of years old and some of these, such as Tyntyle, Ffynnon-dwym, Gellifaelog, are illustrated and their history described. Chapels and early industrial feature as also do boundary markers, castles, dykes and early settlements.
17. Crwydro Sir Gar By Aneurin Talfan Davies, published by Llyfrau'r Dryw in 1955, reprinted 1970. This book is an account,in Welsh, of Aneurin Talfan Davies' travels around Carmarthenshire in 1952. Reading this, one is struck by how much the rural scene in this county, where I now live, has changed in less than half a century. There are local people living here that I chat to, who can remember a time before tractors, when to see a car was a rarity and the English language was seldom heard, and in this account one can imagine vividly how it used to be before so many incomers flooded into the county, especially in the 1970s and 1980s .............
18. Crwydro Ceredigion By T.I. Ellis, published by Llyrau'r Dryw in 1952, Like "Crwydro Sir Gar" this is the account, in Welsh, of travels around a county. Interestingly, the author has used the ancient name of Ceredigion when, at that time, the county was known as Cardiganshire or Sir Aberteifi. Of course, since the latest local government reorganisation, after having been part of Dyfed for a period of around 20 years,the county is again known as Ceredigion. The author starts off in 1947 by exploring Aberystwyth and relates the history of the National Library, then follows the rivers Rheidol and Ystwyth up into the mountains. He visits, amongst many other places,the atmospheric Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida),Mynydd Bach, the Georgian streets of Aberaeron, the Teifi valley and across to Llanarth and Y Wern, where Henry VII stayed on his way to the Battle of Bosworth, Cei Newydd (New Quay), finishing the book in Aberteifi (Cardigan). Unlike "Crwydro Sir Gar" this author does not relate conversations with local people, but is more like a travelogue; he seems more interestesd in the places than with the people. However, the book gives a fairly detailed background as to the history and geography of this mainly rural county some fifty years ago.
19. The Drovers' Roads of Wales . II Pembrokeshire and the South. By Shirley Toulson and Caroline Forbes published by Whittet Books Ltd in 1992 This is the second book, unfortunately I do not possess the first, and covers from the Englishry of Pembrokeshire around Angle and Castlemartin up through Carmarthenshire, across from Ceredigion through Gower into Glamorgan and over the Black Mountains into the Welsh Marches. It was written as a guide for walkers but covers much of historical interest. The Welsh drovers avoided the main toll roads in the valleys and travelled across the hills using routes that you can follow today. There is a useful bibliography for further reading and an Index of people and places. Stories of the Rebecca riots of the 1840s are told in several places, the legend of the physicians of Myddfai and did you know that William Edwards who built the bridge at Pontypridd also built the bridge at Cenarth? There are maps and lots of black and white photographs that make this a useful book for background information.
20. In Search of Wales By H.V. Morton published by Methuen in 1932 .This well-known book has been reprinted many times over the last sixty years and was one of a series of travel books by the author. Many things have changed in Wales since it was written but it is worth reading to see Wales impressing a stranger wandering across the country. He did not just look at the scenic areas but also visited the coal-mining valleys of the South and even ventured to visit the National Eisteddfod at Bangor and devoted a whole chapter to an account of it. The author enjoyed meeting the Welsh people, was sympathetic to them and encouraged them to tell stories and relate happenings which provide variety of content to an otherwise rather old-fashioned style of writing.
21 .Treasury of Historic Pembrokeshire By Francis Jones, published by Brawdy Books 1998. This is the third book in the series; the previous ones were about the historic houses of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The next one due, which I am looking forward to with much anticipation, concerns Cardiganshire homes. However, this latest offering contains much of interest to those with Pembrokeshire ancestry even though, unfortunately, there is no index to people and places. Throughout his long life, Francis Jones met interesting people, went to historic places and collected facts,stories,details of events, and researched ancient records throughout record offices and repositories in Wales and London. He was an acknowledged expert in the field of Welsh genealogy, local history, heraldry and antiquarianism. After his death in 1993 his family spent much time and trouble extracting from his research items suitable to publish in book form. This book gives a picture of the history of Pembrokeshire from Norman times up to the 20th century, stories about ancient homes and families, castles, churches,dissent,farming, Pembrokeshire military men, litigation, sportsmen and even an account of the author's father in Patagonia around 1880. A good read.
22. Diwylliant Gwerin Cymru By Iorwerth C. Peate, published 1942, 3rd reprint 1998, by Gwasg Gee. Iorwerth Peate was the Curator of St Ffagans Folk Museum, now renamed the Museum of Welsh Life, and this book is about "The Culture of the Welsh People." It is an academic book, written in literary Welsh, that gives a fascinating insight as to how our Welsh ancestors lived, loved and died. There are no illustrations in this book which was originally published in the austere years of World War II and five years before the opening of St Fagans. Iorwerth Peate discusses the concept of culture and examines the traditional house of the ordinary people, their sparse furniture, the hearth, centre of the home, and cooking. He looks at what the people wore, their religion, education, games, pastimes, their cultural life. Agriculture and crafts, folk-lore and customs concerning birth, courting, marriage and death in the family and community, as well as traditions and legends have all been researched and written down for posterity.For the family and local historian this book is a valuable resource of background information about the lives of ordinary Welsh people. It would be a good book to read before a visit to St Fagans, which is a very useful place to go and see the kind of buildings our ancestors would have used.
23. Mynachlogddu. A historical survey of the past thousand years By E.T.Lewis,printed by E.L.Jones, Cardigan 1969. We found this little hard-back book in a car-boot sale recently. It must have been published by the author after much research into the locality of this small settlement at the foot of the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. It would be a useful little book for anyone with roots in the parish for,as the subtitle suggests, it gives a survey of the area from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century. There are names of people and farms from 16th and 17th century records held in the PRO, extracts from diaries, parish, nonconformistsrecords, vestry books, censuses and electoral rolls. In the lists of headteachers of Mynachlogddu school there is the name of the father of one of Wales greatest poets, Waldo Williams, who spent many of his formative early years living here and who is commemorated with the simple stone on Rhosfach that looks up and across his "Mur fy mebyd" (wall of my childhood).In addition to a map and black and white photographs there is a chapter devoted to biographical details of 19th and 20th century people born in, or associated with, Mynachlogddu.There are interesting appendices listing chapels,wells, buildings, names of people and places, a map code and bibliography.
24. Peterwell. The history of a mansion and its infamous squire By Bethan Phillips, published by Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion 1997. This is the well-researched history of a real "baddy" and the accursed mansion of Peterwell, also called Ffynnonbedr, that is but a pile of stones today just outside Lampeter. Sir Herbert Lloyd (1720-1769) was the last, and the worst, of the Lloyd family; a man born to destruction, greedy, cruel and vindictive. It is a fascinating study and a really good read. Useful to the family historian with ancestors from the Lampeter area and even further afield, there is a comprehensive index of persons and places that are referred to in the book. I found that the appendices contained much of interest, including accounts relating to Sir Herbert Lloyd, medical records of John Lloyd, rental records of the estate, an inventory of effects put up for sale in 1781, extracts from Lampeter parish records and a detailed bibliography. There are many black and white illustrations of various well-known people such as Lewis Morris and Howell Harries and mansions like Gogerddan and Dolaucothi as well as contemporary pictures of cock-fighting, a hanging, the medieval church at Lampeter that was demolished in 1821. There is a map showing the location of the ruins of Peterwell and a photograph of the avenue of trees that still exists today so you can go and see the site and setting of this excellent book.
25 . Dylan Thomas. A Farm, Two Mansions and a Bungalow By David N. Thomas, published by Seren, the book imprint of Poetry Wales Press, Bridgend, 2000 ISBN: 1-85411-275-9.
Yet another book on Dylan, you sigh, cry, moan! But this has tied in with my family history and may do for many others who have roots in deepest West Wales. This is a fascinating, very well-researched book which deals with Dylan's many links with Cardiganshire and his relationship with local people and refers to people and places that previous biographers have missed. David Thomas, who lives in Ciliau Aeron, has spoken to people in West Wales who had met Dylan and there are numerous photos which have come to light and might include your family on them. A friend of mine, living at Newquay, looked through the book and found, to her astonishment, a hitherto unknown photo with her mother, born in 1900, on it. I looked in the index and found several references to various family members and also a drawing of Dylan done by a relative of mine, Myra Evans, who was born back in 1883. There are fourteen pages full of names of people and places in the very comprehensive index. In the appendices there are references to books and articles used in the research, names of people interviewed and sources of information and even some family tree information on certain West Wales people associated with Dylan. The area covered is around Talsarn, Talgarreg, Llanon, Aberaeron,Llanina, New Quay and Llangrannog.
26. Maritime Heritage. The Ships and Seamen of Southern Ceredigion By J. Geraint Jenkins, published by Gomer Press in 1982. There is an online index and review to this book on INDEX
27. Cardigan and The Lower Teifi Valley In the series "Britain in Old Photographs". There is an online index and review to this book on INDEX
28 . The Welsh House by Iorwerth C. Peate. First published in 1940, reprinted by Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach in 2000. ISBN 1 86143 112 0. Here is an online review and listing of the Contents, Illustrations, Figures and houses and sites mentioned in the 1940 book INDEX
29. Historic Cardiganshire Homes and their Editor Caroline Charles Jones, Published by Brawdy Books 2000, ISBN 0 9528 344 48
What a mine of information for the family and local historian! A real treasure chest for anyone with Cardiganshire ancestry. We in West Wales owe a great debt to Francis Jones,1908-1993, late Wales Herald at Arms who was one of the most distinguished Welsh historians, for his many years of tireless research into Welsh history, genealogy and heraldry.
This hardback well-bound book, has 332 pages, illustrated with line drawings and photographs. The Cardiganshire houses are listed alphabetically with a history of each house and families who resided or had connections with it, with full references for further research. The extensive bibliography describes printed primary and secondary sources and also lists the primary sources of manuscripts, private collections,journals, periodicals and various other information consulted at various record offices and libraries. An index of names links people with the various houses mentioned in the text.There is a map of the Cardiganshire Tithe districts and, inside the front and back covers, a reproduction of Speed's 1630 map of Cardiganshire.
30. Canrif o Luniau. A Century of Photographs. Plwyf Llangeler Parish. An online review and index compiled by Mary Jane Stephenson is available on INDEX
Mary Jane Stephenson